Review: Happy Holidays: Halloween (WiiWare)

Take your holiday elsewhere!

The idea of sending greeting cards to your Wii friends isn't a bad one - after all you can already send messages with photos - so as a concept a cheap and cheerful greeting card program could easily have a place on your Wii, but a Halloween-focused one? Creating an application that will only be used once a year seems redundant from the start, and there's no DLC so maybe we can look forward to a whole series of these in the future.

The first thing you'll notice is that this looks like a Flash application, right down to the fact that it's presented pillarboxed in a 4:3 area on your screen. You've got five options - one of which is the Wii channel menu, but let's take a look around before we run screaming. Naturally you'll want to create a new card, at which point you'll be led through a lovely tutorial that shows you exactly how little time and effort has been invested in this game by its developers.

All card decoration choices are made from an area to the right of your card tableau: simply click with (A) and drag your items to the card area with the pointer. Once placed, decorations are stuck there and can only be removed with (B) so make sure you consider your choices well. You can choose an avatar (a boy or girl figure) from a wide selection of one of each (simplification means no worrying about skin tone, eye or hair colour -- brilliant!). After choosing an avatar you can dress it by choosing one of four hats and one of six outfits; choices are the same regardless of avatar gender which is surprisingly progressive. You also have the option of one of two "costumes," although since the hats and outfits are also costumes (unless a pirate outfit is eveningwear in virtual card-land, or wherever these kids live) it looks like someone lost their dictionary. The "costumes" consist of a Grim Reaper-style outfit (just for you, Corbie!) or a ghost/mummy. Finally you have a choice of four accessories: cutlass, fairy wand, pitchfork or broomstick. Clicking and dragging any of these things (including the kids) snaps them into place.

You can now pick your card design ("frame") from one of three choices, and this is where you get spoiled: a lounge, haunted woods or front porch at night. Oh, there's a fourth option of an empty white background, presumably for those who equate Halloween with a formless void. Of the three frames only two are actually Halloween-related - well, unless a sun-filled lounge with a sofa, table and cupboard is creepy. The frames have an animated icon in the lower right which is pretty nifty: the lounge has some colourful streamers that pop out of bell-shaped objects (this one is definitely a preview of Happy Holidays: Happy New Year), the woods feature a jack-o-lantern that spews out bats and the porch has a black cat that walks across the screen. These animations happen when the cursor hovers over them.

Frame selected, you can decorate the rest with virtual stickers. There are two pages of twelve each including ghosts, bats and jack-o-lanterns as well as banners saying "Happy Halloween" and "Trick or Treat" - it's truly the best part since you can rotate them and place them wherever you like unlike the avatar. Well, it would be, except that it's hopelessly broken. You see, moving the Remote closer to the screen is supposed to make the sticker bigger and pulling back should make it smaller, but nobody bothered to calibrate it properly, so even in total darkness your sticker will strobe rapidly between different sizes. If you want a small sticker just time that click for the tenth of a second when it's small! Of course you need to position it at the same time because once placed it cannot be moved.

The final touch is adding a soundtrack from one of three forgettable choices. Don't be put off by the fact that the music only plays whilst you're holding the button and pointing at the icon for the tune, or the fact that there's no visual indicator that dragging it to your card has done anything - no doubt it worked just great!

Okay, now you can save your card design, add a message and send it to a Wii friend (if you need to drag yourself away from this lengthy process part-way you can choose to save your card and finish it later). Helpfully there's no USB keyboard support or predictive text so just hunt and peck your way through your message. Once your poetry is complete click "Finish" to send it and your friend will shortly receive some Halloween wishes!

Of course your friend will receive a lovely static image with reduced resolution and no music or animations. That's because it's just a message! If your friend was also foolish enough to buy this program they can view the card in all its animated musical glory. Incredibly you can store 100 of your own cards and an equal number of cards that have been sent to you. There's a few weeks until Halloween, so it's conceivable you could be sending a dozen cards a day, so thank goodness the developers took the needs of people with Halloween-related OCD into account.

Conclusion

In all seriousness you'd need to have bats in your belfry to buy this bare-bones miserable excuse of a card-making application. That the only remotely creative part is totally broken due to not taking the time to properly calibrate the motion-based zoom function is just embarrassing. 505 Games should be ashamed of producing this one-trick waste of time and Nintendo should be ashamed for allowing it to pollute the WiiWare shop.

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