Everything from Go Vacation’s appearance, style, gameplay, and pure existence hark back to those strangely repetitive days of the Wii, where everyone and their cat was releasing a party-type sports game for Nintendo’s remote-waggling sensation. There’s good reason for that, too, as the game is an HD port of the original Go Vacation from that very system, bringing both the good and bad points from that release to a brand new audience in 2018.
When we say that Go Vacation still has the appearance of a Wii game, we really mean it; while there’s been a bit of a touch up to suit the resolution requirements of modern displays, the character models, fuzzy edges, and use of overly-excited Mii characters made us question whether or not we’d accidentally stumbled into a wormhole and been transported back in time. There’s a cheery summer vibe present throughout the game, as you’d expect from a holiday resort, but its slightly out-dated look will likely leave you feeling a little cold.
The game itself is a bit of a mixed bag, too. There are four main areas with different themes – Marine, City, Snow, and Mountain – and each one contains a generous supply of sporty minigames to enjoy either alone or with up to three friends. Your typical sports are there, such as tennis, racing, and baseball, but there are also a few slightly out-there options like water gun fights, pie throwing, and a glass harp game where you make music by rubbing drinking glasses.
To give credit where credit’s due, with over 50 different activities to choose from, Bandai Namco has ensured that there’ll definitely be something for everyone here; even four hours into the game we still hadn’t tried out every single activity. Unfortunately, though, this was more to do with the game’s pacing than the number of activities on offer, as Go Vacation forces you to explore all four areas to manually find each individual sport before you can choose them from a menu. Expect to spend your first handful of hours trekking back and forth over and over again as you desperately try to find that air hockey game you wanted to play the first moment you loaded up Go Vacation.
The activities themselves turn out to be the biggest let-down, however, with each one feeling like an undercooked version of things we’ve seen countless times before. Most games can be played with either a single button or very close to it, aiming to prioritise simplicity over depth for accessibility’s sake. While this is a nice idea on paper, it simply results in a set of games that get rather dull all too quickly, lacking the control and excitement you’d expect and hope for.
You can choose to play the games with either standard controls (using button presses and sticks) or motion controls for that full Wii experience, but we found ourselves sticking with the standard setup for the most part. Being on Switch, this port ditches the faff of dragging out the Wii’s many accessory add-ons like Nunchuks and the Balance Board, and the HD Rumble feels great in places, but the motion never feels as precise as what we tend to experience in first-party titles, noticeably causing errors that simply aren’t an issue when playing with buttons.
Despite criticising it just moments ago, we must say that the exploration of the four areas eventually becomes the game’s saving grace, to an extent. At first, endlessly running back and forth feels like a drag, but once you’ve unlocked all of the games you can start to truly take in the world that Go Vacation presents – and there’s an awful lot to do.
Each area has hidden secrets to find, animals to photograph for your collection, people to speak to, and areas to earn extra experience points that can work towards levelling up your character. This, in turn, presents you with cosmetic rewards such as different clothing styles for your Mii, or even keys that can be used to unlock furniture for your own little villa that can be accessorised Animal Crossing-style.
Each loading screen has the chance of giving you a new hint, too, which can give you a helping hand in locating one of each area’s secrets. Once you decide on a location to explore, you can set off on all manner of vehicles like ATKs, horseback, surfboards, skateboards, and more to get around, doing little tricks for extra points along the way.
The world itself feels quite ambitious, and definitely provides much more in the way of extra content than the majority of sport-based minigame titles, but the main activities don’t do enough to support this. It’s quite sad really, as the main selling point of this game is its weakest feature; if the minigames lived up to the standards set by the exploration and customisation options we would have had a great little multiplayer party game on our hands.
Go Vacation presents a world full of games and activities that feel consistently average, with common flaws across the board making each game similarly dull, tiresome, and not worth the asking price. The game’s setting itself provides a welcome break from this, though, with an impressive amount of things to see and do at your own leisure injecting a much-needed dose of fun into the proceedings. Strangely, this is a multiplayer sports game that probably suits those looking for decent single-player exploration the most.