The completely generic name Game Party Champions should have been the first clue. This new mini-game compilation is a spiritual successor to 2010’s Game Party: In Motion found on the Xbox 360. While In Motion wasn’t critically well received, with an all-new developer at the helm this time around one would hope that Game Party Champions would be an improvement. Nope. I have just experienced the single worst gaming experience of my reviewing career.
It seems that with the launch of any new hardware, whether it be a new console or peripheral, an inevitable “game collection” will exist to try and take your well earned money under the guise of leveraging the latest and greatest in game controls. Game Party Champions attempts to be that game in the Wii U’s launch line up. Champions tries horribly to be a hybrid between motion control and dual-screen play, like you would see on Nintendo’s DS line of handhelds. The result is an absolutely horrid experience.
There are eight arcade type games to choose from; including air hockey, ping pong, water gun, football, basketball, skill ball, mini golf and baseball. These aren’t full representations of each game but rather the types of games you would see in an arcade or on a carnival midway. There is disappointingly little variety when it comes to control. Nearly half the game types involve holding the game pad longitudinally, pointing it in various directions to aim and then swiping directionally on the game pad’s screen to launch the ball. This works alright for something like skill ball, where the direction of your swipe determines the path, but games like football and hoop shot/basketball are exercises in frustration when trying to aim the game pad (there is a directional arrow to help) and be accurate with both the direction and speed you swipe the screen to control the ball.
Several game types attempt to utilize the game pad as a second screen similar to how you would play a DS game. Unlike playing on a DS, there is no ability to rely on peripheral vision to keep both screens in view at the same time. Even if you hold the game pad up so it is in the same field of view as your TV, you are still challenged with your eyes adjusting to the two different focal points. This results in way too much frustration to be anything close to being fun. In order to be accurate in air hockey, for example, you have to make use of the game pad’s screen while simultaneously watching the TV, which reveals a noticeable lag in your control’s input, making it pretty much impossible to be precise once the action gets intense. Playing via the game pad’s screen only shows you your half of the table, so you can’t rely on that either. Other game modes, such as water gun, better duplicate on the game pad what you’re seeing on the TV. I found it far easier and more accurate to look directly at the game pad while playing versus trying to aim by focusing on the TV while moving the game pad around to position the aiming reticle. I should just be playing this on a DS.
There are three game modes to choose from. Story mode is your standard campaign mode and takes you through three areas: an arcade, an amusement park and ultimately the world game championships. Each area has four games that you must play through and a “boss” as the final round. Different rounds have different objectives. In football, for instance, one round might have you throwing the football through different highlighted rings for points, while the other rounds might have moving targets to hit, or variations thereof.
Quick Play mode allows players to jump right in to single player action without any of the story to slow you down. Party Mode is where up to four players can play together by taking turns with the game pad. Party Mode plays out like a very basic board game. Each player spins a wheel to move their character. Different coloured spaces represent different game types which are bite sized versions of what you see in single player. In order for each move to stick and progress towards the finish, players must complete each mini-game, otherwise their move does not count and the player stays on the space where they began the turn before spinning. Players who are not playing can utilize a Wii Remote if one is available to taunt their teammates. Game Party Champions also connects to the Nintendo network to provide a set of leaderboard rankings where you can compare your high scores to those of your friends. You don’t actually have the ability to play online with friends though.
Game Party Champions looks barely like a current-gen title, let alone one that was just released on an entirely new console. I get that the Wii U is only at the most visually on par with the PS3 and 360, but Game Party Champions doesn’t even manage to hit that benchmark. For something that is supposed to usher in the next-gen of consoles, the amount of jaggies in this game is disturbing. The various teen characters lack any real personality. NPC’s sport woefully limited and canned animations and bland textures round out this game’s poor visual presentation.
When you first turn on Game Party Champions you are met with somewhat of a catchy riff; it actually gives the impression of being somewhat promising at first. There’s even ample narration and dialogue from your ‘friend’ character. Unfortunately, you will soon realize that this is the only voice acting in the game. It doesn’t matter whether you choose to play as a boy or girl, neither has any dialogue other than stereotyped teen indifference expressed in guffaws, laughs and harrumphs. Both the sounds and visuals are overall very uninspired.
Besides the obvious attempt to cash in on the launch of the Wii U, it seems as if the design philosophy of Game Party Champions was to make playing on the TV and GamePad equate to a DS-like experience. It fails miserably. Trying to combine this sort of experience and motion control onto the Wii U’s GamePad is frustrating and feels forced. The game’s $50 price tag is an extra slap in the face. At the end of the day I would recommend that you avoid this game.