Family Party: 30 Great Games
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2009-01-09 Wii Party E10 (Everyone 10+) D3 Publisher / Tamsoft

Being the "family console" that it is, the Wii has a tendency to get swamped with mini-game compilations, some better than others, of course. In this case, and as the title states, we know this is another compilation, it's aimed at family fun, it contains 30 games, and they're great. But are they really?

Being aimed at the whole family, the character selection includes a typical mom, dad, little boy, little girl, grandpa, grandma, school aged boy and girl, and blonde teenage girl. There are three unlockable characters as well: afro guy, dog and cat.

Family Party: 30 Great Games allows up to four players to play simultaneously in one of two modes, Challenge or Battle. Challenge mode is progressive, with new games and more areas unlocking as you complete available challenges. As you earn medals (Bronze, Silver and Gold), you can unlock new game modes, characters and alternate character outfits.

Battle mode lets you play against AI or real opponents in a set of six games that can either be picked randomly or customized as you prefer. The customization is limited to the area of the games though, so you can't mix and match from different areas.

There are five areas of games: Athletics, Castle, Muscle, Shooting and Variety. Each area is composed of a series of games, such as balance tasks (spinning plates), strength tests (saw logs), playground games (jumping rope), carnival games (shooting targets), races (obstacle courses) and brain training (Simon Says).

Playing the games is done with the Wii-mote only, and while some mini-games make creative and intuitive use of the motion controls (WarioWare is a good example), Family Party seems to make most of the process complicated and confusing. Let me explain by going over some of the tasks.

In the 15-Tier Jump race, you shake the Wii-mote up and down to run, and side to side to jump. In Balance Bridge, you tilt the Wii-mote to keep your balance but have to alternate pressing the D-pad and 2 to run. The Wall race again uses the shaking up and down to run, but this time you jump with A and press B to break the walls. Three running/jumping tasks, and the controls keep changing.

And then there's the shaking of the Wii-mote. In many of the races, you shake to run, and shake faster to run faster. Shake the Wii-mote to close manholes. Shake the Wii-mote to shake The Hole stage and make the ball jump. Shake the Wii-mote to replenish your laser gun energy in UFO Invasion. Shake the Wii-mote to swing... to swing? I'm sure they could come up with other gestures to swing. How about, oh, I don't know, swing your arm while holding the Wii-mote? And how about running by using Wii-mote and Nunchuk together, swinging your arms as if jogging?

In some cases, it's just mind-boggling and confusing to play certain tasks. I mentioned the swinging by shaking, but that's not all that seems wrong with that particular task. It's called the Sky Swing, and your goal is to jump, grab the swing and swing across to the other side, like trapeze acrobats in the circus. So, you must press A and B simultaneous and shake horizontally to swing, then release A to jump and press it again to hold on to the other person's hands. Assuming A and B represent your hands, wouldn't you press and release both to hold on or let go of the swing? And I'll say it again... shaking to swing?

Moving on to the Double Flag. A voice will tell you to raise or lower a red or white flag. Here you hold the Wii-mote sideways, then to raise or lower a flag, you raise or lower the Wii-mote. But if it's a red flag, you must press the D-pad, and if it's a white flag you must press 2 while you do the motion. Now maybe it's just me, but I would see people using both Wii-mote and Nunchuck and doing a pulling motion (as if for an invisible rope) to raise a flag...

Back to shaking to run, in Vaulting Horse you run by shaking, press A for the initial jump, then raise the Wii-mote, then B to jump over and down. It's not intuitive at all!

It's a shame, since it other games the controls seem to have been more thought out and work out much better.

In Barrel Ride you tilt the Wii-mote right to advance and make your barrel roll, and tilt left to slow down. You use A to jump over obstacles. For Fly Catch you just point to move to where you want to go, press A to do a jumping catch and B to dash your opponents down. Survival Rope has you jumping rope by timing your movements to the rope: just raise the Wii-mote to jump. In Bow and Arrow (archery game), you hold B to pull the arrow back, point to aim, then release B to shoot.

While a handful of challenges seem to work out quite well, a whole bunch of them doesn't, and will either result in serious wrist pain (since the more you shake, the faster you run) or brain-tangling moments (since you need to adjust to different controls for a similar task).

Visually, the game is actually quite nice, even if very simplistic. The characters are cute, everything is colorful and rendered in 3D, and each different area has its own distinct theme.

But while there may be plenty of variety in the games, the control schemes aren't cohesive throughout the tasks, they don't seem to work as intended and in most cases, they're just awkward motions to be doing for whatever action is involved. Developers (generally speaking) really need to come up with better ideas than "shake the Wii-mote up and down". The Wii doesn't revolve around the shaking of the Wii-mote alone!

In the end, I think Family Party: 30 Great Games needs a name change to a more modest and suitable 30 Family Party Games. Let's not add the adjective when the games don't live up to that expectation.

Special thanks to Tamara Sanderson and D3P for providing a copy of this title.