Review: Game Party Champions
By Paul Hunter
It takes mere moments after popping in Game Party Champions to realize the title is a misnomer. This Wii U minigame collection, which consists of eight classic skill games, doesn't offer much of a "party", and you certainly won't feel like a champion playing this game. I was hoping with the release of Wii U that the days of second-rate motion control titles would be over, but alas, Game Party Champions comes along and invites everyone to a brand new shovelware party.
It seems with the advent of new Nintendo hardware technologies comes launch titles that attempt to take advantage of new capabilities. Wii Sports did just that, and quite successfully mind you, showcasing the impressive motion controls of the original Wii. Game Party Champions tries to mimic this success on the Wii U by exploiting the unique features of the new Wii U GamePad, but the results feel more like a downloadable Nintendo DSiWare game that mistakenly got packaged as retail disc.
The bread and butter of Game Party Champions is the Story Mode which begins by letting you choose to play as a boy or a girl, with about a dozen avatars to select from for each gender. I chose to play as a boy named Riley whom has become quite the "basement dwelling cave troll", according to his best friend Jace, ever since his father passed away five years ago. Jace, determined to get his depressed best buddy off the couch, surprises Riley by signing him up to participate in a skills game competition at the local arcade. It's a bit of a rarity to have a backstory this detailed in a minigame title, though it's an odd choice to have grief and melancholy as the emotional anchors in a party game Story Mode.
Game Party Champions trailer:
With Riley's detailed introduction (at least for a minigame title), you might expect that he would be an interesting character. This is definitely not the case here. During cutscenes, Riley is completely mute, aside from infrequent grunts and hollers after winning matches. It seems Riley prefers to communicate using hand gestures, of which he employs about a half dozen, some expressing the joys of victory with others the agony of defeat, while his friend Jace responds as if they are having a conversation.
The Arcade introduces four of the eight included minigames: Air Hockey, Hoop Shoot, Ping Pong, and Football. Each game has a ladder of four opponents that must be defeated before advancing to a "boss" which has a name like Manny Hair or Sho Yu, and has a defining characteristic such as a bad attitude or smelling terrible. The first time you play a minigame, a tutorial goes over how to hold the Wii U GamePad (either vertically or horizontally) and the objectives. For example, with Hoop Shoot, the Wii U GamePad is held vertically and upward swipes with your stylus on the touch screen will launch basketballs at the target hoops. Tilting the Wii U GamePad back and forth will set your horizontal aiming, and tilting back and forth will alter your throwing distance.
Defeating all the bosses in the Arcade unlocks the Amusement Park, where four additional games can be played: Water Gun, Skill Ball, Miniature Golf, and Baseball.
Like most minigame collections, there are hits and misses. The majority of the minigames in Game Party Champions are misses, for various reasons, but mostly boil down to four main problems: horrendous slowdown, shallow depth, laughable A.I., and nonexistent multiplayer. The last gripe needs explanation and emphasis. While Game Party Champions is marketed as a party game (heck, it's in the title), none of the games can be played multiplayer at the same time. All games must be played single-player. This includes games by their very nature are multiplayer, such as Ping Pong and Air Hockey. As if to slap you in the face, you can play these multiplayer games with an A.I. opponent, but with such poor A.I. programming you won't want to.
Hoop Shoot minigame
"Defeating" opponents in Game Party Champions are done in one of two ways: beating an A.I. player in a live one-on-one match, or for single-player games, surpassing a high score that supposedly the A.I. player achieved prior to your turn (you never actually see them play). In games such as Ping Pong and Air Hockey, it's hard to decide which is worse, the incredibly slow gameplay (it feels like you're playing in slow motion) or the atrocious A.I. During my Story Mode play through, I actually scored more points against myself in Air Hockey than my opponents did (due to finicky controls), and the majority of the time I missed the ball in Ping Pong was because you can't actually see your paddle on-screen. The single-player games are just as bad, as I regularly scored between 200-500% of my "target" score on the first try. It's so easy to score points in these minigames that I typically met my quota about 15-20 seconds into the 60 seconds given for most matches.
Also included in Game Party Champions in a Party Mode which is set-up boardgame style with players taking turns spinning a spinner to move ahead squares. Each square is colour-coded to a specific minigame, and once landed on, you jump into an abbreviated version of the games found in the Story Mode, each lasting about 25 seconds. Players take turns spinning and moving, playing minigames individually since there's no real "multiplayer" included in Party Mode. The objective is to make it to the finish before your opponents. Ho hum.
Ping Pong minigame
There is technically a multiplayer component in Game Party Champions, called "Griefing", but it's just not very fun to use. Griefing involves using a Wii Remote to grab your opponent's ball while they play and causing it to temporarily go haywire using the A button. If anything, griefing adds frustration to a game already overflowing with frustration.
With Game Party Champions being the fifth installment of this long-standing franchise, I was hoping for much better. While previous Game Party games have underwhelmed, this time not even a new developer (Phosphor Games Studio) could breathe new life into this mediocre series. If you just got a Wii U and are looking for a great party game, take a look at the superb Nintendo Land or even Rabbids Land, both would be better choices.
Game Party Champions is available now, exclusively for Nintendo Wii U. The game was developed by Phosphor Games Studio and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
Game Party Champions is rated E for Everyone by the ESRB.
[This article originally appeared on the Future Shop Tech Blog]