The Nintendo Wii console is mostly known for its large offering of family-friendly minigame compilations, a genre that has been met with great success on the system. After the debut of Wii Fit, the console has excelled in offering interactive exercise titles, some of which have achieved the same amount of success as the various minigame compilations. With both genres seemingly getting more crowded as the weeks roll by, it takes a fresh gimmick for a new game to be noticed amid the sea of titles in the marketplace. D3 Publisher has chosen to take the minigame compilation and give it a fitness theme. Family Party: Fitness Fun may not be the most original idea, but does it have enough to provide the player with a good game?
The game consists of 30 different minigames, seven of which are locked in the beginning, and all of them involve four players playing simultaneously. Though they don't explicitly say so, the game seems to be evenly split between free-for-all bouts and 1v3 games. Despite the name of the game, the minigames span a few different themes from fitness to brain games to standard playground fare.
Family Party has two different modes. Party mode lets you pick up to 10 different minigames to play with any combination of human and CPU players. The combination of games plays out like a large series; points earned in a game go toward a larger total, and the winner is whoever has the most points by the end. Timed mode lets you play through a random assortment of minigames in periods ranging from five minutes to an hour.
Despite the title telling you that the game is fun, the reality is that Family Party: Fitness Fun is quite frustrating due to a few design choices. The first gripe, and quite possibly the largest one, is the lack of instructions for each game. Unlike most games, which focus on an assortment of minigames, you don't receive any instructions when you're presented with a game. The rules don't feature any hints of controls, either, so the only option is to go to the tutorial to see what you have to do and how you have to hold the controller. The tutorial gives you a chance to practice on the controls, but with the tiny screen, it becomes impossible to see if you're doing anything correctly.
The other big gripe comes from the games, especially the 1v3 games, which seem imbalanced. Aside from the Red Light, Green Light game, which seems heavily skewed in favor of the solo player, the other 1v3 games seem to favor the three-player team, making it close to impossible for the solo player to win. The mine cart shooting game, for example, shows how skewed the games are; All three players have more than enough targets to shoot in order to win, but the solo player, who's pushing the cart, can only score by leaning to grab any coins lying by the track. Considering the number of games featuring 1v3 gameplay, it's extremely likely that the solo player will have a frustrating time.
The controls could have been much better than what they are now. The games requiring the IR sensor work well, since it's simply pointing and shooting. The games requiring motion, though, range from being fine to completely unresponsive. The skydiving game doesn't seem as tilt-sensitive when compared to the rotating platforms. The fencing barely registers your thrusts, the basketball free throws don't read your sensitivity well enough, and the volleyball game suffers the same fate. Even the boxing game, which is done well on Wii Sports, lacked sensitivity when blows were thrown and even required unplugging and replugging the Nunchuk due to lost connectivity.
The Wii Balance Board comes with its own set of issues. Only 12 of the games use the board, so your choices are significantly reduced once a player decides to use it for the session. While the controller is sensitive enough, one minigame in particular is perplexing. The step minigame requires you to step with the right foot at the right time, but it also asks you to jump on the board when it calls for steps with both feet. This flies against the constant warning about not jumping on the board, so it makes you wonder why they're asking you to disobey those very same rules.
Graphically, the game does its job and nothing more. The environments are bright but lack much detail. For the most part, they feel bland whether you're diving through the sky or going through caves or competing in the gym. The crowds, while always cheering, are very limited since they only show three frames of animation at a time. The character models animate well, though their faces stay static whether they're cheering or showing sadness. The models also sport plenty of jaggies and have strangely disproportionate hands and feet. For what it's worth, the graphics aren't bad but certainly could have been better, especially since it's being displayed in 480p.
The sound is serviceable. The voice work is minimal, but the participants' voices sound fine whenever they exclaim their pleasure at winning and sadness at losing. The announcer, though, is fairly soulless as she simply announces the events in a robotic manner. The effects are pretty standard and the music, while nothing memorable, contains an upbeat score. Overall, the sound serves as perfect background noise since you'll rarely pay attention to it.
Family Party: Fitness Fun is anything but fun. Due to some bad controls and games that are too run-of-the-mill, players will quickly tire of the offering before they get a chance to unlock anything. The graphics and sound — as well as the Wii Balance Board support — prove that the game wasn't meant to be shovelware, but there isn't a single fun minigame in the bunch. If you're looking for a fun part game to add to your collection, you can certainly do much better than this offering.
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