Fun for you and Miis: Hands on with Wii Party

Nintendo's Mii-centered family-targeted holiday game should be very familiar to fans of Mario Party and those who like board games.

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
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Scott Stein
Jeff Bakalar
3 min read

Nintendo's been battling for control of casual gamers, especially when it comes to family-friendly entertainment. At the top of the heap are the "Wii" games, aka Wii Sports Resort, Wii Fit, and the latest, Wii Party. Featuring the sometimes-overlooked Miis, Wii Party avoids any sort of physical fitness agenda in favor of casual group fun. We played Nintendo's latest in the comfort of our own homes, and have come back to tell the tale.

Watch this: Game trailer: Wii Party

Virtual board games and endless minigame compilations have been inundating the Wii's software library, but Wii Party's formula is a little different. It's a series of game shows and virtual board games, at heart a sequel to the long-lived Mario Party games. Up to four players roll dice, jump around spaces on various boards, and compete in minigames to advance. My wife happens to love the Mario Party series. Every time I ask her to join me in some game-playing, she requests Mario Party 8, which I dutifully drag out of its dusty box. Mario Party 8 on the Wii happens to be some fun--but it's slow, and has letterboxed graphics. Wii Party freshens up the look and has a collection of 80 minigames that feel more streamlined and simplified, but very much in the vein of Mario Parties past.

There are also a number of game modes in Wii Party, tailored for play length (5 minutes to over an hour), number of players, and play style. A new two-player 5-minute game that feels like a condensed version of The Dating Game is a great and somewhat romantic little time-waster, but it's too short. The board-game-style experiences are more elaborate, but aren't quite as complex or as competitive as in Mario Party. All the Miis on your console--plus some added extras--gets shuffled in across the entire Wii Party experience, just like they do in Wii Sports and Wii Fit. It's fun, but it's not something we haven't seen before.

One of the most innovative new wrinkles in Wii Party comes from a series of room-immersive games that use the Wii remote's built-in speaker. A hide-and-go-seek game has players actually hiding the remotes around the room while another player finds them; another mode involves quickly picking which remote is making a certain animal noise. These are great ideas, but would have been better incorporated into the larger-scale game modes instead of being isolated to their little corner of Wii Party.

That's how I feel about a lot of this game: a lot of fun for casual groups, but it could have been integrated into something even better, deeper, more classic. Online play is, not surprisingly, a big miss on this game. We can't imagine how much more fun an online game of this sort would be, especially if it involved weekly competitions and leaderboards.

It's not a bad game, but Wii Party stops short of being a great one. Unless you've been waiting for Mario Party 9.

Often the Wii is considered a "party" console because a lot of titles that have found success on the platform feature minigames that are best played with a group of people. Such a label is hard to argue with when Nintendo continues to distribute solid, fun-to-play games within the genre.

The latest entry that'll no doubt reside on your shelf next to the likes of Wii Sports Resort is Wii Party. A collection of quick, easy, and sometimes strangely addictive minigames, Wii Party uses Mii characters to represent players on a virtual board game. Each player rolls the dice, moves a certain number of spaces, and then a minigame ensues.

We liked the healthy amount of "outside-the-box" Wii remote uses in Wii Party, but that bag of tricks is beginning to get old. Also, we were disappointed that MotionPlus functionality had not been implemented into the game.

Perhaps Wii Party's greatest draw is its appeal to such a broad audience. There's something for everyone here, just don't plan on playing alone. Wii Party works for family gatherings, but also could probably work in the dorm room, too.