Wii Party U review: invitation to boredom

The name of the genre should make it clear why mini game collections review so poorly. It can be quite difficult to squeeze out meaningful gameplay out of such small experiences. To compensate for the inherent lack of depth, the best games in the genre usually come up with exciting ways of presenting its content: WarioWare throws players into a chaotic sequence of microgames; Mario & Sonic has you playing in the Olympics with long-time video gaming rivals. Unfortunately, Wii Party U doesn't really have much going for it. The games are, for the most part, disposable. And apparently, having a party without Mario and company isn't much of a party at all. focalbox Like the Mario Party series, you can play a board game-esque "party," which has you and up to three other players rolling virtual dice towards an end goal. There are no mascots to distract you from how frustrating these experiences can be, which rely too heavily on luck and not enough on skill. Theoretically, winning the mini-games should offer you better position on the board, especially as winners typically get more dice than other players. However, assorted board conditions and tiresome end-game requirements make it so that literally anyone can win--no matter how far back you may be on the board, or how poorly you play the mini-games. While this approach may empower casual gamers, it devalues the point of winning mini-games, as there's no real benefit from winning. The heavy emphasis on luck also extends into some of the mini-games themselves. For example, in one game, players must choose one of four bushes to hide behind. An ostrich will come and randomly peck at three of those bushes. However, there's no way for players to make an educated guess as to which bush to hide behind. It is literally random and out of the player's control. There's no sense of satisfaction from randomly winning an a game where the only decision made was arbitrary. It's also not a particularly involving game, with the only input being aiming the Wii Remote at the screen and pressing A once. To call it a "mini" game would be generous, as the amount of gameplay in that experience is less than a second. Unfortunately, many of the 80 games collected in Wii Party U can be considered more "micro" than usual. Many other games are your typical party fare, typically involving mashing buttons rapidly. However, there are glimpses of brilliance. While most of the mini-games involve using the Wii Remote, there are occasional games that take advantage of the GamePad. Unsurprisingly, designing games around the unique asymmetrical multiplayer afforded by Wii U's second screen prove to be some of the most interesting games in the collection. Accessed by landing on the 3-vs-1 spot on the board, three players have to team up against one player that uses the GamePad. The best games of Nintendo Land proved that having different objectives and mechanics for two different teams proves to be quite novel.

One of Wii Party U's best games has you working in fast food

The GamePad is also used in a number of other games that are accessible within their own menu. Whereas most of the Wii Party U collection of games demand a Wii Remote for every player (the game includes one Wii Remote Plus), there are a few games that can be played exclusively on the GamePad. Typically, these games have players facing each other, controlling one analog stick on each side of the tablet. Air hockey, in particular, is perfectly recreated for the GamePad. However, there are some cooperative games as well. My favorite involves having to construct custom hamburgers, which each player having different ingredients. This assembly-line of burgers demands communicating with one another, and is a surprisingly hectic game. Unfortunately, these moments of imaginative gameplay are few and far between. Meaningless microgames water down the package considerably. Instead of 80 plus games, many of which don't use the GamePad at all, Wii Party U would have been better served focused on what makes Nintendo's new home console unique. Of course, that kind of creative decision would have gone against what the real goal of Wii Party U is: to sell more Wii Remotes. [3]
This review is based on early retail Wii U code provided by the publisher. Wii Party U is now available at retail for $49.99, and includes a Wii Remote Plus. The game is rated E.