Review: Vegas Party (Nintendo Wii)

Vegas_Wii_box_front>Game Name: Vegas Party
Publisher: Storm City Games
Developer: Enjoy Gaming
Genre: Party/Board game
Release Date: 10/27/2009

In the late 1990’s, one video game console established itself as the king of local multiplayer. Amazing games like Goldeneye: 007 and Mario Kart kept players glued to the couches, bean bags, folding chairs, beds, and generally anything else that could be dragged in front of the Nintendo 64. In December of 1998, Mario Party was released on the system, and party based video games came to be defined for over a decade now. Since then, other big names in entertainment have jumped aboard, such as The Muppets and Shrek. Now a new game has thrown its hat into the ring. Or in this case, plopped its cards down on the table. Take a walk down the strip with me as we explore Vegas Party.

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Vegas Party is aimed squarely at the casual market that the Wii is becoming so well known for. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as this type of game can easily become one of those games where, after sitting down and playing for a few turns, you look up and find that it is now next Tuesday. The setup is fairly simple-you and a group of three other people are hitting the Vegas Strip for a night of gambling, and whoever has the most chips at the end of the night is judged king of the world, or at least luckiest on the slots. That’s really the only setup you need to know, and once things get going you’ll see the obvious similarities to other party games, along with a healthy dose of Vegas-based twists. First off, you pick a character from the roster of somewhat funny, somewhat horrible characters. There is the little old lady, so much a staple of the Vegas economy. However, her description points out that she kinda sorta lost all of her grandchildren’s Christmas money. Way to go, Grandma! There’s also the anorexic socialite airhead with a chihuahua in her purse, a wannabe rapper with a bulletproof vest and a giant gold dollar sign, the fat European cab driver, the cowgirl, and more! There are twelve total characters, all done completely and firmly tongue in cheek. However, this can also mean it gets hard to play someone you want to identify with. Mario Party has a great selection of archetypes if you want to be heroic, quirky, evil, or just kind of weird. The people in this game all make you feel kind of dirty, like you are making some sort of judgment about yourself just during the selection. The other downside is that there is almost no reason to play one character versus another. Even the animations of different movements don’t really change from person to person, and this really lowers the desire to pick a favorite character. You don’t think Shady the Rapper is cool, you think he is the least objectionable guy left.

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Once you’ve picked your fine example of humanity, it’s off to the game itself. Sadly, here is where things take a disappointing turn. Vegas Party features seventeen casinos, most of them inspired by real life dreams casino buildings. I was really hoping for seventeen different maps, with each casino being a different board. How great does that sound? For the castle casino, there would be a medieval styled board. For the Asian casino, maybe a dragon themed board, or maybe something as glittery and neon as some of the cyberpunk anime that comes out of Japan? Seventeen casinos, each as a different board, would be awesome. Instead, the board that you play on is the Vegas Strip itself, You can go forward and backward, but you can’t turn or take shortcuts. Talk about “on rails.” As much as anything else in this game, the static “game board” of the Las Vegas Strip is the single biggest disappointment. Imagine if Monopoly was an endless road, or Chutes and Ladders was renamed “Boring Path.”

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The graphics do their level best to keep the Strip interesting. There is a ton of neon on display in the form of flashing signs, blinking lights, and interesting buildings. In fact, just looking at the Strip might be the coolest thing you can do. From the large game tiles below your characters feet to the animated designs beckoning your wallet, there is a lot to distract outside the casinos, just like the real Vegas. What about inside? Do the things keep a high level of quality throughout? Well, no, not really. While there isn’t anything going on in the minigames to make you lose your lunch, there isn’t anything great either. Lots of times the tables would meld in with the floors. Certain games, especially the terrible bingo game, look like bad ports of Wii Play emulated on a Nintendo 64. Nothing is awful, but a lot of the graphics are shabby. Character models are flat and blurred, but the slightly-anime inspired static art is pretty solid. Sometimes it trumps the 3-D models that bounce around and collect poker chips. The audio feels similarly tacked on. One or two tracks repeat constantly in the background, and dissapear inside the casino. There’s some sharp sound effects when you win, and other than that the audio is completely forgettable.

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Things are looking pretty grim for Vegas Party. Surely we can forgive a few less than stellar items if the gameplay is great, right? Sure, I’d be happy to…if the gameplay was good. Let’s look at a standard turn or two, shall we? On the plus side, you only need one Wiimote per player, so no need to stock up on nunchuck extras. To roll the dice, you pick up your D6 and shake it with the Wiimote. Then you drop it into a cup, and it rolls. I say it’s a D6, but it’s more like a D8-there is a zero and a seven included. Yes, you can actually roll a zero movement turn. You do end up with some bonus movement points based on prior performance, but you can’t depend on those. So you get a five, for instance, and add one extra movement point to jump six squares down the board. There are a series of good luck squares, bad luck squares, and other random squares to land on. If you land on a casino square, you go inside and pick one of three minigames to play. However, the bad luck squares are very common, and it is painfully easy to land on one that cuts your movement, moves you backward, or even costs you a turn. That can dig you into a deep hole in a hurry.

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Let’s say you land on a casino game and get a chance to play a game though. In you go, with some nice, long loading screens. I’ve already mentioned the graphics aren’t great, but they get the job done. Are the minigames themselves any fun? Well…depends. Games like Blackjack were fun, a fast-paced chance to pick up some chips and win against other players directly. There’s no way to really rake in the chips by betting higher than the default, which keeps it fair, but is kind of dull. Adding insult to injury is the skill level of the AI opponents. Darts in particular showed this. In order to play, you place your dart with the Wiimote, and then throw it by flicking it towards the screen. Your aim cursor does a floating figure eight in the air to add an additional element of random aim. In a game where you were trying to get down from 200 to zero, I saw the AI throw a fifty point toss, a twenty-five point toss, and another fifty point toss on its first try. The other AI player matched it almost perfectly. Other games, like the slot machines, had similar outcomes. Speaking of the slot machines, they were the most pointless minigame I’ve ever played. Each participant chooses a line to bet and takes turn pulling the arm. Maybe you win, maybe you lose, but that’s it. No skill bonus or chance to cheat like some games might have offered. I think the load screens actually took longer to play than this game. It might have been a better game if it was a series of four player casino games only, instead of tacking on the board-game mode. You can play it like that and challenge your high scores, but without friends to play also you will quickly lose interest. Compounding matters is the fact there there are only a handful of mini-games included, barely more than a dozen. Considering games like Mario Party had fifty minigames a decade ago, this repetitiveness puts the nail in the coffin.

The Scores
Story: Decent
Graphics: Below Average
Sound: Below Average
Control and Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Bad
Balance: Poor
Originality: Decent
Addictiveness: Dreadful
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
Miscellaneous: Worthless
FINAL SCORE: Poor Game!

Short Attention Span Summary:

Vegas Party is a game best endured with other people, but getting three others to play this when there are other, better party games to play on the Wii is a longshot. With graphics best described as “adequate” and a forgettable sound design, there isn’t a lot of reason to come back and play this one again. More serious problems like long load times and unresponsive controls mean that you what happens in Vegas will be forgotten as quickly as possible. That’s a shame, because the ideas behind Vegas Party point to a game that could have been much, much more enjoyable. The idea of a party game that takes place in Vegas and caters more to the adult crowd, or at least the young adult crowd, is a concept that bursts with value. Releasing nothing but a collection of gambling games would have been a better choice. Vegas Party isn’t a safe bet, and odds are you won’t have fun.

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