Publisher: Zoo Games
Developer: Zoo Games
Release Date: March 10, 2009
Wow, they actually made this game? OK, that sounds mean, so let me start with the basics here. In M&Ms Beach Party, you select your favorite M&M character and play beach-themed games with up to three other players. Have pity on your poor soul if you're play this game by yourself. The games include Kayak Racing, Mr. Runch Slam, Ring Toss, Skee Ball, Target Shooting and Volleyball. You know, beach games ....
When you start the game, you can choose which M&M avatar you'd like to play as, not that it matters. Personally, I chose the orange M&M because he had a really manic and crazed look, and if I'm going to play as an anthropomorphized chocolate candy, I want it to be the most paranoid-looking one of the bunch. Once you've made it past that barely interactive screen, you'll find yourself on a beach. I jostled the Wii Remote to get my candy to start checking out the beach to no avail. I tried the Nunchuk controller, and again no dice. Running out of options, I thumbed the d-pad to see my psycho orange candy slowly lumber around the beach. What amused me in an irritating kind of way is that right on the back of the box, the game says, "Diverse, natural, and intuitive controls using the Wii Remote."
In the world of the Wii, where velocity, acceleration and movement are all viable methods of movement considering that's what the system does, I don't find dumbing down to a d-pad exactly the most natural and intuitive. On top of that, the d-pad controls your candy like one of those low-budge RC cars. Move forward, angle left a bit, move backward, move right a bit and move forward again. It's a slow and ugly movement, to say the least.
By pure happenstance, Mr. Orange, as he'll now be known, and I stumbled upon a seashell that bleeped happily at me. As I didn't read the instructions (because really...M&Ms Beach Party? Do you really need instructions?), I could only assume that this was a happy bleep and began my quest for other washed-up beach trash. After stumbling on a few more random beach "treasures," I was told that I had unlocked the Ring Toss game.
Again, having not read the instructions, I was surprised to find out that I actually had to unlock the games in order to play them. I wasn't unlocking anything that required puzzle-solving, a high score or beating a previous record. I was simply collecting bits of shell and shiny objects on the beach like a ferret with sunstroke. Any other typical game will unlock game modes and boards as you play, giving you incentives to keep playing. Not M&Ms Beach Party, no. They lock the gates and expect you to do some community service before you'll be allowed to play.
Mr. Orange and I ambled over to the Ring Toss pier (you're really throwing ring discs onto buoys in the ocean) and began a practice round. Each game prefaces the controls and explains how to play. In the case of Ring Toss, pressing the A button switches between strafing and angling. Other than that, you hold down the B button, pull back and throw. Simple, right? It is, at least in theory.
In practice, once again, here is a game that completely falls short of using the Wii's most intuitive and expected motion technology. There is no power meter, no adjusting of angles, nothing on-screen that will assist you other than lining up the dotted line that will be your toss. I threw as light as I could and as hard as I could, and I never saw any major change in distance or speed. In fact, trying to throw to the furthest buoy as hard as I could always and consistently resulted in the disc landing in exactly the same spot. Were this real life, I likely could've lodged a Frisbee into the drywall several times over.
I'm constantly surprised how many Wii games I play and constantly have to go back to Wii Sports as the gold standard. The game that comes free with the console has by far surpassed the majority of available titles for simple and intuitive movement. Dismayed, Mr. Orange and I left the wonky Ring Toss to clean up some more of the beach. At least that seemed more interesting.
Along our way to obsessive-compulsively rid the beach of anything shiny or shell-like, Mr. Orange and I came to the Skee Ball booth. The instructions, unsurprisingly, were nearly identical to the Ring Toss. Move side to side to line up your shot, hold down the B button, and swing away. Also unsurprisingly, unfortunately, the controls handled just as poorly in Skee Ball as they did in Ring Toss. I could regularly hit the middle of the Skee Ball target easily enough, but no matter how hard I threw to hit the top right 100-point spot, it always fell short. I even moved the ottoman, resecured the wrist strap (remember kids, safety first!) and seriously whipped that Wiimote for all it was worth. No luck. Mr. Orange and I are not impressed.
At this point, you can probably see a pattern developing here. Each game utilized nearly the exact same control scheme, and each game failed to use the motion and velocity sensors of the Wiimote properly or well at all. In all fairness, the Target Shoot worked well enough, but then again, so did Nintendo's light gun for Duck Hunt, and that was from over 20 years ago. Kudos to Zoo Games for getting that part right, but the rest? Wow ....
After several frustrating goes at the game, I finally came to the conclusion that perfectly defines the level of M&Ms Beach Party. It's a title that is somehow actually technology behind browser-based Flash games. I've played little thoughtless time-killer games that had more depth, ease of controls, and fun than the whole of M&Ms Beach Party. Sure, you may dig spending your solitary time running around a beach collecting shells, but otherwise this game simply isn't enjoyable. The music is a soft and inoffensive steel drum-esque soundtrack. Sound effects are relegated to a handful of bleeps and splashes. Any fun you might have with other people in a multiplayer mode for bragging rights over high scores is completely eliminated by the horrible controls and outdated interface. M&Ms Beach Party is exactly the kind of game that should exist on the M&M Web page ... from 1993.