Review: Family Party 30 Great Games Winter Fun (Nintendo Wii)

Family Party: 30 Great Games Winter Fun
Genre: Sports
Developer: D3
Publisher: D3
Release Date: 02/09/2010

Family Party: 30 Great Games Winter Fun is clearly going to be on everybody’s short list for GOTY come December. Seriously, how could it not? It says right in the title – “GREAT”!

You are not allowed to call something great unless it is scientifically proven! That would be false advertising and thus illegal.

And not just one great game, mind you, but THIRTY! That is fifteen times more than two great games! Imagine 15(Shining Force + Super Mario Bros. 3)! The numbers don’t lie.

Can you believe that you can get all this for about fifteen bucks on Amazon?

What could be better?

It isn’t like this is some sort of poorly made collection of mini-games to cash in on this year’s Winter Olympics.

Well, it is actually quite a bit like that thing. Why else would anyone make a video game with bobsledding, curling, cross country skiing, and luge?

Let’s Review!

Story / Modes

I guess the story would be that your family is having a party and at that party you have the ability to play thirty great games. It isn’t a particularly large party. You only start the game with nine characters unlocked.

Apparently the family has one black cousin.

Just one, though.

There are three modes from which to choose. With Battle mode, up to four players can goof around with the mini-games. There are twelve mini-games to choose from at the start, with the potential to unlock twenty-five. You can select between one and ten mini-games to play in a round. You could play the slalom, you could play a bunch of different mini-games, or you could speed skate ten times in a row. It’s create your own single or multi-sport competition.

(I wouldn’t recommend speed skating ten time in a row, as your arms will want to fall off after round two. It is, quite honestly, painful to play.)

No matter how many people you have playing, ALL GAMES ARE ALWAYS FOUR PLAYER. I don’t know why it is this way. But it really slows things up in many of the games, especially if there is only one human playing this thing. Take the ski jump, for example. Each player jumps three times. You take your turn, they show a replay of the jump. Then the computer player takes its turn, and they show a replay of that thing. Then the second computer player takes its turn, and they show a replay of that thing. Then a third computer player takes its turn, then they show a replay of that thing.

Did I mention this lasts for three rounds?

You can skip the replays, but not the jumps. By the end, I was mashing the A button like a crazy person.

For other games, like the luge, you can skip watching the computer compete. This is frustrating, though, because they don’t tell you how the computer characters’ times compared with your own. The game instead assigns a four digit score, and gives you those arbitrary and meaningless results.

“Wow, I won the luge by 300 points!”

Challenge mode is exactly like Battle mode, except the computer has pre-selected events in which you will be competing. You pick an area in which to compete, then compete in that area’s four to five games in the pre-selected order. Once again, you can choose between one and four players, but every game will be four players after the computer fills in the remaining slots. Challenge mode is the only way to unlock the missing thirteen mini games from the Battle mode.

Many of the locked games aren’t worth the effort.

The final mode is Co-op mode. This is a four against four battle. You can play this mode single player. It amounts to having SEVEN computer players in the game. Guess what? There is a team ski jump game in this mode. You jump and then wait for seven computer players to jump! (Though to be fair, you are given the option of controlling all four of your team’s players for this event. The menu wasn’t particularly clear to me the first time around.)

The Co-op mode has five mini-games unique to it. These are described in the game menu and manual as (and I kid you not):
The Ski Jumping (Team)
The Bobsled
The Relay Skating
The Curling
The Snowball Melee

I’m not sure if this game was made by aliens or foreign janitors. All of the mini-games start with “the”. It makes sense for The Bobsled. It makes less sense for The Curling or The Rappelling. Putting “the” in front of those things makes them sound like titles to horror films.

“Boris, ve vill play the relay skating, no?”

Graphics

All the shots of the game in this review are taken from D3’s website. These are the shots they chose to represent the game.

It isn’t particularly ugly for a budget title, but not very inspired either. While the Wii is no graphical power-house, the DS would probably not be overwhelmed in producing these visuals.

