When you make a game for a genre that's especially crowded on one system, you have to come up with some sort of gimmick to help it stand out from the crowd. Whether it's an unconventional story, use of famous characters, or placing twists on the genre itself, anything that can help get a game noticed is always welcome. In the case of the minigame genre on the Wii, though, it almost feels like any and every gimmick out there has already been taken. You can walk into any game store and easily see minigame compilations featuring all types of sports, famous actors and athletes. Just because it feels like the good gimmicks have been taken doesn't mean that every idea is gone, and Hudson proves just that with its latest minigame compilation, Oops! Prank Party. Unfortunately, the gimmick is pretty weak, and so is just about everything else.
It may be a strange thing to focus on first, but the avatar creation system is fairly deep. As far as facial features are concerned, it covers the same thing that the Mii creation system does, but there are more options for things like hair, mouths and facial builds. The amount of choices for the face and head alone give you the ability to make fairly complex faces and, in some cases, pretty detailed caricatures of some famous people and your own family members. You also have options for other things like clothes, body builds and voices used in the game for the selected character, so it's a fairly versatile avatar creation system. The only gripe about the avatar system is that you can't use your Miis at all in the game. Since the Mii avatars are a big selling point for the system, seeing another game where you can't use them is disheartening, especially if you took the time to make a good-looking Mii in the first place.
The reason avatars have been given so much detail and attention is because they are at the heart of the game's big gimmick: the prank. As players go through each minigame, there are consequences to be had for those who lose. The winner of each game gets to pick and choose who will receive the prank, and it always results in a costume change for the loser. The costume choices vary between things like a clown outfit, a grass skirt with seashell bra, a Japanese super hero outfit, a bee costume and the like, but each costume is equally as silly as the last.
For being such a big focus of the game, the pranks themselves are pretty lame. In fact, the only prank to be seen is the costume change, and the only reason it's plural is because there are multiple silly costumes that can be given out at any given time. There's no other type of prank to be found in the game, and the costume changes only last for as long as you stay in that game mode. None of the silly costumes are kept, and with no online play to be had, only those playing around you at the time will see the consequences of your loss. While one can appreciate what the developers were trying to go for, the execution isn't fully thought out and ends up being disappointing.
Oops! Prank Party features four different modes, all of which can be played with multiple people. Free Play mode will most likely be the main focus for those who want to get straight to the minigames. After selecting between one to four players, you get to choose which of the 100 minigames you'd like to play. All of them are available from the outset, so you never have to worry about unlocking them first if you want to experience this with friends right away. There is still some incentive to playing everything, though, as you begin to unlock clothes and accessories for your avatar once you reach certain milestones, such as winning in five different games or conquering one minigame category.
A minigame compilation lives and dies through its games, and while 100 sounds heavenly for fans of the genre, the elation evaporates once you start to go through them. Most are more like microgames since you only get one shot to win and the task lasts about five seconds or less. A good chunk of those games, along with some more traditional minigames, also have separate versions where the probability of getting a good or bad result is increased or lessened, artificially inflating the numbers even more. Once you weed through these games, which comprise at least half of the roster, the rest of the games aren't too bad. You've certainly seen a few before, such as quickly pumping up a balloon, while others are fun and original, such as you having to observe a room and determine which changes were made from the original configuration. There are guaranteed to be a few games that you'll enjoy, but since you have to go through plenty of bad to get to the good, the overall experience isn't as pleasant as one would hope.
Master mode has you taking on the computer at the highest difficulty level through all of the games. Like Free Play mode, beating these masters will net you special avatar awards and unlock another set of masters. Since this is the game at its highest difficulty level, it feels like the game is cheating you, but it is conquerable if you have equal parts skill and luck. Tying the master nets you nothing, though, so winning is the only thing that counts. Since there is no formal single player mode in the game, the challenges are quite good if you enjoy the minigames in the first place.
Board game mode, like the other three modes, only ends up being fun if you're playing with multiple people and if you have the patience to sit through long stretches of time playing these games. You can choose from several board configurations and a number of turns between 30 to 60. Each square gives the player some sort of penalty or bonus while certain ones let everyone play one of the minigames to compete for a bonus cash prize. The winner is the one who has the most cash by the end of the turn. The good news is that minigames only really occur when one player lands on a special game square instead of at the end of every round. The bad news is that even without that restriction in place, games tend to drag because of a status update that must be given at the end of each round. Additionally, 30 turns is the lowest number that you can choose, making for excruciatingly long experiences without anything exciting to do.
Finally, you have Practice mode, which lets you play any of the 100 minigames so you can get a better feel for them without any consequences. In theory, having a practice mode for these games isn't a bad idea, especially since some of these games are really difficult to master. Since all of the games are available in Free Play mode and the consequences for losing don't seem that severe in the first place, this mode seems like one that would rarely be used by anyone.
Minigame compilations don't tend to have the best graphics on a system, but it seems like the team at Hudson wasn't even trying here. Nothing proves this more than the fact that, with the exception of the minigames that take place in a house, there is no background present in any of the menus or minigames. Everything takes place in a nearly white space, robbing the game of any character it may have had.
Speaking of character, despite having a pretty deep avatar creation system, none of the avatar faces look attractive. Whereas the Miis had a look that was simple yet adorable, the avatars here look unappealing despite having more options. On the bright side, there's plenty of color on the costumes and objects you deal with, though you should also expect jaggies to run rampant even in 480p resolution. In the end, the graphics do their job but not exactly in a pretty manner.
As vanilla as the graphics are, the sound fares even worse. With the exception of the music played during the house minigames, the overall score comes off as background noise. While most of it is OK, the main tune that repeats during every game transition and the title screen is annoying enough that players will turn down their volume to save themselves from hearing it over and over again. The sound effects are fine, but the voices really drag down the whole experience. There aren't many voices heard in the game, but they lack enthusiasm for anything happening in the game. Whether it's cheers for raking in money or disappointment for losing a minigame, the voices only convey boredom and indifference.
In the end, Oops! Prank Party feels lackadaisical and uninspired. While it features a large number of games, most feel shorter or worse than what is found in other games. It feels bland from a technical standpoint, and the modes aren't exactly fun or varied. Worst of all, the gimmick isn't as funny as the game wants it to be. It may not be a terrible minigame compilation, but when you compare it to the similar games on the system today, there isn't much of a reason to pick this up. It's a rental at best, but only if you're a big fan of the genre and have played everything else out there.
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