A lot of people are going to bag on Family Party: 30 Great Games Obstacle Arcade. It’s an easy target, especially for core gamers. It’s a minigame collection, it’s a Wii U launch title (in the Wii’s early days it was plagued with awful, rushed cash-in games), it seems clearly aimed at kids, and from the screens and marketing, it appears to have a “shovelware” feel to it. One of the things we try to do at GamerPops is give games like this a fair shake and let you know what the game is like from a gaming family’s perspective. What I can tell you, after the boys and I put the game through its paces, is that it’s not as bad as some will have you think. Of course, I also think that there are three words in the rather lengthy title that make it a bit of a misnomer, and “Great” is unfortunately one of them.
“Family Party: 30 Games” would probably be a more appropriate title. I’m not really sure where the “Obstacle Arcade” part comes in. And the games aren’t all that “Great”. Some are good, some are not as good. That’s typical in a minigame collection. The controls for the most part work fine, again, with the odd clunker thrown in here and there. The problem for me is that there’s no real overall metagame involved, thus making the games the star of the show, and if you’re going to do that, you need really strong minigames if you’re going to get away with that.
The main mode of the game involves taking four players (no matter how many you actually have, it will always fill the rest out with CPU-controlled players) and running through a number of minigames with the goal being to accumulate the most points across all of them. The format is the same each time. You play a four-player minigame where everybody uses Wii Remotes, rendering the Wii U GamePad almost useless (except for navigation, but the Wii Remotes can be used for that too) during this phase. The winner of that minigame then gets to use the GamePad in a 1-vs-3 game. The carrot of getting to use the GamePad is an interesting twist. This basically alternates back and forth until the prescribed number of minigames have been played.
One thing that needs to be noted. Some games also require a Nunchuk. For every human player. If you’ve got four human players, you’ll need four Nunchuks and won’t be able to go further until everybody has one. This makes the game a bit less accessible, and the package doesn’t really do a good enough job of laying that out. Now, once you unlock games, you can play a different mode where you can choose a set of minigames (and thus avoid Nunchuk games) but it’s a bit of a catch-22 since you still need to play games to unlock them, and you might get blocked in your progress because of a Nunchuk-based game.
There are some weird design decisions too. You can name your profile, but then you pick a character and they get a different name that the announcer uses. That double naming sometimes is confusing. The menus aren’t the most intuitive to navigate. If you mistakenly choose a set of minigames that you didn’t want to play yet, or you started a minigame without reading the directions, you can’t just step back. Once you cancel out of something, it basically ends your game. In our house, we have certain players who jump the gun with the controls, so this is a terrible design decision that gave us problems on a couple of occasions. These are only a few examples.
Core gamers will hate it, but I do have to say that my boys did enjoy playing this game for the most part. There were a few times where controls weren’t great, instructions weren’t the best, or the winner of the game depended on where you happened to be positioned (I could also go on about that poor design choice but you don’t want to be here all day), and that frustrated them. Still, at least “Family Party” was one appropriate part of the title.
The GamerPops Recommendation
There currently aren’t a lot of minigame collections for the Wii U in this “launch window.” Family Party: 30 Great Games Obstacle Arcade does fill a temporary gap, though it’s hard to recommend despite this. It’s not nearly as good as NintendoLand. In fact, it’s not as good as Rabbids Land. It is what it is. It’s a somewhat-competent minigame collection with some strange design choices whose biggest selling point is that there aren’t a lot of games currently like it available. Even at $30, I’m not sure of the game’s value, but if you’re a family that REALLY loves their minigame collections, it’s not bad, and it’s not a broken piece of shovelware. But it’s also not that “Great” either.
A review copy was provided to GamerPops.
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ESRB Rating Summary
Rating: E for Everyone
Content descriptors: Mild Cartoon Violence
Rating summary: This is a collection of multiplayer mini-games (i.e., party games) in which players engage in themed events involving a variety of obstacles. Games include racing, soccer, parachuting, balancing, target practice, and food-service tasks. A handful of games contain brief instances of violence, such as characters shoving each other, “cartoony” rockets shooting toward a skydiver, and meteors and buildings exploding. Characters occasionally cry out or say “ouch!” when they stumble, crash their vehicles, or fall off obstacles.