The graphics are mostly functional, but there are quite a few times where course hazards pop up out of nowhere. They are either obscured by the player or indistinguishable from a similarly colored background. I did have a few camera angle problems, too. The biggest of these came in a snow ball rolling race, where I got stuck behind a rock and the game decided to show me a close-up of the rock in lieu of which direction my character was going.

Also worth noting is that in some of the games, you get a four player split screen. In some of those, the position of your character’s screen is dependent on his or her position in the race. It can be terribly confusing to have your character bouncing around from one screen to another.

“I got passed by two people; I’m now one screen over and one down!”

Blurg.

Sound

Generally, the sound effects in video games go unnoticed. Here, they will be noticed. This is the sort of game where speed skaters bumping into each other sound a lot like springs in a cartoon. These are some consistently bad sound effects.

There isn’t much in terms of dialogue. The spoken English you’ll hear here is pretty much limited to the dramatic reading of “Family Party: 30 Great Games Winter Fun!” at the title screen.

This game is also far too enamored with the Wii-mote speakers. The first time I played the Slalom, I was terrified by how they cranked all these loud and terrible sound effects into my controller.

Control / Gameplay

I am not going to describe how to play thirty different games here. I have better things to do. If you want to know the details of these things, you can visit here.

I will describe the controls and gameplay in general terms, though.

First off, there seems to be little continuity from one game to the next. A few of the games have stamina meters, and power-ups to recharge them. In some of the games, like speed skating, you can completely ignore this aspect of the game. It won’t matter much, and there are power-ups everywhere. In cross-country skiing, I seemed to finish each race dead last, with my character panting and sweating, completely spent.

Secondly, the controls are counter-intuitive, only rarely make any sort of sense. In cross country skiing for example, there are two completely different ways to steer. On flat ground or going uphill your steer with B and Z. When going downhill you steer by tilting the wii-mote. For one of the race games you run by pushing forward on the control stick AND flicking the remote up and down at the same time.

This problem is further exacerbated by unclear and or complicated directions to these games. The ski jump directions advise you to jump and land at “the right time”. What does that mean? The directions of these games should be simple. They should follow the general Mario Party pick up and play recipe. Instead, we get directions like the following:

Each player takes a turn in rounds.

Point at the starry night sky, and complete the constellation. Players will take turns, but you can play as many times as you can fit within the time limit. To create a constellation, select the star to make the constellation, and connect that star with the stars of the constellation. If the connection is correct, you can select the next star. If you shoot a star that is not part of a constellation, or if you miss the shot, the turn will go on to the next player. The game ends when the time limit expires, or if all constellations are completed within the screen area. If seven seconds pass without movement, the next player will get to go. If you don’t know what the next star is, use the Flash function to display a hint for a short moment. When the Flash gauge is depleted, the Flash function will end. While waiting for other players, you can move the shooting stars.

Simple right?

Third off, the responsiveness leaves a lot to be desired. I knew I was in trouble when it was hard to use the Wiimote to type in my character’s name. For many of the games the Nunchuk is either completely unresponsive or lags by several seconds.

Finally, there are some odd choices in this game. Atari 2600 odd. It’s the sort of game that will surprise you by having a polar bear or a seal show up out of nowhere and accost you. In the mountain climbing and rappelling games, pterodactyls will attack you. Where is this family party? Monster Island?

The manual refers to these guys as “winged dinosaurs”, but I think we all know that pterodactyls are not properly dinosaurs. Then again, the game has them co-existing with humans, so that might be the least of their worries.

In addition to “dinosaurs”, there are other oddities. Someone has littered the snow mobile course with land mines.

I no longer believe this party to be appropriate for the whole family.

The figure skating event involves collecting floating orbs.

There is a game where you play as a giant floating Santa Claus avatar.

It’s an odd game.

Replayability

This game is obsessed with making you have to play it over and over. You have to beat the four games in each of the challenge areas in order to unlock each one’s fifth game. Then, you have to beat all five games of each of those three areas to unlock the next area. Then you have to beat the four games of that area to unlock its fifth game. Then you have to beat all five of those games to unlock the fifth area. Then you have to beat all four of its games to unlock its fifth game.

