Developer: Magellan Interactive
Release Date: December 18, 2008
Puzzle games are popular and prevalent on the Nintendo DS and with good reason. Not only are they easy to make, but they also have the pick-up-and-play aspect that makes them very appealing to both the hardcore and casual gamer alike. The same goes for party games, which the Nintendo Wii has in abundance. The popularity of both consoles has led publishers to take their popular Nintendo DS puzzle titles and make them work on the Nintendo Wii by adding party and multiplayer aspects. While it can work some of the time, the experience is mostly diluted and makes for an experience that doesn't replicate the original game very well. WordJong Party belongs in the minority because even with the additional elements, the title translates into a good gaming experience for solitary and multiplayer game sessions.
WordJong Party can be best described as a mix of Boggle, Mahjong and Scrabble. Players are presented with stacks of letters on the playfield, and only the top letters can be selected. With the available letters, players try to form the best words possible. Once tiles are removed, new tiles are uncovered, and the process continues until either all of the tiles are gone or no more words can be formed.
The core mechanics of WordJong Party are the same as the ones found on the DS. Having said this, there are also plenty of different things to be found in the Wii version. For one, the single-player experience is pretty deep; the first part of the experience is a quest mode that plays much like a fighting game. Once you choose a path to go through, you face off against several different AI opponents in various game types. Some matches are one-on-one, while others are four-player free-for-alls. Others still are team-based, where you and a partner are playing for a cumulative score, but the overall game rules and objectives remain the same.
The difficulty is moderate and challenging enough for those who play plenty of word games. Outside of the quest mode, the single-player modes also include a battle mode that emulates the fights you get in quest mode. For those not in the mood to fight, the title also features a daily challenge where you have to beat the CPU score for the given puzzle. All in all, the single-player modes are great and addictive enough to keep you playing for quite some time, which is a perfect sign for any puzzle game.
Multiplayer, as referenced to in the title, is a varied and fun experience. Just like the single-player game, you have the regular battle mode that can be played as a free-for-all or team-based match. You also have two new modes: Frantic Party and Round Party. Frantic Party has you racing against other players to get to the objective score, while Round Party gives you a set number of rounds with the objective of getting the best word score per round. Each of these modes is pretty fun, but more often than not, the standard battle mode ended up being the most played multiplayer mode. Like the single-player modes, multiplayer is quite fun and just as addicting.
Not much can be said for the controls, except that they are close to perfect for WordJong Party. Interestingly enough, the game gives the user two different control methods. The standard method is a bit more traditional; with the Wiimote held NES style, you use the d-pad to move the cursor over letters. The 2 button selects the letter, and the 1 button submits the word for points. With the alternate method, the Wiimote is used as a pointer, and users aim the cursor at the screen. The A button selects letters while the B button submits the word. Both methods control well, though the Wiimote as a pointer feels right, and people will probably default to this control scheme when they pick up this game.
As far as graphics are concerned, there really isn't much to speak of in WordJong Party. The game theme is ancient Chinese, and the backgrounds and arenas reflect this; everything is simple with bright colors and clean textures. There isn't a hint of slowdown, and everything moves smoothly. For a puzzle game, graphics are the least important aspect, but it's good to see that they aren't bad enough to detract from the experience.
The sound, like graphics, won't dazzle but it does the job. Following the graphical theme, the music and sound effects are all done with an ancient Chinese flair to them. Aside from that, there's really nothing special to them. You won't be overly impressed, but you won't turn down the volume either. Voice acting isn't exactly necessary for a game like this, so you can't really fault the title for the omission.
While WordJong Party is a game that feels more at home on the Nintendo DS than on the Wii, the additional modes make this feel more like a sequel than a mere port. The core game experience is very solid, and if you have a few friends around who enjoy word games, the multiplayer party games can be quite fun. Pick up WordJong Party for the Wii if you can find it on the cheap because it's definitely a good puzzle game that's worth experiencing.