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Mini-games

Impressions: Rabbids Land is the Wii U's Mario Party

Jun 12 // Bob Muir
In Rabbids Land, the Rabbids have invaded an amusement park and intend to have a good time, rules be damned. This takes the form of a board game punctuated by minigames. My demo didn't really show how the board game would be set up, but focused on a few of the minigames so that I could see the possibilities of the Wii U controller. The first minigame I played took its inspiration from Indiana Jones. The Rabbids dressed up like the famous adventurer and rode around on top of boulders in a vaguely Temple of Doom-themed area. Like many Wii U games this year, this one featured asynchronous multiplayer. One player tilted the Wii U GamePad horizontally to control three Rabbids on small boulders and gather ten diamonds. Meanwhile, the second player tilted the Wiimote to move one Rabbid on a big boulder who needs to squash the other player's Rabbids. The Rabbid on the big boulder could roll faster than the Rabbids on the smaller boulders, but the weaker Rabbids could slip through small green gates to momentarily escape their hunter. The GamePad had a top-down view of the entire area while the TV screen had an angled, slightly zoomed-in view, but in practice this difference didn't matter. If the big boulder Rabbid couldn't see one of the smaller boulder Rabbids, it was obvious that it was in the corner not currently visible. It might have been a lot more interesting if the small green gates shifted over time and were only visible to the GamePad player, but as it was, there wasn't anything here that couldn't have been done with two Wiimotes on one screen. Innovation aside, it was a fun game, with good tension for both players. The other minigame I was able to check out was a riff on a Tunnel of Love ride. The two players must work together to help unite soul mates by picking them out of a crowd. The identification process is both silly and dirty: pull up the Rabbids' skirts or kilts to see if they have matching symbols on their underwear. This game showed off asynchronous multiplayer much better than the first, thanks to the different views actually mattering. The Rabbids have different symbols on their fronts and backs, and each player can only see one side. So the Wiimote player aims at a Rabbid, presses A, and aims higher to lift the skirts or kilts, while the GamePad player simply drags the clothing up with their finger. The goal is to find as many matching pairs as possible before time runs out, and all the Rabbids are replaced once a pair is found. It turns into a shouting match as both players try to compare and match the symbols they have as fast as possible. Well, that's what it would be in theory at least, since my Wiimote partner seemed very overwhelmed by the concept and only spoke up once he had very carefully analyzed all of his Rabbids. Despite my partner's reluctance to have any fun with it, I could see this being a good icebreaker game at parties. There are many more minigames set to be included in Rabbids Land, and I'd imagine not all of them make "innovative" use of the GamePad. But if they're as fun as the Indiana Jones minigame, it shouldn't really matter. The GamePad just opens up more possibilities; there's nothing wrong with using old methods if they work. I'd still be interested in seeing how fun the board game element is before committing to Rabbids Land over the inevitable Wii U Mario Party installment.
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I remember picking up the first Rayman Raving Rabbids game when the Wii launched in 2006. While I had planned on buying Red Steel alongside Twilight Princess (a purchase mandated by Nintendo fan law), a negative early-mo...

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E3: Shoot your friends in Nintendo Land's Zelda minigame


Jun 07
// Maxwell Roahrig
While I'm not terribly excited for Nintendo Land, Nintendo's latest collection of mini-games, there's no one on staff more pumped about the project than Jonathan Holmes. In this video, Holmes checks out "Legend of Zelda: Bat...
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Google gets Zerg rushed


Apr 27
// Joshua Derocher
Open up Google and search for "Zerg Rush," then be ready to fight! Good luck! Google "Zerg Rush" and prepare to defend your browser [PC Gamer]
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Star Wars Kinect to violate everything you believe in


Apr 02
// Jim Sterling
I will confess, I've not exactly been kind to Star Wars Kinect. In fact, I don't think anybody's been particularly nice to it, as cynicism and mockery appears to accompany all talk of it. Well ... allow Star Wars Kinect to r...

