If you were to poll gamers at large and ask them what they felt were the worst things about the Wii, chances are you'd hear "waggle" and "bad minigame collections" pretty frequently. In fact they often went hand in hand, and Family Party: 30 Great Games Obstacle Arcade is trying its hardest to make sure both of things carry over into the Wii U generation. We can only hope that they don't.
Family Party: 30 Great Games Obstacle Arcade — it just rolls off the tongue, doesn't it? — is, as you might guess, a collection of short games that you can play with up to three friends. You might also guess that the games would revolve around an "obstacle" theme, but you'd be wrong; many of them are standard rounds of target practice, hide and seek, or, erm, picking the balloon with the number two on it after the game tells you to pick the balloon with the number two on it. That last one's not much of a game really, but there you go.
The collection is given a sort of theme park approach, with the games broken up into smaller, unlockable areas. Again, you'd expect the space area to contain space-themed games and the Western area to host games with a cowboy flair but by and large everything is just thrown at the wall with no regard for where it lands, and there's no telling what you'll encounter where. Fortunately, we guess, whatever you encounter will be reliably awful, so there's that to look forward to.
The games are hosted by a dead-eyed teddy bear with a stare so cold and creepy that we were constantly on edge for that inevitable moment when he'd pull out a knife. Half of his face is frozen in a bizarre semblance of what we can only assume is the developer's attempt at "'tude", while the other half just passively smiles. This, combined with the fact that his lips don't move when he talks, makes it seem like we've walked in on the bear in the middle of a massive coronary that's doomed to go untreated.
The entire package feels like a holdover from the previous generation; none of the graphics come anywhere near the capabilities of Nintendo's newest console, and the Wii U GamePad barely factors in at all, with each of the games requiring instead a Wii Remote and, often, Nunchuk. This means Family Party: 30 Great Games Obstacle Arcade plays identically to every other poorly-responsive, uninteresting, lazily slapped together mini-game collection you've been doing your best to avoid since 2006.
Every game supports four players; if there are fewer human players than that, the CPU will fill the void. Human players can enter any name for themselves that they like, but oddly the game also requires you to choose a separate name for the bear to call you by. This is because the developers only gave the bear a limited bank of audio files from which to draw, so you may tell the game that your name is William, but then you'll have to choose whether it calls you Chano or Shamus or Julio instead. It's bizarre to say the least.
In each game you'll compete against the other three for points. This nearly always involves waggling as quickly as possible, but sometimes it can rely on maneuvering crosshairs around the screen instead. No game is any more complicated than that, and it often feels as though the developer went out of its way to assign the most frustrating control schemes possible. Some games, for instance, are races that see you hopping from platform to platform. Despite the fact that each player has a perfectly good D-Pad and A button to use, Family Party: 30 Great Games Obstacle Arcade requires you to thrust the Wii Remote in the direction you wish to jump. Not that it cares where you actually thrust; it's a crapshoot whether or not the game will ever recognise your input. It's a needless and mandatory use of the least reliable control scheme possible, which is pretty much par for the course here.
The Wii U GamePad only comes into play during the bonus rounds. The rest of the time it features the glass-eyed bear glowing creepily at you and loudly narrating minor gameplay developments without moving his mouth. During the bonus rounds the winner of the previous game spins a roulette wheel, which determines what the bonus game will be. Here the GamePad is used differently than the Wii Remotes, but it's certainly no more fun, and it really does feel like a tacked on addition to what's essentially a low budget Wii cash-in.
The sound effects are beyond terrible, as the four players on-screen avatars laugh and hoot and holler over each other throughout every event, turning everything into a clamorous, cluttered aural monstrosity. The bear barks meaningless platitudes about every minor thing that happens — from a player grabbing a coin to a player not grabbing a coin — and while you're not likely to come away from this game feeling fulfilled you're more or less guaranteed a headache.
We'd like to close on a positive note of some kind, but we genuinely can't. This is an absolutely terrible game, and you don't want it. Trust us.
As clunky and poorly considered as its title, Family Party: 30 Great Games Obstacle Arcade is awful. Relying entirely on the shallow and repetitive waggle that should have died along with Wii, there's absolutely no reason to recommend this obnoxious, screaming, clattering monstrosity at all. It's mindless entertainment at its worst, but, on the bright side, it might be the perfect way to cure your childrens' burgeoning video game addiction.