Release Date: December 4, 2007
Board games and video games have always existed in a sort of symbiotic balance that constantly preserved the state of the universe. Board games were for the social butterflies, the folks who would invite friends over for a party and then break out the games once drinks started flowing and everybody was having a good time. Video games have always been for the more solitary types, those who prefer either playing alone or doing their gaming interactions online with folks from all around the globe. The Wii has changed the rules, though, and Cranium: Kabookii is here to upset the balance and send our planet spiraling into the sun. At least it's fun — if you don't already have the board game, that is.
Kabookii is a purely multiplayer affair, and you need at least four people in the same room in order to play properly. That is really the game's primary downside; if you don't have at least three friends to play with, you simply can't play this game. There is absolutely no single-player mode, and you can't even practice certain game types if you just want a quick fix. The only game mode is the full-on, two- to four-player team race to 24 points. If you're looking for variety, you definitely won't find it here.
Assuming you have enough people to play, the game offers 15 different minigame categories running the gamut from trivia to artistic expression. Each round starts with a spin of the wheel, and successfully completing a challenge results in the awarding of a various number of points. Games like Zelpuz and Gliffitti make you unscramble letters and solve word puzzles, while Cloodle and Graffiti will make you prove why you got that gold sticker in fourth grade art class. Most of the games are quite fun, and you'll soon find yourself laughing and cheering as your team guesses the answers to the seemingly impossible clues.
The only real clunkers are Polygraph and Cameo, one due to its brevity, and the other because it's nearly broken. Polygraph asks you a single true or false question, and then the game is over. The whole thing can be finished in seconds, with the loading screens lasting longer than the game itself. Cameo tasks you with mimicking the action associated with a picture onscreen, such as driving a nail when shown a picture of a hammer, or swishing the Wiimote back and forth when presented with a broom. This mode comes the closest to total failure, with the required motions needed for success being ill-defined and dodgy at best. Often, you'll make a motion that seems to make sense, but is repeatedly judged as wrong simply because you undertook the action too many times or held the controller at the wrong angle. While these two misfires aren't enough to doom the entire game, they do quite a bit to distract you from an otherwise enjoyable experience.
Kabookii's visual styling keeps very closely to that of the board game, and fans will likely be happy to see Creative Cat, Data Head, Star Performer and Word Worm represented in fully animated glory. The art direction is simple and clean, but there's really nothing here that will make you drool at its HD glory. The sound also takes a similar, simplistic tone, as a cheerful and calm announcer simply chimes in to remind you whose turn it is and talks about what a great job everyone is doing. Ultimately, everything the game does presentation-wise is adequate, but nothing is particularly memorable.
The biggest head-scratcher about Cranium: Kabookii is why would you buy it for the Wii, when all interactions are restricted to what you can do with a Wiimote. Instead, why not get the board game, which is much cheaper and allows you to draw with a pen and paper and mold with clay? I would understand if Kabookii had some sort of online multiplayer option or single-player campaign, but absent those things, there's really no reason to skip the non-digital version. While the title is enjoyable, it can't escape two simple truths: It's a minigame collection, and it's based on a game that is more fun when played in the traditional fashion with friends gathered around the playing board rather than the Wii console. There's nothing particularly wrong with Kabookii, but sometimes, you just can't beat the original.