It's that time of year again — you know, the time when all the parties happen. If you're having a few of your own, here are some ways to make them a blast — gaming style.
Platform: Xbox 360 (Kinect)
You're going to want a fairly big space for this one, because once you have a bunch of giggling people flailing around trying to execute the moves in Dance Central 2, those heirloom Ming vases aren't exactly safe, but you are in for a riot of a time. Although it can get a bit challenging, you don't need to know complicated combo button chains — all you need is your own body, and everyone can dance along whether they're playing or not. Your guests will have so much fun, they won't even notice it's exercise!
The Smash Bros. games are always a blast; if you take every Nintendo character, put them in a box with a bunch of seemingly absolutely random power ups and shake it as hard as you can, you might get something resembling the gameplay of Brawl. It's frantic, fun and fast to pick up, so even your most non-gamey friends will be able to pick it up and play. Plus, up to four players can join in on the mayhem.
One of the great things about games like Rock Band is that the players are doing something other than scowling at the screen while punching buttons, giving bystanders a way to join in the fun. The gameplay is simple to learn, too; since the controllers are instruments, it's pretty intuitive to just pick up and play. Each round only lasts a single song, too, giving everyone a chance to have a go.
Ever had a friend who fancied themselves an archer? How about a Roman gladiator? There are a bunch of sports-themed mini-games here to get competitive over with your PlayStation Move — and they're surprisingly good fun. Each mini-game is bite sized, and, with a rotating roster of players, the game manages to maintain its appeal for at least an hour or two.
The original motion-control, sports-themed mini-game bonanza is Wii Sports. Sports Resort is the newer version, and, while the controls aren't quite as intuitive as the PS3 title, it can still be a fun way to while away the after-dinner interlude.
It's slightly less intuitive than Dance Central — you still need a controller, after all — but Just Dance 2 is ... kind of hilarious. You won't get much out of it in single player, but get a group of friends in front of it and watch them try to keep up with the dance moves on the screen. Laughs will be had by all. Plus, just ... look at all that neon. Look at it.
Mario Kart Wii is probably just a little more involved than the other games on this list, so it would be more suited to a small gathering. Up to four people can play, and the learning curve is pretty gentle — but once you have the basic controls down, the competition gets downright fierce.
Do you like slaughtering zombies? Do your friends like slaughtering zombies? That's good, because there's a lot of zombie slaughterin' going on in Dead Nation. Again, this is a game that involves more intensity than getting up and having a dance, and it's a two-player co-operative experience rather than a multiplayer competition, so, while it might be good to have on so that players can drift in and out, other party activities are advised.
Don't be fooled by the "Disney" part, or the fact that you can wander round hugging your favourite characters: Kinect Disneyland Adventures is actually fun, especially if you're a fan. The premise is that you're wandering around a to-scale virtual Disneyland — and each of the rides is a mini-game — you can sword-fight Captain Hook, for example, and Alice's croquet pitch turns into a Monkeyball-style obstacle course. It's deceptively good — and great for kids' parties, too.
We couldn't have a list like this without at least one arcade fighter — and Street Fighter is the best of the bunch. Although it's only two-player, bouts aren't long, and you can play an elimination roster. Lose a bout, and the next person steps up to take your place. It's one of those easy-to-play-but-difficult-to-master titles that really works best if everyone's on the same level, though.
Platform: PS3 (PSN), Xbox 360 (Arcade)
Castle Crashers is another one for small gatherings: a side-scrolling beat-'em-up game with up to four-person multiplayer, and it can get very addictive. You and your friends play a group of knights who roam the medieval countryside rescuing princesses and slaying ogres and whatnot. It's light-hearted, funny and not too srs bsns, making it great fun for everyone.
We all know it by now: WarioWare is nuts. One minute, you could be inflating snot bubbles; the next, putting on pants. And it really is that fast paced — over 200 micro-games comprise the WarioWare gameplay, each one with a single action and lasting maybe five to 10 seconds; you have to think fast, because you just don't know what will be thrown at you next. It's possibly the most perfect party game ever made.