Namco Bandai's upcoming Tamagotchi Party On! for the Wii offers a new spin on the virtual critters. The game drops you on the tamagotchi planet and lets you play as one of the creatures in a bid for presidency. The goofy premise is framed in a board-game experience that sends you through cities across the planet. The result so far is a game that's one part Mario Party and one part WarioWare, with buckets of cute thrown on top. We had the chance to get some hands-on time with the game, and it has a quirky charm.
You'll find two main experiences in the game: single-player and multiplayer. The single-player game is a career-style mode that finds you guiding the tamagotchi avatar of your choice as it vies for presidency against three CPU opponents through six cities. Apparently, the electoral process on the tamagotchi planet is a little looser than that of the democracy we know, and is suspiciously like prom elections. You'll have to win the masses over to gain popularity, as well as have gobs of cash to trick out your campaign headquarters and make sure you're wearing cool gear. To accomplish all this, you'll progress through each city via a board-game-style path, and the spaces you'll land on will contain shops where you can spend your cash on HQ goods or clothing.
The 15 types of minigames will range from fishing, scooping ice cream, setting clocks, shaking hands, giving speeches, and several others that will vary in difficulty. In addition, you'll find gotchi games, which are twitch-based games that will play out on an interface that mimics the electronic tamagotchi egg toys, where the digital pets first made their splash on pop culture. The random events are hit-or-miss affairs that play out via short cinematics that show positive campaign moments, such as when you help clean up a park and gain support, or scandals, such as when you eat snacks bought with campaign funds, which reduce people's faith in your abilities. You'll move around to these various spaces according to the number on a set of dice, which are set in motion by bopping the air with the remote and moving an in-game hammer to knock them around. Your goal is to be the first to make it to a point on each city map while having the most popularity. If you succeed, you'll become president.
The multiplayer game follows the same basic structure as the single-player game but lets any combination of four human and CPU players compete against each other. You'll also have to contend with a dreaded slot machine that pops up when you land on the same space as an opponent. Depending on the outcome of the machine's roll, you'll either gain or lose popularity, cash, or both from your opponent.
Control in the game is solid and relies exclusively on the Wii Remote. You'll use an onscreen pointer to navigate, and you have to hold it in a variety of WarioWare-style positions for the various minigames. The gotchi games will require you to use the remote's D pad to make choices.
The visuals in the game are simple and sport the now-trademarked minimalist look of the previous tamagotchi games. The cities benefit from a more detailed appearance that's in the same vein as the tamagotchi art, but they offer a more robust look. All of the above is given a soft, cel-shaded look that's brightly colored and moves smoothly.
The audio is solid, albeit spare. You'll hear bouncy tunes and a modest amount of effects for the various minigames. You'll also hear a funky helping of gibberish that passes for tamagotchi speak as you interact with the locals.
Based on what we've played, Tamagotchi Party On! is a game with a quirky charm that should appeal to the younger set or anyone looking for some minigame action. The game's varied use of the Wii Remote is smart and works fairly well. The variety between the minigames and gotchi games is different enough to keep things interesting as you play, and the multiplayer is cool, albeit a touch slow going. In addition, the ability to collect the various gotchi, as well as the minigames and unlockable tamagotchi avatars, offers a decent amount of content to open up. Tamagotchi Party On! is slated to ship later this year for the Wii.