You might think that another minigame collection is the last thing your Wii library needs right now, but it'd be unfortunate if you were to dismiss Nintendo's latest offering on that basis alone. Wii Party is an inventive and varied game that's fun for the whole family to play together and which does some really interesting things with the Wii Remote along the way. A number of modes afford you different ways to play according to how big your party is and how long you're planning to play for, and regardless of which you choose you're sure to have a good time.
Wii Party is packed with more than 80 games, and there are quite a few different modes in which to play them. You can play a Mario Party-style board game, which runs at a faster pace and evokes the fun of the best games in the Mario Party series. You can also compete in a globe-trotting board game that requires as much strategy as it does minigame skill. There's a bingo game that uses Mii faces, a Wheel of Fortune-type game that requires a good bit of luck, a Mii matching game, and more. Many of the game modes reward your minigame skill with a better starting position, more points, or some other kind of advantage. There are enough wild cards, like luck-based minigames, or negative spaces on the board games, to keep the playing field relatively even though.
In addition to the four-player games, there are modes for pairs to enjoy, like the boat balancing game, which requires you to balance Miis on a three-tiered boat mast. If you do well in the minigames, you're rewarded with equally weighted Miis for the boat. You can also play a silly and simple matching game that tests your compatibility with a friend through a series of questions you each answer without telling the other. There are even a couple of solo modes. One requires you to beat minigames to move forward on a space map; if you lose too many, it's game over. Another one isn't a minigame at all, but 30 levels of an interesting puzzle game that has you manipulating the paths of automated Miis to water plants. That latter is quite addictive, and it's a shame there aren't more levels, though to be fair, Wii Party isn't really about single-player gaming.
Wii Party can be a blast if you've got a full room of friends. There's a huge variety of minigames to play; everything from kart racing to vegetable chopping. There's even a minigame that has you running away from zombie Miis (so that means zombies can mark another genre off their list of video games to appear in). You'll see a few recycled minigames and a few that seem a bit too similar, but Nintendo has thrown in a couple of unique twists that employ the Wii Remote in clever ways. A handful of minigames revolve around the remote itself. One has you passing the remote around as if it's a bomb. One person must hold a button and pass it to another. The next person has to press a button as he or she receives it--careful not shake it too much. This simple game can be a lot of fun with a group of friends with its tense mix of simplicity and precision. Another game actually asks you to hide your Wii Remotes in the living room. When the "finders" return to the room, they must find the remotes, which emit a sound from their speakers every 10 seconds. Another one asks you to line up your remotes on the floor or a table. The remotes will play an animal sound, and everyone has to scramble to pick up the right one. These minigames are interesting because they seem to step beyond the TV screen--it's not just you pointing at the screen and interacting with a digital rendition of yourself. These particular minigames don't require any video game skill or knowledge. They're more about having fun with a group of people, which is what Wii Party is all about.
The wide breadth of games--and unique ways to experience them--make up for the individual games' lack of depth. Quite a few of the games take longer to load than play, and aside from high scores, there's not much incentive to spend a lot of time in any one particular mode. Wii Party is fun for the whole family, but some of the ccoperative games are difficult to win if you're not playing with someone of equal skill. That problem is exacerbated by the occasional control issues. Sometimes you're asked to hold the Wii Remote sideways and use the D pad for movement. Then in the next round, you play a game with very similar mechanics, except this time, you have to tilt the Wii Remote to move. These arbitrary changes can frustrate players who aren't already comfortable with the controller. None of these issues are game breakers, though. It's just that when everyone is having such a great time with the games, the niggling control and difficulty issues stick out because they can abruptly change the flow of a game from fun to frustrating, depending on the skill levels of those playing.
If you've played any of the other Mii-centric games made by Nintendo, you'll know what to expect with the presentation: sparse visuals that blend with the Mii style and that special Nintendo brand of over-the-top cheerfulness. Your Miis wear all kinds of silly costumes, depending on the game you're playing, and some of their winning and losing animations are funny. Some are borderline hilarious--depending, of course, on what your Miis look like. There's a host for this game that looks like he was stolen from the Muppets, and he speaks a weird high-pitched gibberish. The music is lively and upbeat, and it gets the job done. The Wii Remote speakers are put to great use for a few of the games, but there are some chimes and trills that play often enough across the modes to get a little annoying.
The library of Wii minigame collections is oversaturated for sure, but don't let that stop you from checking out this entry from Nintendo. Few games pack in so much variety and charm while remaining accessible and, most importantly, fun. If you own a Wii but don't have a party game on your shelf (or even if you do already own a party game or two), Wii Party is a party you'll want to attend.