Party-style mini-game compilations can sometimes be a treat. Many of us will have spent countless hours on games such as Nintendo Land and Mario Party, laughing uncontrollably as the same person fails over and over, or screaming hateful abuse towards those we held closest to our hearts only seconds before. These games can be the centre of incredible memories, but unfortunately with gallery shooter Wicked Monsters Blast! HD PLUS this is not the case.
The game can be played either solo or with friends in a local multiplayer setting. Naturally, party games are almost always better when playing with friends so it is to almost nobody's surprise that playing alone isn't the best way to have a good time here. Player 1 will take control of the GamePad, both in single and multiplayer, with any extra players using Wii Remotes and the TV screen.
There are three game modes to choose from: Arcade, Family and Survival. Arcade mode puts you up against a series of mini-games, ending with a final 'boss level' of sorts - each game sees you competing against your friends to earn the most points which get tallied up at the end of each round. Whoever has the most points after the last mini game wins. Simple.
Family mode is the same idea, only this time you're allowed to choose exactly which mini-games you'd like to play, how many rounds you want to have and also which order the games are played in. This is a great option if you just want a very quick game; the Arcade mode can feel quite long. Finally, Survival mode is - probably quite obviously - a mode where you are tasked with taking on missions until you fail, racking up as many points as possible.
Each mini-game has a different story behind it. One game sees you preventing hippos from eating food that is being launched across the sky to them (yes, seriously), another has you carving blocks of wood that come hurtling across the screen into beautiful art sculptures. The themes and ideas behind the games have that classic WarioWare insanity that should leave players in hysterical fits of laughter and wondering how any human being could come up with such an idea in the first place.
Unfortunately, despite having great potential the gameplay itself falls dramatically short of expectations. Every single game turns into a contest of 'who can press their B button/GamePad touchscreen the quickest'. No matter what the situation of the mini-game is, the task at hand will inevitably be to quickly press the object on screen either before or more times than your opponents. Some games make this a little more fun by making you press different objects in a specific order, meaning that you have to strike a perfect balance between speed and accuracy, but the majority of them are just a case of button mashing.
The player with the GamePad automatically has a huge advantage over their opponents using Wii Remotes. The GamePad player will simply have to touch these objects on the touchscreen as soon as they appear, Wii Remote players however will have to move their cursor over the object before hitting the B button to shoot it. Moving your finger over the touchscreen is significantly quicker than moving your arm across the room and lining things up perfectly on the TV; thanks to this advantage some matches leave the Wii Remote players with very little, if any, points. While this low-skill gameplay with a focus on mashing buttons or a touchscreen may suit very young gamers, it's not particularly productive or smart gaming for any age group.
The purpose of the game changes slightly when playing alone. Instead of competing against friends for points within each level you're simply trying to achieve a high score. Strangely, though, your score isn't saved anywhere, meaning that you'll never know if you're improving. Also, with the nature of Arcade mode, the games are chosen at random meaning that you can never really analyse your score anyway. Different mini-games have a different amount of points on offer so if you were given all high-scoring games one time, and then low-scoring ones the next, you'd see a huge difference.
When going into a match you choose a character to play as. Interestingly in Arcade mode these characters are given a backstory and a small cutscene will play for each when they win an overall session. Again, the potential here is great – the characters are brightly coloured animals with fitting names and the general script of the cutscenes is almost always trying to be funny. It's a shame then that rather than being funny, they seem completely pointless and often don't make any sense at all. A younger audience may get something from the characters but everyone else will be skipping through these sections as quickly as possible to prevent themselves from face-palming too many times.
Wicked Monsters Blast! HD PLUS is a title that attempts to create a funny, charming, competitive party atmosphere with a collection of varying mini-games. In reality it doesn't quite manage to be funny, charming or that competitive, and will leave most players craving something else that does it better. It has certain features that a younger audience will enjoy and is simple enough for everyone to get involved, but with no real imagination or - more importantly - much fun to be had, most will find themselves leaving the game to gather (electronic) dust.