Then there is the medal system. The game arbitrarily assigns medals to random point amounts for its event. Each medal is, in turn, given a point total. Bronze medals are worth one point, silvers two points and so on. The game keeps track of these points and unlocks things based on this.

After thirty points you get to adjust the color of your characters’ outfits.

After fifty, you are given slightly different, but not terribly so, outfits.

After 100 game points you finally start unlocking characters.

To unlock the final character, the bear, takes 550 points. I want to play as a bear. That would might make this freaking game fun. I can get a platinum medal almost every time I play the snow tube. So, if I sit there and play the snow tube 150 times in a row, I might be able to unlock the character I wanted to use from the beginning.

Boo.

As it stands I have unlocked every single mini-game, but not a single character. (I actually did play snow tubing twenty times in a row in order to unlock the different costumes.)

Balance

Having thirty different games makes for some unevenness of play. Of the thirty times I played snow tubing, I finished first twenty eight. Oftentimes, I won by a solid ten seconds. I finished the luge similarly.

Other games, I cannot even place third. The computer players generally finish the slalom in 45 seconds. I have trouble keeping it under the two minute mark.

Still other games seem completely arbitrary. Ice mining mostly comes down to luck. In that game you have a drill a pick axe and dynamite in the ground looking for treasures in the ice.

The main problem here is that my skill level at each of these games never really changes from the initial go-round. I never get any better or worse. My final score is only varied by the occasional unseen hazard, bad camera angle, my Nunchuk movements not registering, or fatigue.

My Batman, the fatigue!

In the Stadium Area, “the Speed skating” is followed by “the Short Track Speed Skating.” For speed skating, you have to flap the Wiimote up and down for a lap and a half. It is exhausting. For “the Short Track Speed Skating” you have to flap the Wiimote up and down for ten freaking laps. Cripes all Friday, people!

Originality

If you look at the rack of budget Wii games, this thing will stand out like a pudgy guy in a convention for comics bloggers. It’s an uninspired mini-game collection with questionable controls in a sea of those things.

Sure, the game has a few weird points to it, like putting land mines on a snow mobile track. It doesn’t feel fresh or new, though. It just feels like something that would’ve been done in the 1980s.

Addictiveness

I desperately want to play a game as a snow-boarding bear. It is one of my life’s goals. If I play this game for a few more days, I would be able to unlock a bear and snow board with him.

Not gonna do it.

Appeal Factor

Let’s face it. Grandma is going buy this game thinking it is a sequel to Wii Sports. You know it. I know it. It’s like when you name your movie Transmorphers or when they released Short Circuit on DVD with a cover that made it look like Wall-E.

This thing is confused Grandma bait.

Miscellaneous

For the life of me, I cannot figure this game out. I don’t know why I can’t play a simple one player or one on one game. It’s weird.

The most frustrating part of it might be that the game keeps track of how well it is doing. It will congratulate the computer players for getting new records. It will keep these records in the memory. It’s one thing to have the default high scores in a fighting game or some such. It’s another thing to have Goro get Mortal Kombat‘s high score for pounding you into the dirt.

Plus, the game calls pterodactyls winged dinosaurs. That will not stand. The name dinosaur refers exclusively to terrestrial creatures. What’s next? Are they going to refer to plesiosaurs as swimming dinosaurs? I say “good day” to you Family Party: 30 Great Games Winter Fun!

The Scores:
Modes: Poor
Graphics: Below Average
Sound: Bad
Control/Gameplay: Below Average
Replayability: Above Average
Balance: Bad
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Bad
Appeal: Decent
Miscellaneous: Poor
FINAL SCORE: POOR GAME

Short Attention Span Summary
There is really no reason to play this game. It is not particularly fun, and it is a little broken. Family Party: 30 Great Games Winter Fun seems like the sort of thing that they would bundle with your first generation iMac in 1998. It is not nearly as good as those Olympic games with Mario and Sonic, but much better than Calvin Tucker’s Redneck Jamboree.

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