Review: Mario Party 9

Mar 31 // Jonathan Holmes
Mario Party 9 (Wii)Developer: Nd Cube Co., Ltd.Publisher: NintendoReleased: March 11, 2012MSRP: $49.99 The first 20 minutes of Mario Party 9 only offer a few token changes that may not even be noticeable to anyone but diehard Mario Party fans. Dig a little deeper, though, and you'll find that Mario Party 9 really isn't like all the rest. The host of this virtual game show, Mario, is the same, but the rules are very different this time around. That comes as less of a surprise after you discover that the title was developed by a brand-new team. This new team put together a title that feels more like a true Mario spin-off, and less like a stereotypical "party" game. As someone who has never been particularly enamored with the Mario Party series, that's definitely a change for the better. There is a much more balanced mix of motion-controlled and "standard" games this time around. A lot of the games are played with the Wii Remote held on its side, with either Mario Kart-style motion controls or no motion controls at all. While Mario Party 8 was released when motion controls were riding high, Mario Party 9 has seen release in the post-New Super Mario Bros. Wii period of the Wii's life cycle. Nintendo has learned that over 20 million Wii owners are happy to play a 2D home console Mario title with minimal motion controls, and they've taken that lesson to heart in the development of this title. The influence of New Super Mario Bros. Wii doesn't stop there. There are many subtle and not-so-subtle shout-outs to that title here. Remember that level in New Super Mario Bros. Wii where you were riding a raft across an evil purple swamp? You'll get that level again here, except with a Super Mario Galaxy-style 3D camera. That fusion of New Super Mario Bros. Wii and Super Mario Galaxy is pretty much the game's central theme, though there are a few smatterings of Super Mario Sunshine moments and hints of other Mario titles throughout. Buckenberry and Ala-Gold fans will be pleased. That's really just window dressing, though. What's more important is Mario Party 9's increased focus on videogame-y elements. There are now mini-boss fights, giant boss fights, more platforming levels, and maps that feel better with more branching paths and secrets. There are some moments when the uninitiated eye might glance at Mario Party 9 and think it's an honest-to-god Mario game. That's not something I think you can say for its predecessors. The games here are still simple and kid-friendly, but many of them feel much more like Mario experiences, and not just party games that happen to feature Mario-themed skins. A lot of other changes reduce the level of "board game logic" present in the title. All players now drive around together in a car. That places everybody on the board in the same location at all times, which puts the kibosh on the "race to the finish" mentality that was present in prior games of the series. There is also only one in-game currency now, giving players just one way to win. These factors all work to make the game feel more "fair" and logical. That may appeal to those of you who prefer the 1's and 0's world of videogames to the thoroughly analog and unpredictable world of board games. Mario Party 9 only takes that reduction of luck's power so far; there is still a lot here that is determined by chance. All the players may be cruising around together in a car, but only the driver gets the positive (or negative) effects of landing on special spaces on the board. It's still your dice rolls, not your own will, that determine exactly where you land. You can get a special die that will help you stack the odds a bit (like a 10-sided die, or one that only has 4s, 5s, and 6s on it), but you'll still never be in full control. Then there are the times that Bowser jumps out of nowhere and says, "Hey! You in 1st place! Fuck off, dude! I'm taking all your money and giving it to that guy!" Or the mini-game that just consists of watching a ball with your face on it fall down a hill, with the one whose ball hits the bottom first winning half your total cash. Moments like this work to remind the player that skill is important, but no one is above suffering the whims of Lady Luck. Mario Party 9 features less motion control, fewer board-game rules, and more of a videogame feel, but there's still plenty left to chance. Those waiting for a full-scale overhaul will have to wait a little longer. If you're like me -- that is, you've always wanted the Mario Party series to be more than just Mario in name, you'll definitely be pleased with the direction in which the series is headed.
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"Another Mario Party? Good grief. Is there really any way this game could give us something we haven't already gotten from the Mario Party series? Is there going to be any reason to buy this game over the seven other Mar...

