You can never truly have enough party games on the Nintendo Wii, right? Well, actually ... you can. As someone who enjoys a good party-style game on occasion -- y'know, WarioWare, Boom Blox, or sometimes even Wii Sports Resort -- I'm not completely opposed to mini-game collections.
But, there is one caveat. The mini-games need to be enjoyable even after you've become accustomed to them, and the game can't be a poorly thrown together compilation, either. In the case of Eiconic Games' Squeeballs Party, let's just be thankful that its charm wraps its assortment of mini-games together nicely.
How does it stand out in a sea of Wii titles with "party" in their name? Keep on reading -- you know you want to hear more about this cute yet slightly disturbing game.
Squeeballs Party (Wii [reviewed], DS)
Developer: Eiconic Games
Publisher: Aksys Games
Released: October 13, 2009
So, first off, I wanted to share the (kind of) messed up backstory to Squeeballs Party, as shown in the instruction manual (I'm apparently the only guy who reads these things anymore).
Squeeballs are toys made on a secret island somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. Before they can be sold, they must be tested: Only the best Squeeballs make it off the island. You are the tester -- slice them, dice them, inflate them! Test them to destruction.
These adorable little creatures are tortured and possibly even killed on a mysterious island, and the ones who are strong enough to survive get packaged as toys for children to later abuse? See, this is what I'm talking about. Mini-game collections need a strong central theme, and Squeeballs Party certainly has one.
Likely the biggest compliment I can give to the game is that its characters are pretty terrific. The Squeeballs are often hilarious when depicted in FMVs that set up the eleven different game types, and without them, Squeeballs Party would be significantly worse off.
On the box, there's a badge that says "150 mini-games." Before I started playing, I was under the impression that this meant there would be a bunch of tiny, "awful" yet somehow endearing mini-games a la the WarioWare series. This is not the case.
Basically, there are eleven different "main game challenges" to be found in Squeeballs Party. These range from "Golf" to "Cooking" to "Paint by Squeeballs." They get away with saying there are 150 mini-games because each one is technically a variation of one of the eleven challenges. This can range from a mere change in the objective to a total overhaul of the environment.
While a few of the challenge games are semi-inventive in terms of using the Wii remote in a newish way, quite a few borrow waggle concepts from other Wii games. Here's the full list of them -- try to guess which ones fall into which category:
- 10 Pin Bowling - yep, it's Wii-style bowling. The only thing worth mentioning here is that you can move the remote in a clockwise or counter-clockwise fashion to give the ball spin.
- Cannon - Squeeballs are fired out of a cannon towards you and you hit them with a racquet. In some cases you'll need to hit them a certain distance, while other times you're trying to have them land on mines. Gotta love the dark humor here.
- Cooking - think Cooking Mama. You move the Wii remote to grind Squeeballs, flatten them with a roller, dice vegetables, etc.
- Paint by Squeeballs - you are given Squeeballs of various color to launch at a canvas. The poor creatures splatter certain colors, and your goal is to fill in a preset picture correctly.
- Shock - you move a ring across an oddly-shaped wire while trying to not have the two objects touch. If you reach the end of the wire with enough charge, you'll electrocute a Squeeball to death.
- Stampede - hordes of Squeeballs rush around on-screen and you must either shoot them or cause the environment (rolling snowballs, falling icicles) to stop them from reaching you.
- Crazy Lanes - bowling with a twist. You launch a ball down a lane surrounded by lava. You use the remote to guide the bowling ball across long tracks and into pins; this was my favorite of the bunch.
- Feeding Frenzy - each direction on the d-pad corresponds to you firing off a different colored Squeeball. Your goal is to feed the oncoming monsters the correct Squeeballs before they eat you.
- Pumping - make circular motions with the remote to fill a Squeeball up with air without popping it. Then, you let the creature deflate like a balloon while guiding him through hoops and onto a target.
- Golf - you wave the controller like a madman to launch a Squeeball. Using an on-screen pointer, you can guide the living golf ball by hitting "B" when it's about to touch the water causing it to skip. To win, you have to make it to a specific target in X amount of turns.
- Squeeball Testing Belt - using different motions assigned to various Squeeballs -- swinging left, right, up, down, and "punching" -- you obliterate them as they travel down a conveyor belt.
Hold on a second, I need to catch my breath here. Okay. I'm good now.
As you can see, there is a bit of overlap between some of the challenges, and yes, the mechanics aren't all new concepts, exactly. Squeeballs Party has a ladder for each game type, and you move up it -- and unlock more of 'em -- by completing the varying mini-games. Not all challenge games are open from the start, but thankfully things tend to start off fairly easy, so obtaining them all is not a problem.
This difficulty curve may become boring before very long for most of you reading this, but it seems about right for younger audiences and those who aren't dedicated gamers. I forced my eleven-year-old sister to play, and she seemed to be engaged most of the time without also being frustrated.
Actually, her first remark was "this reminds me of Boom Blox," which is an odd statement coming from an outside perspective. I sort of agree, though -- the mechanics and the presentation are somewhat comparable. Style over substance is the phrase I'm looking for here.
As expected, there are options for those who want to play Squeeballs Party with friends or family. There's a pass-the-controller mode for up to four players, in addition to a head-to-head mode that requires two Wii remotes. The simple fact that it works is all you really need to know.
While the game has been priced as a budget title, it's still hard for me to recommend it over its tough competition. If you don't have any of the aforementioned Wii games in the before-the-break text, I'd urge you to pick those up instead. Squeeballs Party's main issue is the lack of content and variety.
Had each of the eleven challenge games been rock solid, I'd be fine with there being so few of them. But as it stands, there's not enough longevity for me. While it's been market towards all ages, I think the game is best suited for, once again, younger audiences.
The only thing that really differentiates it from similar Wii games are the Squeeball characters, but even they aren't enough to make Squeeballs Party worth picking up. Plowing through the 150 mini-games can be done in a day or two, but after a few hours in you'll find yourself not wanting to continue; most of the challenges stop being fun at a startling rate. The repetition is a killer, here.
Score: 5 -- Mediocre (5s are an exercise in apathy, neither Solid nor Liquid. Not exactly bad, but not very good either. Just a bit "meh," really.)
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