I’m probably using “cardinal sin” wrong here, but it’s certainly the highest issue on my list.
I mainly buy videogames for multiplayer, which is one of the main reasons that I love the Wii so much. I’m sure the PS3 and Xbox 360 will have some good multiplayer titles, but I know I’m not going to enjoy them nearly as much as having a group of friends spin wiimotes around their head at high speed. I’m also going to go out on a limb and say that the only worthwhile multiplayer games on the other systems will be FPS’s… and really, I only need one of those. It may be a broad generality, but as an owner of both a PS2 and an Xbox, the only games I played multiplayer were Halo 1&2. Oh, and DDR, but I prefer to play that on my computer.
Anyway, the Wii seems built for people like me who want videogames, like my beloved boardgames, to be a social activity. So why, oh why, do so many games make it so that I can’t play multiplayer at its fullest until I’ve played through the single player?
I am reminded of this because I recently received Rayman’s Raving Rabbids. Since my brother tends to take a wait and see approach to new games, I started playing through the single player game. It’s a fun little game, if a bit repetitious. Play through 3-4 minigames, play a “boss level” (which is either a shooter ala Time Crisis or a race), repeat until done. You need to play at least 3 to advance, but if you beat all 4, you are awarded either a new costume to customize Rayman or some music or other unlockable features. Unlike certain other games, however, nearly all the games work and have understandable instructions.
Before too long, my brother wanted to try the multiplayer, and I obliged. I entered my initials, the same as I used for the single player game, and found that all the costumes I had unlocked were there. It would have been nice to select any costume in the game for multiplayer- you’re not given many options in the beginning, and each player can’t select the same costume pieces, so if we were playing with 4 it would have made it difficult. It wasn’t a huge deal however.
That should have been a tipoff that Rayman’s Raving Rabbids commits my Cardinal Sin of Multiplayer Video Games: you have to unlock the games via the single player mode. So we’re given an incomplete list of games to play with each other. Not only that, but there’s an entire multiplayer mode that cannot be accessed until the game is beaten. It turns out that mode is one of the best ways to play multiplayer! The basic multiplayer (and in some cases it’s hard to call it that since one person plays the minigame, and then the other, so you’re not really playing with the other person, but just trying to get a higher score) is that you select one minigame, play it, and then select another minigame. No running totals are kept, you just both get a score, then pick something else. HOWEVER, the mode you unlock after you beat the game allows you to play a series of minigames, and you’re going for the best total.
Here’s the worst part about it: there are a variety of these “challenges” that consist of a minigame series. Unfortunately, you have to further unlock different ones through, you guessed it, the single player game! I mean, WTF? “Hey guys, I just got this new game, come over and play. Oh wait, gimme a few hours first while I beat the single player game, and I hope my arms aren’t too tired so that I get to play after that!”
The worst part is that many of them have to be unlocked through achieving high scores in various games or combinations of games. Not only are you stuck playing single player for a while to even access multiplayer, you have to play a LOT of single player to get the good multiplayer modes, and a variety of them.
(Sorry, this has turned into a review of Rayman, hasn’t it? Well, I still think there’s a lot of fun games in there, and the different ways they use the Wii are unique and well programmed. I give the game a 7, but if they had thought about this, it could have been a 9 or 10.)
Other games commit this to varying degrees, though not as bad. The Mario Party series have had GREAT ways to use the minigames, in addition to the main “board game.” In Mario Party 5, my favorite of the series, they feature a strategic square capture game, a race game, and a raw “play a bunch of minigames” game. I don’t remember if you have to unlock those modes, but I know they were pretty easy to get. The bad part was that if you didn’t play the individual games in the main game, they were inaccessible in the side games. And you had no control over what you played in the main game: everything was random. So you could be missing one game and have to play through hours of the main game to get what you were missing. This lead, of course, to a “cheat” to get everything that I did when I got the game: play the main game, but set all the players to computer, and set the number of rounds to maximum. Leave it overnight. Voia, the computer has unlocked everything for you. But you still shouldn’t have to do it this way. Both this and Rayman just need cheat codes to unlock everything. Whatever happened to cheat codes? I should research that…
Anyway, the Wario Ware for Gamecube may have succumbed to the same things, but at least the action is so crazy in that it doesn’t matter too much. I know you got to play a very good, straight elimination style minigame fest in multiplayer right out of the box. Still not the best solution, but at least it’s something.
(Hey, maybe I ought to rethink not buying a PS3 or Xbox 360… I’m pretty sure you could play everything multiplayer right out of the box on Halo!)
So listen up, video game makers: there are some of us who play video games just for the multiplayer. Let us play the multiplayer right away without having to jump through hoops. You can keep sidequests and other unlockable content in the game as long as it stays in the single player. I don’t care if Hello Kitty Island Adventures has hidden bikinis for Missy the Mole, or that there’s a hidden area that only shows up if Link catches a white whale on his fishing line while wearing the jaunty hat. That stuff adds replay value and content. Making it bleed into multiplayer just adds frustration. (Content that you unlock via multiplayer is a gray area. Don’t do it in a minigame collection, but a cooperative questing game should be fine.)
If you can’t figure this out, feel free to hire me. I work cheap.