Wii Party is exactly what a party game should be. It almost feels as though Nintendo has decided to step forward after four years of rubbish mini-game compilations and say "look everyone, this is how you're meant to do it".
The numerous game modes are split into three categories: Group Play, Pair Play and House Party. The Group Play modes are designed for up to four players and the first mode featured in Group Play is Board Game Island which is like an enhanced version of Snakes And Ladders with mini-games thrown into the mix. Before each turn, all four players compete in a mini-game to determine the order in which they'll roll. On top of this, you'll also get a second die depending on your ranking in the mini-game. These dice let you move extra spaces, with the gold and silver ones more likely to roll higher numbers.
The aim is to get to the top of the island before anyone else does. It's simple stuff and with four players it can get really competitive. The various special tiles also keep things interesting: one sends you to a volcano if you land on it, meaning that you have to clear another ten spaces before you get out, whereas another lets you summon a tornado to pick up one of your opponents and send them back a number of spaces. It's the best mode ion the game and truly feels like the modern equivalent of what a board game should be.
All Around The World
Globe Trot plays like Mario Party. The aim is to travel round a large map of the world by rolling the dice and landing on spaces but whereas Mario Party had you using coins to buy stars, this time you're tasked with visiting certain locations in the world and paying ten coins for a souvenir photo to prove you were there. There's a little more tactical freedom here than there was in Mario Party however, because instead of chasing down one star at a time, here you're given a list of three landmarks to visit. You also have to get the exact number of moves to land on the space and buy the souvenir, so it's not necessarily a race to get there first this time, which keeps things fun. Mini-games are thrown in after each turn, which helps you win more coins.
Pair Play consists of three modes - Friend Connection, Match-Up and Balance Boat - and it's the latter that's easily the best of the bunch. This involves both players balancing Miis on a boat to make sure it doesn't tip over. After each round a co-op mini-game is played. Fail that and the Miis being placed will be completely different sizes, making it much harder to keep things balanced. We adore this mode and it makes for one of the best two-player co-op experiences you'll find on the Wii.
There's also Friend Connection, where two people play mini-games together to see how well they connect, and Match-up which is a fancy version of the classic 'match two' card game you've seen time and time again, although it's been presented in a rather charming way with loads of Miis wandering around in a park.
Finally, there's House Party mode, which is more focused on real life interactions. These range from daft mini-games like Hide And Seek, where you hide the Remote (which beeps occasionally) and the other players have to find it, and a cheeky quiz game where you have to answer questions about the other players to see how well you all know each other. Though these ones are aimed at slightly younger players they're still fun, especially the one where you have to slowly pass the Remote around as if it were a bomb.
Don't Go Solo
The game comes with a free Wii Remote which is a bonus for anyone wanting to play a multiplayer game because, let's face it, there's little to see here for the solo player. With two or ideally more players, Wii Party comes alive. The charming, high quality presentation will bring a smile to anyone's face, and the wide variety of mini games on offer here make Wii Party a quality multiplayer game. It's pleasing to see that where so many other games companies have tried to make a quick buck out of the party game genre, Wii Party proves that this kind of title can be well made, good fun and bursting with fresh ideas. Add in that extra Wii Remote and you've a great package - and one that we're confident will become one of the biggest games of the year on any format.
This is an edited version of a review that appears in issue 61 of Official Nintendo Magazine. For more in-depth analysis, screenshots and boxouts, buy the magazine here.