The mini-game explosion has birthed many titles based on many different topics. You have games that are nothing more than compilations without a central theme. You also have mini-game compilations based on sports, cruise ships, carnivals, cooking, gardening, sleepovers and casinos, to name a few. Just about anything seems to be fair game for being turned into a mini-game compilation. Majesco's latest attempt at this genre is to combine a massive amount of mini-games all themed around home improvement. The result is Our House Party! and if you've played a few of these themed compilations before, you know what to expect from this one.
With the theme of home improvement encompassing the game, there's an overall objective to be had. First, you get to choose what kind of house you'll be renovating. From there, you enter into a competition against three of your neighbors to attain the highest possible value of your house. This is determined by how well you can do in the various mini-games, so the better you do, the more your house's value increases.
No matter what type of house you choose, the process will always be the same for each round of competition. You start off with a shopping spree at The Home Depot, where you compete with your opponents to not only get the featured items you'll need but also get them to the checkout counter before time runs out. You then have to vote on which part of the house will need to be worked on. The mini-game set related to that part of the house will be next, and once those are done, the house value will be determined by the overall placing made in the mini-game set. The user will be able to check his handiwork and pay for an upgrade if necessary before moving on to the next round.
From beginning to end, there are plenty of questionable things that Our House Party! does. The first is the whole Home Depot shopping experience. The purpose of the section is fine, since you'll be using the tools as bonuses for any of the other mini-games you have, but the whole thing is very chaotic. Even though it's meant to be a mad dash toward what you want, most of the sessions end up being instances of you wanting to be annoying by blocking all other players from getting their tools before the time runs out.
The same can be said for the project selection screen, which is laid out like a map. Players must move their avatars to the section they want to play, and the majority determines which project is tackled next. In the event of a tie, the selection process begins anew, though it omits any projects that weren't selected the first time around. This process is much more tedious if you're playing with people who are indecisive. In a way, this simply prolongs the time it takes to get into a game, and it becomes more annoying than fun.
Despite being billed as having about 175 mini-games, most of them are the same games with different items involved. Placing tiles in a kitchen is the same as placing tiles in a bathroom, yet they count as two different games. Of bigger concern is that the games just aren't fun. The memory games might be fine, but very few people would find moving furniture or painting walls any fun unless you truly believe in hindering your opponents the entire time by blocking their paths or messing up their carefully painted areas. Couple this with a few crashes that randomly occur and the inability to use your Miis (even though they show up during the shopping rounds), and the whole gameplay package starts to become less enjoyable as the player gets further into it.
The controls are fine for Our House Party!, though they falter in a few of the mini-games. The game uses a combination of Nunchuk and Wii Remote for controls, though the Nunchuk is simply used to move your character or rotate pieces, depending on the task. The remote's IR controls work well in mini-games where you need to match up patterns or paint over unpainted areas. The motion controls, however, are hit and miss. Some of the tasks work well, like item destruction and shoveling, while others, such as wall painting and wallpaper placing, don't feel tactile enough. There aren't too many mini-games that have this issue with the controls, but once encountered, they do threaten the overall quality of the control scheme.
The graphics are done well. Despite not giving you the ability to use Miis, the avatars actually look quite good. You may or may not like the art style, but they sport more detail than what you'd find in other games with their own avatar systems. The environments look colorful, and while the title doesn't have a lot of intricate details, every item looks good, especially on 480p. About the only issue is just how close the camera is to your character in certain situations. It isn't so bad during the furniture unloading games, but when you decide to inspect your house after a completed round, you see the back of your head more often than you see your house. You won't need to view your house too often unless you want to pay for improvements, but it is worth noting.
The sound isn't all that spectacular, but it gets things done. The music starts off nicely, with a rendition of the song "Our House" by Talking Heads playing on the title screen. It's a good cover of the song, even though it's only the chorus and beat playing, but you never hear it anywhere else in the game. For the rest of the title, you get some decent music that's light and poppy. The sound effects work well enough, whether it's breaking objects with hammers or mowing lawns, and nothing sounds out of place at any time. As for the voices, there are hardly any aside from the small wordless cries of success and failure. They match the character designs well, but don't expect much otherwise.
Our House Party! may have some funny moments, such as the inclusion of the Taking Heads song and an old-school RPG showing up on the bedroom TV set, but they can't save it from being, at best, a mediocre game. While there's technically nothing wrong with the graphics and sound, the selection of bland mini-games and a few questionable design decisions drastically drag down the title's overall quality. Since it has more bad traits than good, it's difficult to recommend Our House Party! as a rental, let alone a purchase.
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