Wii Party U is obviously made to be played with others, most likely in a family environment. Unlike Game & Wario, with its collection of puzzles, Wii Party U doesn't include the kinds of games that it makes sense to play on your own; instead, single-player is restricted to playing the mini-games against AI, which is rarely any fun. So in order to have a proper look at what the game had to offer, I roped in my younger brothers and sisters.
This game is made by the team behind the Mario Party series and is aimed at roughly the same audience, though the familiarity factor provided by the Mario characters is replaced by that strange joy that comes from watching a cartoon version of yourself (i.e. a Mii) act all zany. One of the three primary modes in the game is particularly like Mario Party, called “TV Party” but really a collection of board games. Each requires you to move around a themed board, with goals ranging from collecting items of clothing to building up a sports team, occasionally stopping to play a mini-game.
My family thought the board games were slow, but then they do regularly play Mario Party so it's likely they were just in a particularly impatient mood the day we played. The good thing about TV Party is that you don't have to scroll through the huge selection of mini-games and choose one for yourself, but if you are the kind of person who can't be bothered with rolling dice, you can play all of the mini-games on their own, though they're generally so short and frivolous that if you're going to do that you may as well play House Party instead.
House Party may have fewer mini-games on offer than TV Party, but that seems to be because the development team has gone for quality over quantity. These games are more involved, and make more interesting use of the GamePad. Name That Face, for instance, has players take turn trying to pull particular faces at the GamePad's camera, leaving the other players to guess which of four options is the situation the model was trying to enact. Another one guaranteed to make you laugh has players lay three Wii Remotes beneath the GamePad on a flat surface and follow instructions to press certain buttons, inevitably ending up in a Twister-like mess.
Nothing that Wii Party U has to offer is so revolutionary that it'll truly astound people, but it does do a good job of showing off the various capabilities of the console, like the mini-game that has one player sing into the GamePad to make a wave that knocks over the Miis of the others. The last of the three main modes, GamePad Party, is a particularly good argument for the Wii U, as its two-player mini-games don't require the TV at all. Instead, a variety of situations have you sit opposite your opponent, each of you on one analog stick as you get robots to punch each other or help each other to navigate a boat around obstacles. It might not sound particularly noteworthy, but it's the kind of experience not really offered elsewhere.
As with any collection as large as this, some of the mini-games in Wii Party U are utter crap that'll make you wish there was an in-game blacklist function. But there are also some real gems, with some of the House Party games in particular rivalling some of what Nintendoland has on offer. Wii Party U comes bundled with a Wii Remote, and that's a good indication of the kinds of people who should buy it. Expanding the number of players who can use your Wii U at once? Part of a family of gamers? This is definitely worth a shot for your next family gathering.
Wii Party U was developed and published by Nintendo. It will be released on October 25, at the MSRP of $49.99. A copy was provided by the publisher for the purposes of review.