Child's play

The perfect game length is a personal thing. Those with oodles of time will want maximum value from their purchases and demand at least 30 hours of gameplay, but those with less time — such as myself and the many other games-playing parents out there — may prefer games to be shorter. I like to be able to complete games in less than 20 hours.

However, there is another side of this that is often overlooked and offers a universal measure in terms of value for money. Beyond the time it takes to complete the campaign, it is also important to consider how long you keep playing a game for — how many weeks, months or years later are you still going back to play, even after completing it.

This is not only the gatekeeper of video game classics, where we still enjoy Zelda: Ocarina of Time or Super Mario Galaxy even though we completing them years ago, but also an excellent marker of value – and a particularly useful one for a family.

To this end there are a number of games — some that could be considered to be too short or not fully fleshed out — that my family have returned to play again and again over the years. Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort are two excellent examples, as is Go Vacation. These are games that we may have “finished” in terms of completing challenges, but that we still play on a regular basis.

The most recent addition to this category is Wii Party U. After the initial blush of excitement and racing through the different TV Party, GamePad Party and House Party modes I had thought the family would move on to other titles (there’s now no shortage of choice on the Wii U after all). However, I keep finding them coming back to Wii Party U.

Some of this has been particular games that have really clicked with the kids and kept them playing for longer. The Baseball and Football GamePad challenges have featured heavily here. Something about huddling round the Wii U controller without the need for the TV and the simple fun has made these games really “sticky”.

Lost and Found Square has been another of the games we have gone back to play again and again. Here it is the unique challenge and experience that has drawn them back, along with the excuse to shout and jump around as they try and help each other find the right disguised Mii.

Finally the Mii Fashion Plaza board game in Wii Party U has been the longer challenge that the family has kept on playing. Here I think the appeal lies in the layered nature of the challenge, board game, dress-up game and mini-games.

All these different modes in Wii Party U have something in common with other games that offer longevity; they may appear simple but the more you play the more you understand their complexity. The interesting thing here is that with Wii Party U that complexity is not only in the game mechanics, but the human relationship, communication and interactions they create.

Playing GamePad Baseball may only offer a simple one-stick control, but play against a sibling and it turns into a subtle game of outwitting, bluffing and double bluffing your brother or sister.

We need to talk not only of game duration but also of longevity when assessing our top choices. Wii Party U ticked that box for my family, but I’m sure there are other titles for you that you still play months and years after completing them. I for one would love to hear what they are, so feel free to share your thoughts with a comment.