If there's one thing on which video games rarely base themselves, it would be holidays. After all, developers want their games to be played for quite some time, and holiday games lend themselves to only being played around a certain holiday season before being forgotten for the rest of the year. It doesn't stop a few developers from going that route, though those efforts are predominately PC-oriented. Destineer and Panic Button decided to buck tradition by creating a holiday-themed game for a home console. The game is We Wish You A Merry Christmas for the Nintendo Wii, and while it is readily apparent which holiday this game celebrates, what isn't apparent is just how limited this title can really be.
As with most games on the system, this title is a mini-game compilation with a Christmas theme. There are a little over 10 different activities to partake in. From the main hearth, the radio can tune in to some popular Christmas songs and give you the opportunity to sing along with the on-screen lyrics. You can interact with the fireplace by building a larger fire with the help of yule logs or roasting marshmallows to a golden brown, though they somehow never burn. If you have it, you can also throw powder into the fire to change the flame colors into more festive ones. The tree in the corner can be decorated with as many strands of tinsel, bulbs and lights as you wish. On the floor, you have the opportunity to write letters to Santa, though the writing isn't really free-form, as you simply enter words into preset phrases. You also have the opportunity to play a "Where's Waldo?" style game where you have to find any number of objects presented in the list. The most important object here would be the advent calendar. Covering the first 25 days of December, each day unlocks a new object for the game, whether it's new tree decorations, music or powder colors. The calendar follows the clock on the Wii console, and once Christmas ends, everything is locked away until next December.
The table contains the formal mini-games playable for up to four players. Deck The Halls is a match-three puzzle game where players have to place the selected object in a way that connects three of the same object; the matched grouping then disappears from the board. Rounds are won when the meter at the bottom is full of completed matches, but gameplay ends once an object goes beyond the bottom of the board. Hot Chocolate has you making cups of hot chocolate to match the requests of the elves ordering them. The game is timed, and gameplay ends after a certain number of mistakes are made or time runs out several times. Candy Cane Lanes is a simple game of bowling, which all Wii gamers should be familiar with by now. The only difference here is that the bowling pins are replaced by elves who seem to enjoy being hit by a striped sphere that's traveling at tremendous speeds. Reindeer Games has you controlling a reindeer as he grabs presents, which propel him higher into the stratosphere; gameplay ends once he lands on the ground. Present Catch has you using a trampoline to bounce flying presents into Santa's toy sack. Finally, Santa's Sleigh is split into two different activities, with the first part having you grab presents in the air while the second portion makes you deliver the correct presents to the correct houses.
One of the first things gamers will notice is that there really isn't much to do in the game. With the exception of Elf Hunt, none of the games feel very difficult. This may be perfect for younger gamers, but it becomes quite boring for those who have played a few video games before. The lack of difficulty also highlights the relatively small number of things to do in this game. Unlike other mini-game compilations, which feature an average of 25 to 30 games, this one leans toward the paltry side with a little over 10. It's one thing to have standard mini-games with Christmas themes, but it makes gamers wonder why there aren't more winter-related activities in the title. Sledding, snowball fights or building snowmen would have been appropriate, as they certainly remind people of the holidays. Delivering and catching presents is nice, but why isn't there a game about building toys? As for food, hot chocolate is nice, but why isn't there anything about making cookies or gingerbread houses? Those are a few things that could have bolstered the game and really driven the title's theme. With the game's existing selection, though, the product just doesn't feel that well thought-out.
The controls are as simple as the games themselves. Just about everything here, from the menus to the games themselves, rely on the A button and using the Wii Remote as an IR pointer. As a result, everything controls smoothly and without much incident. About the only exception would be roasting marshmallows. For some reason, the stick tends to jitter, though with no apparent reason as to why it occurs. The only other games that use more than simple pointing and clicking would be Hot Chocolate and Candy Cane Lanes, but since chocolate-making only asks players to do remote tilts and the controls for bowling are the same as Wii Sports, it too doesn't feel complicated at all.
For the most part, the graphics are pretty clean. The game doesn't display in 16:9 widescreen, but it does display in 480p, resulting in some pretty clean visuals. The clean textures and decent model builds really come through as a result of this. Animations for objects aren't exactly spectacular, but they don't look horrible either. For example, smaller objects, like the puzzle pieces in Deck The Halls, definitely animate better than the reindeer in Reindeer Games. As for effects, the fire doesn't exactly look inspiring, but the effects in the other mini-games look good enough. Overall, the title looks better than many similar games on the console.
The sound does its job well enough. The music consists of different renditions of famous and favorite holiday tunes. The instrumental versions sound nice, while the vocal versions tend to emulate how it would sound coming from an old-fashioned radio. Both are good enough to generate the right holiday mood for the game. The effects are pretty pedestrian. While everything sounds fine, it's interesting to note that no effects are present when the bowling ball hits the elves, but considering that players are told the ball will only tickle the elves instead of smack them silly, this is acceptable enough. You don't get much for voices aside from Santa himself and the voices of the elves, but they sound fine. The one exception to this would be during Christmas, when Santa shows up and tends to interrupt the songs with his constant well wishes for the day.
We Wish You A Merry Christmas is a very difficult title to recommend. There really aren't that many activities to partake in, and only a few of the included ones are any fun. However, this title is priced to move and could provide a gamer with a small dose of the Christmas spirit, if everything else can't do the job. If you really need video games to stimulate a sense of spirit, then by all means, get this game. Just be aware that the novelty could wear off in less than an hour and you won't likely put this game into the system again until the next year. If you really need to scratch the mini-game itch, there are definitely better compilations that are more deserving of your hard-earned money.
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