Developer: Nintendo/Nd Cube
Considering that the Wii U is already home to two first-party mini-game collections with Nintendo Land and Game and Wario, Wii Party U might be a tough sell for most. But the sheer number of mini-games on offer definitely exceeds the content of both of those titles, while focusing on short, easily accessible events that just about every member of your family can grasp regardless of skill. Much in the same way the original Wii Party could bring a group of four together for some mindless fun around the TV, Wii Party U is a game best experienced with a group.
The biggest change in formula from the original is the inclusion of the Wii U GamePad. While a good chunk of the mini-games featured still use the Wii Remote as a primary controller, there are more than a handful of games that employ the use of the GamePad with some interesting effects. For instance, there’s a game that has you sit the GamePad on the floor, while a stream flows across the screen of the controller. You and an opponent, each armed with a Wii Remote, employ those controllers as ladles, scooping up water from the GamePad screen and carrying it towards the TV to dump into an on-screen canister.
There’s also a host of GamePad specific games that are pretty simple and straightforward, like baseball and foosball, but can be just as fun as any of the four player party games featured. While none of these experiences are going to last for hours on end, or provide any meaningful content when playing alone, I really enjoyed the inventiveness of the controller employed by Nintendo and developer Nd Cube.
The biggest area that Wii Party U comes up short in is presentation. This is definitely the area where the aforementioned games, Game and Wario along with Nintendo Land, sort of put Wii Party U to shame. Wii Party U wraps its mini-games into a number of different packages, some themed around board-game style romps with two to four players, or more straightforward compilations of featured mini-games, but overall there’s little glitz and glamour to the package. Some of the host dialogue can be a little charming, but everything else surrounding the actual games feels a little dry, which is surprising for a Nintendo product.
But on the whole the mini-games included here are more hits than misses. There’s a few luck based experiences, but by and large this is a game of skill. The events included are easy enough to grasp for just about all ages, with simple straight forward explanations that employ equal use of waggle and conventional controller inputs. Most games are easy enough to understand on the surface even without reading through the accompanying description text when starting an event. And all events are short and randomized enough that even after a few hours of play they won’t wear out their welcome.
Of course, having a Wii Remote Plus packed into the box is a big plus for most too. It might devalue the product in the eyes of some, but this isn’t another Wii Play situation. While the presentation might be lacking, the overall content is expansive enough to warrant the asking price, and the additional controller is basically icing on the cake, and an extra guarantee that you can rope a friend or two in for a round of fun if you find yourself ill-equipped.
And while the online functionality might not be a full blown multiplayer experience, I thought the idea of rating the mini-games and uploading those ratings was a smart idea. You’re able to aggregate online ratings and organize some of the mini-games according to how well they score with others, giving you a quick glance at what’s worth playing by most owners, helping you avoid the duds for when you gather together friends and family for a quick gaming session.
If you’ve got a group of three additional players to enjoy Wii Party U with, I definitely think it’s worth checking out. As a single-player game there’s not nearly enough to do that would warrant a purchase, and even as a two-player experience it falls a little short. But with a full group together, you’ll likely get hours and hours of fun out of this one. It’s not what I’d label a Mario Party killer, but with a little more work put into the presentation and packaging of the actual mini-games, it could certainly become one.