The Wii generation brought about countless games that ended with the word "party." Some were a blast, like Boom Blox Bash Party, while others were downright miserable minigame collections (we're never going to a Game Party again). Lightwood Games' latest word-inspired eShop title Word Party makes us think it's time to start using the word more conservatively. A collection of fast-moving single player and multiplayer word games appropriate for all ages, Word Party is a bit of a step back for Lightwood following its last release, Epic Word Search Collection, but can provide some fun provided multiple people in the same room want to play a video game about words.
The minigames in Word Party are fun, for the most part, ranging from the generic Word Search to more clever challenges like Flowerpots, where the player must change a letter on each flowerpot to create a new word. All are played exclusively via the GamePad stylus / Wii Remote pointer, so there's no need to worry about dreaded waggle controls. Every minigame works; there isn't a confusing one to be found and kids will understand how to play in no time at all. Unfortunately, every game often has a ludicrously strict timer, with most counting down from 20 seconds. We needed a few seconds just to acclimate to the screen, and by the time we really started getting into each game it was too late. It also makes everything feel very repetitive very quickly.
Equally frustrating is the locked content. This is a supposed party game, which typically means short play sessions, yet half of the minigames aren't accessible right away. You can play single-player in Practice Mode, but there's no reason to bother since nothing unlocks; with so many fantastic experiences on the Wii U, too, we can't imagine Word Party being the top priority for couch multiplayer.
Once the games get going, though, they can be quite fun; some are turn-based, where each player has to find the right word or definition, while others are more twitchy / fast-paced, such as grabbing letters to create words. Thanks to the time limit the turn-based games are a lot more fun than the others, with less rush.
Word Party is a no-frills package. From the generic red curtain introduction to the uniformly designed but simple instruction screens, there's nothing to marvel at. The visuals are reminiscent of flash games, with standard cartoony animals, robots and bugs populating the various challenges. Luckily this is a game about words, not pictures, so the lack of visual panache isn't much of an issue. Players use their Miis as profiles when playing, but there doesn't appear to be much else here.
Like Lightwood's other titles, Word Party is functional and plays in an inoffensive manner. That being said, there is nothing here for solo players and the games aren't exactly addictive or thrilling. If you're hankering for a semi-educational game to play with your kids Word Party is an adequate choice, but otherwise there are far better Wii U 'party' games to play.