The word "craptastic" is thrown around a lot these days, especially when it comes to third-party games on the Wii. It takes a special piece of software to suck more than the competition and to be truly something awful. Ladies and gentlemen, that game is Vegas Party, and it's so bad it just may scare you away from ever visiting the real Las Vegas, and that is a tragic possibility.
I had high hopes for Vegas Party going in, as the promise of combining casino favorites with an overarching board game seemed like a pretty neat concept. The game had the potential to be Mario Party but, you know, actually fun. This notion was reinforced when I got to the character select screen and was asked to choose from one of eight different heavily stylized caricatures that would serve as my avatar. Should I go for the morbidly obese European tourist or the blinged-out rapper? Each character seemed to be oozing with personality, and I couldn't wait to get started. Then the game actually started, and the whole experience slammed headlong into a wall, proving once again that I should really stop getting my hopes up when it comes to unknown publishers on the Wii.
The fatal flaw of Vegas Party is that it takes the impossible-to-screw-up casino games and manages to screw them up. Nearly all the 15 challenges have been boiled down to simple tests of luck, and nearly all skill is ripped out of the experience. For example, if you play Texas Hold 'Em, you aren't dealt two cards. No, everyone grabs at the cards in the middle of the table in a mad dash to make the best starting hand. Why does everyone get to see everyone else's cards before we even start playing? Doesn't that ruin everything about poker? It's nearly as ridiculous is Bingo, where instead of marking cards as numbers are called, players have to grab at balls that match the numbers on their cards as they roll by. I can only assume the developers never actually played any of the casino games they're trying to emulate here because they don't seem to have the first clue as to the rules.
Really, the only two games that even remotely work are Roulette and Blackjack. Roulette has always been a game of pure chance so it hasn't undergone any real changes for Vegas Party, and Blackjack retains its basic rules and plays like a real game of Blackjack. Unfortunately, you'll quickly grow tired of the two games that actually make any sense, and then the only other alternative is the cold comfort of 13 other dismal mini-games.
The only hope for the title would have been if its board game elements somehow offset its shoddy mini-games, but that aspect fell well short of the mark as well. The board is simply a straight line, and players move forward or backward based on the roll of the dice. Each square has a different benefit, penalty or chance to head into a casino and play a game, and there isn't a single thrill to be had along the way.
Even worse, if you don't have enough friends around and choose to challenge the computer, you'd be better off not playing at all. Thanks to completely unbalanced AI, it's nearly impossible to win against the CPU's ridiculous reflexes and near-perfect calculations. Of course, trying to convince three friends to play this awful game with you would be even more challenging than beating the computer, so good luck getting anywhere with this one.
Players who choose to skip the board game option can partake in all the Vegas Party mini-games through either the tournament or quick play mode, but why you'd ever want to do this is beyond me. The board game is essentially there to cleanse your palette and make the terrible casino games easier to stomach, so those who would rather opt for the pure, undiluted awfulness of the games themselves are clearly masochists. A note to potential game developers: When your title has three different modes but none of them are fun to play, that should be a giant red flag.
The only nice thing I can think to say about Vegas Party is that its art direction and visuals, while far from stunning, are at least detailed and goofy enough to be entertaining. I already talked about the embellished character models, and the casinos themselves may be more over-the-top than their actual Sin City counterparts. There's not a lot going on in the animation department, but the settings are kooky and fun and seem to really capture the spirit of the city. You can bet that if the Vegas architects could make casinos that look like these, they absolutely would, and it would be absolutely glorious.
Storm City and Visual Impact managed to take two genres that really can't be screwed up (board and casino games) and merged them into one hot mess with Vegas Party. All they needed to do was keep the casino games a bit more true to their real-life counterparts and crafted a game board that was more intricate and involved than walking a straight line, and this could have been a genuinely entertaining party game. Instead, we get another piece of shovelware that will languish on store shelves and serve as one more example of how to not make a game.
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