Game Party Hands-On
We check out a near-finished version of Midway's upcoming social-games collection for the Wii.
Currently scheduled for release early next month, Game Party from Midway is a collection of seven different social games from around the world. The games are all played by using the Wii Remote to perform actions similar to those you would make when playing them in real-life, and they include darts, air hockey, shuffleboard, hoop shot, skill ball, ping cup, and a trivia challenge. We recently had a chance to spend some quality time with a near-finished version of Game Party and, although the quality and difficulty of the games vary quite significantly, we had some fun with it.
Most of the social games in Game Party support either two or four players and, in keeping with the real games that they attempt to emulate, most are turn-based. As you play the games, you'll earn tickets in the same way that you might at a carnival, and those tickets unlock additional Mii-like characters for you to play as. The differences between the playable characters are purely aesthetic, and although a lot of them (there are well over 100) really amount to little more than interchangeable heads and outfits, there are also some more unique characters such as a ninja and a cowboy. We'll tackle the games one at a time:
Air Hockey takes a little getting used to because, unlike most of the games in the Game Party collection, it isn't played from the perspective of your chosen character. Instead, you'll be viewing the table from the side and simply pointing the Wii Remote wherever you'd like your hand to move. The first player to score seven goals is the winner.
Darts is undoubtedly one of the more difficult games. Gameplay options include shooting for high scores as well as the usual 301 and 501 variants of the sport. The controls look simple enough on paper, but in practice they're quite tricky. After using the Wii Remote to point at the area of the board that you want to hit, you press the A button to lock your targeting reticule there and then, while holding the Remote as if it were a dart, you make a throwing motion. It's difficult to get the strength and the trajectory of your throw right, and even the darts that don't fly off the screen and miss the board by a mile have a nasty habit of bouncing off the board's wires.
Hoop Shot, in which you repeatedly throw basketballs at a hoop positioned just a few feet away for one minute, is one of the easiest games on offer here. You make a simple throwing motion with the Wii Remote and, because the distance between you and the target never changes, you simply need to replicate the exact same motion over and over again once you find your range.
Ping Cup is similar to a game that you may know as beer pong, though this version is strictly alcohol-free. Cups are arranged in a triangle at one end of a table, and you have to land a ping-pong ball in one of the cups from the other end. Bonus points are given for balls that bounce before finding their way into a cup, and also for landing balls in cups on consecutive attempts. The controls are similar to those used in the Party Games version of Darts, though the throwing motion is underarm rather than overarm.
Shuffleboard, for those of you who aren't familiar with it, is a game in which two players attempt to slide metal pucks across a lengthy table and stop them as close to the far end as possible. Each player has four pucks, and if thrown hard enough when thrusting the Wii Remote forward, they can be used to knock the opponent's pucks off the table completely. Shuffleboard is our favorite Game Party game right now, although some of the artificial-intelligence opponents are merciless and are never made to take the first turn, even when they're winning.
Skill Ball, which you probably know as skii ball, is a carnival game in which you roll heavy wooden balls up a chute with a ramp at the end of it. The ramp launches the ball into the air toward a series of holes that are worth different amounts of points when your ball lands in them. For example, the hole that you're more or less guaranteed to land in is worth 10 points, whereas more difficult holes are worth 20, 50, or 100 points. If you've played Wii Sports Bowling, you have a pretty good idea of what to expect from the controls.
Trivia is a slightly strange inclusion in the Game Party collection, but not necessarily a bad one. You perform a sharp downward motion with the Wii Remote to spin a wheel with six different question categories on it, and then you point at whichever of the four possible answers you think is correct. Categories include the stuff you'd expect, such as sports, music, movies, and general knowledge.
Expect a full review of Game Party in the not-too-distant future.