I've got to give some credit to the developers of Squeeballs Party; it's certainly an odd premise for what amounts to a minigame compilation on the Wii. It's not that the system doesn't already have its fair share of minigame titles, as any glance down the aisle at your local electronics store will tell you. Squeeballs Party delights in its near-abusive relationship with the title characters, treating them like the Rabbids in Ubisoft's Rayman titles. Squeeballs are little, manic rubber ball creatures, with the backstory of being toys created on a mysterious island in the Pacific. As the player, it's your goal to test them all out before they're shipped off to the toy store, and you have to make sure that only the best make the grade. To do that, you'll need to chop them, electrocute them, burst them and put them through the ringer to make sure they're top-of-the-line Squeeballs worthy of being a children's toy. Like I said, it's a pretty odd setup.
Squeeballs Party has a handful of different modes, including Challenge Ladder, which equates to a campaign mode by the "ladder" system. In addition, there's a single game mode that lets you check out one of the 11 available game styles, a four-player mode that has you passing one Wii Remote back and forth, and a head-to-head versus mode that requires two Wiimotes. The game only makes use of the Wiimote, so there's no need for a Nunchuk or other accessory.
For the main campaign mode, or Challenge Ladder, you'll take on the different minigames one at a time, moving up through each challenge and unlocking additional modes as you play. The game packaging boasts that 150 minigames are available, but in reality, these are just small variations of the 11 available game styles. There is enough breathing room for that to work without feeling like you're being ripped off, but it's a bit of a stretch to claim "150 minigames."
The 11 different modes include: Bowling, Cannon, Cooking, Crazy Lanes, Feeding Frenzy, Paint, Pumping, Shock, Squeeballs Golf, Stampede and Testing Belt. Some of these, like Bowling, are going to be pretty self-explanatory while others are a little more involved than you might suspect, like the golf game.
In Squeeballs Golf, you'll have a Squeeball locked into a mechanism that allows you to spin it by rotating the Wiimote in your hand. Once you fill the desired meter shown on-screen, you'll release the B button and launch the Squeeball in the air, using the Wiimote to point the direction on the screen in which you want the Squeeball to move. You can also rotate the Wiimote counter-clockwise to slow down the Squeeball, and if you're going to hit the water, you can tap the B button right before you hit to make it bounce. There are different variations of this game; some require you to hit a target while others want to see how far you can launch the ball, but it's definitely a unique twist on the basic golf concept.
The Pumping minigame is a little more straightforward. You have a Squeeball attached to a hose, which you pump up and down with the Wiimote to fill the Squeeball with air. You need to be careful and not pump too quickly, or else the Squeeball will explode. Once the Squeeball is ready, you'll aim it down a course to hit a target, and sometimes, you'll need to avoid different obstacles.
Another minigame, Painting, has a similar setup, but instead of having the Squeeballs filled with air, you're using a slingshot to propel them toward their target. With paint, you'll have a canvas with one or more Squeeball images on it, and you'll need to paint in that image with the Squeeballs, who explode into paint once they hit the canvas. Different variations of this game include hitting a certain percentage of the canvas covered, while another could task you with hitting the water balloon obstacles and erasing the paint. This task, like quite a few of the other games, is timed as well.
Cooking takes on a Cooking Mama-like approach, giving you a specific recipe to follow, with different steps like slicing, seasoning, stirring, etc. Completing each step adds a little more time to your timer, and it's a pretty frantic mode to check out. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Shock requires a steady hand and a bit of patience as you guide a hoop across an electrified line and pass it over certain points without touching anything. If you're able to make it to the end before time expires, you'll electrify the Squeeball. If you hit the sides of the wire too many times, though, it'll be game over for you.
If you start to find the gameplay a bit too repetitive when playing by yourself (and believe me, you will), then it's time to check out the limited multiplayer modes that Squeeballs Party has to offer. As I mentioned earlier, the four-player mode only requires one Wiimote to play, making it perfect for those who don't have a full assortment of Wii controllers. With that said, it also loses some of the appeal other party games like WarioWare have for the system, since you're not competing against each other in real time and simply taking turns trying to outdo the previous score. There's enough challenge here to keep the game interesting, but you'll start to run into the same types of challenges over and over again rather quickly. The game doesn't do a great job of randomizing events, and while you won't run into the same thing back to back, it could really try and spread out the types of events a little more evenly. Also, you pretty much have to play the Challenge Ladder mode to unlock more events, so one way or the other, you're going to be stuck playing the game solo for a bit to make the multiplayer any fun.
The head-to-head mode is more of what I'm looking for in multiplayer minigame fun, and I'm not sure why this couldn't have been implemented for all four players instead of just two. Regardless, I'm glad it's included here in some form, and being able to go head-to-head with another player is far more satisfying and entertaining in the long run. It still suffers from the same issues of repetitiveness, and there's not enough variety to keep you entertained for more than an hour or so.
That's ultimately what kind of kills Squeeballs Party for me. Sure, there are variations on the 11 different events, but those variations are pretty minor. It's neat to check out everything once or twice, but playing the game for any prolonged period of time is going to get boring quickly. I found myself losing interest after a few hours of reviewing the title, even with other people playing. As a party game, its appeal is going to be pretty low in comparison to other available party games on the Wii console. It's hard to compete against Nintendo's first-party offerings like Mario Party and WarioWare, and while the premise for Squeeballs Party is pretty interesting, the actual execution isn't. I'd suggest waiting for the inevitable price drop before checking out this title, and even then, I'd give it some serious thought before picking it up.
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