The name “Wii” caused a number of reactions in the online community, ranging from those who swore they would not buy it to those who thought it was an interesting name that set it apart from the field. Through it all, Nintendo swore that the reason for the change was that it would bring people of all types together. The Wii would be the system for groups and families.
So why then, do they keep scuttling their own multiplayer games?
I talked about Rayman and Monkeyball previously, which are both third-party titles that manage to screw up multiplayer for their own reasons. Nintendo, meanwhile, launched with one of the best multiplayer titles ever made: Wii Sports. And while Sports has suceeded in drawing people together as per Nintendo’s original plan, Nintendo has yet to repeat this feat because of some bizarre choices.
I picked up Wario Ware: Smooth Moves on the day it came out. I dived in that night, and proceeded to work my way through the single player games, which are well done, and only a small handful of games have technical errors that prevent them from working right.
However, it wasn’t too long afterwards that my brother asked to play too. I tried to oblige, returning to the home screen… only to find that there was no way to do multiplayer until a certain point is hit in the single player game. Already, and in a serious way, it commits my multiplayer cardinal sin. What’s worse is that the aforementioned small handful of technical errors make beating some stages very, very difficult, and require a lot of work to go through.
Finally I manage to shuffle the papers and dance along with the line of purple guys and I unlock multiplayer. Steve and I start to play, and we discover that as you play multiplayer, it unlocks the other multiplayer modes. That sounds good to me, reward the people who want to play multiplayer.
Only… after unlocking all the modes, I am very dissapointed. In Wario Ware for the Game Cube, there were a number of fun multiplayer modes. There was a “three strikes and you’re out”, the simplest game but a tried and true gameplay method. There was also a mode where you had to play minigames to claim spaces in an Othello-like game. There was a game that involved playing while miniature versions of the other players try to steal your points. There was even a very strange (and slightly disturbing) game where a doctor-puppet tells you to play the next game while doing something weird, and then the other players clap for you if you followed his instructions.
The point was: there was variety. In the Wii version, this is not the case. There are four core multiplayer types that have the players playing the minigames that we bought WW for. In the first, it is an elimination game. A randomly selected person plays a minigame, and if you lose, you’re out of the game. Last person standing (or flying in this case) wins. This is fine, since it plays with up to an astounding 12 people.
The next game is a “hot potato” style game where you play a minigame, and if you win, you pass a bomb to someone else and choose what kind of game they’re going to play. If you lose a game (or fail to make a selection) the game is over and everyone else wins.
The third game type has everyone pumping a balloon, and if you fail a game, you keep playing, and you’re trying to not be the person playing when the balloon explodes. If you are, the game is over, and everyone else wins.
Does this seem a bit repetitious to everyone else? You’re essentially playing the game elimination game, just in different ways. And because of aforementioned technical glitches, if you’re unlucky enough to get a game that doesn’t work, or if you’re not able to get your pointer aligned in time… boom, you’re done, game over.
The fourth mode is the ONLY game type where a group of people get to play a couple games, and losing a single game doesn’t hurt you very much. Everyone plays five games, and a score is totalled. Then there’s a silly game where you take turns cutting ropes (which usually could be anyone’s rope, including your own) and the more points you have, the more ropes you have. Last person alive wins. It’s a very random endgame, and so cheapens a lot of the play before it. That said, it’s really the ONLY multiplayer mode we like playing, because everyone gets to play and having a game not work doesn’t suck as much.
While a technical issue makes the problem worse, the core of the problem is poor game design decisions. There is no excuse for Nintendo to have three multiplayer game types that are so close together in core concept, and don’t allow everyone to play. There’s no technical limitation at work here: if it worked for the Gamecube, it could certainly have worked here. It’s very sloppy game design, and whoever they’re getting to game test is clearly not the right people for the job.
I was very dissapointed, as I have always enjoyed the Wario Ware series, and have great memories of playing the gamecube version with a group of friends. A lot of the minigames in Smooth Moves are a blast, and make good use of the remote’s capabilities. (Another lesson in here: Wii Sports is great because it does not rely on pointing at the screen AT ALL. The most fun games in Wario Ware don’t use the pointing, and the game is unplayable if not in an ideal situation for being able to point at the screen.)
It’s just so dissapointing that, for whatever reason, the multiplayer lacks variety. I guess the best way to play is to play the first game that supports up to 12, and just give people extra Mii’s to use. “I’ll be myself, Einstein, and Bob Saget.” But it should go without saying that I shouldn’t have to trick a game into providing me with a good multiplayer experience.
I’ll be a little more cautious before picking up the new Mario Party. While some are skeptical about the game’s core in general, Mario Party 5 stands also as one of my favorite multiplayer games, because, you guessed it, of the variety of multiplayer modes (in addition to the normal silly boardgame thing.) If they bring back some of the old modes, or make up some new ones with variety, I’ll be happy.
Otherwise, they should just rename the system from “Wii” to “Ii”…