Review: Little Deviants

Feb 13 // Jim Sterling
Little Deviants (PlayStation Vita)Developer: Bigbig StudiosPublisher: Sony Computer Entertainment AmericaReleased: January 22, 2012 MSRP: $29.99 The kid-friendly premise of Little Deviants sees a collection of mischievous (yet highly marketable) aliens on the lam from an oppressive army of robots who can resurrect the dead for some reason. It's never quite clear whether the titular Deviants are supposed to be villainous protagonists or misunderstood heroes, but to ponder that further would be to put more thought into it than anybody else has. Needless to say, you're on the side of the GoGo's Crazy Bones lookalikes.  Story Mode will take players through each available game, making use of touch controls, cameras, gyroscopic movement, and even voice recognition. There's a substantial number of games, spread across five distinct areas, and they range from traditional racing games and whack-a-mole experiences to more complex feats of finger gymnastics. The base goal of every game is to earn a bronze medal by successfully completing actions and collecting stars to win points. Earning a bronze unlocks the next game, while earning silver and gold medals awards bonus items to look at in the gallery. Usually, earning higher grades and better medals is a good incentive for replay value, but some of the games are so unenjoyable, earning just a bronze is satisfying enough as it means the experience can be ditched and left alone forever.  The first available game has players pushing the environment "upwards" by pressing on the rear touchpad, exploiting physics to roll a spherical Deviant around a map and collect keys. This game is indicative of the game's greatest strength and biggest weakness -- the power to showcase genuinely exciting new technology, and the inability to showcase that technology in a satisfying way.  In this first game, the premise of pushing a ball around from underneath is laudably inventive, but it's also unintuitive and awkward. Having such an indirect influence on a bumblingly controlled ball is far from a pleasurable experience, especially with dangerous robots marching around. Yes, part of the challenge is in dealing with such a strange new interface, but dealing with strange new interfaces and contrived, inconvenient control schemes is rarely fun. Any other game would be slaughtered for such awkward controls, and it's not acceptable in this case just because it was intentional. Other games demand players to "pinch" their Vita by holding the same spot on the front and back of the system and stretching areas to fling Deviants around. Some go even further, such as rubbing the front screen one way while rubbing the touchpad in the opposite direction, then "tickling" the Deviant from behind while tapping the front screen to knock out robots -- all in the span of a few seconds. It's recommended that one holds the PS Vita over a cushion while playing some of these games, as dropping it is a serious risk when it's being held like a perverse octopus-crab with cerebral palsy would hold it.  When Little Deviants doesn't let its ambition escape its ability, it can be a relatively amusing -- if completely forgettable -- time waster. Simple games with inventive twists can be a solid laugh, such as a whack-a-mole-style game where robots need to be pushed out of windows from the touchscreen or touchpad depending on which way they're facing. There's also a surprisingly adorable mic-powered game in which one has to sing, whistle, or hum a tune at the correct pitch to send out notes and hit oncoming objects, and an augmented reality shooter that'll have players spinning around the living room in an attempt to shoot down robot ships. None of these games are stunningly brilliant, but they do a decent job of showing what the Vita can do without trying to show off.  These moments, however, are fleeting thanks to the developers becoming way too big for their boots. It is impressive that the Vita is capable of so much input, but that doesn't mean forcing the player to do three or four things at once is entertaining. This is especially true when the selection of games, unique though their controls may be, are mostly quite dull and inane. Strip away the gimmicks, and Little Deviants is just another minigame compilation at heart.  The aforementioned ball-rolling game is essentially a poor man's Monkeyball. A maze-like game in which players use the gyroscope to roll around and collect items is just Pac-Man with less excitement. For all the attempts to look cutting edge, Little Deviants is little more than a collection of games we've played multiple times before, with the added bonus that they're more of a hassle to play.  Outside of looking good and featuring cute, colorful characters, there's not a lot that Little Deviants has going for it. Either games are forgettably fun or memorably vexatious. It's a disappointing situation, because the game has not been badly put together and it seems to have been made with some genuine love. It's just full of bad ideas that have been implemented to make old ideas look new. They certainly do feel new, but rarely in a way that compliments the gameplay.  I get the feeling that games like Little Deviants will be a big part of the PlayStation Vita's early library offerings, games desperate to exploit every available feature regardless of whether or not it helps to make things more enjoyable. I hope against hope that studios calm down and learn a little restraint when it comes to exploiting these features, as this collection of clumsy, discommodious distractions is indicative of what can happen when developers forget the elegance of simplicity. New features are only worth including if they enhance an experience. When they get in the way of it, they should be axed on the spot.  It's a shame Little Deviants couldn't have been more ready with the chopping block.
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The PlayStation Vita is rich in features, boasting every possible input method a portable gaming system could have to date. Multiple touch interfaces, dual analog sticks, voice control, twin cameras, and even motion sensing; ...

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Kiki Trick on Wii is a Japanese explosion for the ears


Dec 30
// Tony Ponce
Sometimes, I have no idea what is going on in the minds of Nintendo execs. One minute, they're playing it safe with games starring Mario and Link; the next minute, they're releasing off-the-wall sh*t like Captain Rainbow and...
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Little Deviants is cute and cuddly fun times


Dec 16
// Keith Swiader
One of the launch titles accompanying the PlayStation Vita is Little Deviants, a cute, cuddly ensemble of mini-games that are designed to showcase the new handheld's features. Ranging from rear-touch functionality to Sixaxis ...

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