Minigame collections were a staple on Nintendo’s Wii; following the enormous success of Wii Sports in bringing families together and shifting consoles themselves, given that it was included with the hardware, publishers fell over themselves to sell the huge Wii audience another set of games. Not many met with much success, however – for every well made collection, it felt as if there were another ten or fifteen lazy cash in titles. The situation was so bad that it, perhaps unfairly, gave the Wii a reputation as a machine with a software library consisting mostly of shovelware. Though shovelware did make up a sizeable portion of the Wii’s catalogue, there were a huge amount of genuine gems amongst the dross.
The Wii U’s confused messaging and unusual control set-up (though you could, of course, use Wii remotes) meant that it wasn’t afflicted with the same volume of these types of games; though its library is several orders of magnitude smaller than the original Wii’s, there’s definitely less dross to get through.
The Switch seems to have sidestepped this for the most part, with a large variety of games to accompany Nintendo’s fantastic evolution of both the Wii and Wii U concepts, albeit lacking in the minigame collection department.
Perhaps it shouldn’t be so surprising; even developers themselves had become bored of putting these collections together. They were definitely thinner on the ground for Wii U, though this may have been due to the much smaller install base, rather than any boredom or lack of appetite from publishers.
One of the most prolific, if not the best (to say the least – reviews were particularly scathing in general), series of minigames on the Wii was Game Party, published originally by MIdway Games.
The first game was published in 2007; Game Party 2 (known as ‘More Game Party’ in Europe) followed in 2008 and Game Party 3 was released in 2009. In Gebruary 2009, several months before Game Party 3 was released, Midway confirmd that the series had sold 3 million units; astonishing for a series with such dismal critical reception, but testament to the fact that the hunger for family friendly mini-games on Wii was still high, a few years after the Wii first hit the market in 2006.
Following the demise of Midway Games, the next title in the Game Party series – Game Party in Motion – was published by Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment in 2010. This time is was an XBox 360 title utilising the Kinect add-on. The jump in format didn’t give the series any change in critical reception, however, with a 33% Metacritic score being a good indication of the general consensus.
The fifth – and so far, final – title in the series was Game Party Champions for the Wii U. Though critical reception was no better (it’s sat at a 24% Metacritic score), it’s here that things get really interesting. Steve Bowler, the lead designer on Game Party Champions (and who’s quoted in a great Vice article – that you should definitely make some time to read – from 2017 as saying, perhaps understandably, “I never want to work on another Game Party as long as I live”), recently wrote a fantastic thread on Twitter in which he discussed Game Party Champions and the fascinating Story Mode that it contains, which is exactly what led me to get hold of the game and dig deeper into the series – which, somewhat surprisingly given its seeming popularity, I’d never actually heard of.
It was that thread which led me to get hold of Game Party Champions and try it out for myself. It’s not a great game at all – something which Steve Bowler himself admits – and I’ve yet to be able to progress to the end of the Story Mode. Partially, this is because I’m not very good at the game – but also, I have to say that I did get bored of the game extremely quickly.
However, the Story Mode remains fascinating to me, both in terms of how it came to be and in terms of its content. Considering this was packaged in a minigame collection – from a series that had never previously featured a similar mode – and wasn’t featured in the marketing or mentioned anywhere on the box, it’s even more of a baffling situation.
If you haven’t already clicked on the link to Steve Bowler’s thread, I’d urge you to do so. It’s great and, sorry to say, far more entertaining than the game itself. I don’t want to spoil the surprise and I certainly couldn’t tell the story better than Steve Bowler himself.
It did lead me to think: are there any other games out there with weird creation stories or near-enough hidden content that most players just wouldn’t be aware of? Have you ever come across a game that’s contained something that’s utterly surprising or baffling? If so, let me know!
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