It was easy to scoff at Wii Sports when it was the only game out there for Nintendo's new console. Turns out there was more than a little replay value in those deceptively simple implementations of bowling, golf, and tennis. Still, after a year, it's easy to feel burnt-out on home-run derbies. Game Party wants to scratch that itch: On paper, the game's seven rec-room-flavored diversions sound like they might grant a little relief. But it only takes five minutes with this paper-thin cash-in to make the itch flare into a painful burning sensation.
"Darts" and "Skill Ball" have the most staying power. The pub favorite is random enough that multiplayer rounds feel like they're anybody's game. If only the act of chucking the dart felt even the least bit responsive. "Skill Ball" recreates the experience of playing a coin-op Skee-Ball machine, right down to the tickets. Again, the game fouls the seemingly simple bowling mechanic that Wii Sports nailed so sweetly. And the tickets that you'd usually spend on a Mr. T coloring book, or sock away for a Walkman, are used solely to unlock stuff that should have been accessible from the get-go. The "Trivia" quiz works fine, but the sparse presentation feels lifeless compared to multimedia games like Scene It? And Game Party's sluggish implementation of "Shuffle Board" makes the pick-up matches that go down in Tamarac, Florida, feel pulse-pounding. Most strangely, only one person at a time can play "Hoop Shoot" and "Skill Ball." How hard would it have been to come up with competitive versions of these two, or string all the games into a septathalon?
Beyond the game: Nintendo is pretty stingy when it comes to letting other game-makers use their nifty Mii characters. Game Party tries to make up for the freeze-out by making tons of pre-fab avatars, but these off-brand Mii are ugly, creepy, tacky, or all of the above.
Worth playing for: An hour with Game Party will erase buyers' remorse over the purchase of nearly any other Wii game.
Frustration sets in when: Remember all those stories about people having so much fun playing Wii Sports that they accidentally threw their remote through their TV screen? Game Party inspires the old-fashioned kind of controller-chucking.
Final judgment: Party pooped.