Once again the Japanese developer has devoted time and resources into creating these little game concepts and ideas. And they've repeatedly built beautiful games around them. The Mario Party series for example, especially Mario Party 9. And Wario Ware: Smooth Moves naturally. Or Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games. Or Rayman Raving Rabbids. And Wii Party of course.
Now comes Wii Party U. It includes over 80 mini-games - a similar amount to the number included in its predecessor - which we can enjoy in various modes and combinations. 80 sounds like a lot, but it's not that simple. Some games are pure copies of old mini-games, some are graphically enhanced variations of Pac-Man & Co. Fortunately, plenty of new ideas are also inherent. Like the mini-game where we need to count the number of toppling, color-coded dominoes. The counter is not to be seen during the run, the actual number not revealed until the dominos have all fallen.
Almost all the mini-games have one thing in common: they are great in their own way. The whole thing is a mixture of pattern recognition, associative skills, measuring games, random stuff, madness and nonsense. Some you can't really understand straight away, others will become apparent almost immediately. It's also a bit dependant on preferences, so each game round remains intrinsically fair. And there are always accidents on the board to balance the luck of the dice.
Wii Party U is split into four major areas: TV Party, House Party, Gamepad Party and a section for various mini-game deals. It applies to almost all of the games when we say that the perceived speed of the game has become much better. Everything is faster and more sleek.
Gamepad Party provides us with good looking games that we can play together on the gamepad. Often we are sitting opposite each other, usually against each other, but coop is also possible. There's foosball and table baseball, their simplicity ensuring that you'll quickly learn to hate your opponent. For reconciliation you could play animal memory together, and even if this is another simple copy of an old concept, it's smartly presented.
TV Party holds variants of old board games. There is a game in which we use small minigames on the gamepad to roll the dice, it's nicely done. There is a funny hidden poker variant, however the Mii fashion show is bad (but then there's nothing that comes without failures). Pushing Ball brings us back to the amusement park, where we found those machines with coins and balls, in which you put too much money to win a cheap Rambo survival knife for the equivalent of 40 quid.
The nicest and most original are the games in House Party. However, here an extra player is mandatory, even better, have two or three. Many of the concepts here are not new. But even still, their implementation is completely successful and convincing. Lost & Found is lovely, a game in which the player holding the gamepad must describe to the others where he stands and they must then find him as quickly as possible. Great fun can be found in a finger acrobatic game, a copied version of Twister. With up to four playing together, they must press buttons on the gamepad and wiimote and release them as long as it is physically feasible to do so without making mistakes. Very communicative and extremely funny.
After finishing the games you have the opportunity to give feedback and tell how much you like the mini games. There is no online multiplayer, but that would actually only really make sense with the board game versions anyway. And the fun, at the end of the day, is when you are sitting together in front of the console. When you play it together, a lot of small ideas start to really flourish. I had hoped that the gamepad would be more deeply integrated into the operation of the games, but depending on the game modes it is sometimes not needed at all. This is a bit disappointing.
When it's all said and done, one sentence stands out despite the 8/10: If you own a Wii U and have just a little space in your heart for party games, go buy this. No game will better serve making three generations of a family happy playing video games together, and at the same time offering some great experiences to drunken twenty-somethings on a Friday night.