Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Review: Party Planet [ Nintendo Switch eShop ]


The family-friendly party game genre is one of very mixed history. With everything from great titles that somehow capture the attention of the casual and more seasoned players alike in the form of Wii Sports or the original Mario Party titles on down to the (being honest) shovelware waggle-fests I tend to associate most with the Wii era it is a mixed bag for quality in the genre at best. What is often a challenge for all of these games is then to provide some mechanism so that people who don’t have all of their friends around can enjoy the game as well, whether alone or only having 1 friend to play with. Party Planet is a title that comes to the table with a reasonably strong plan to address these concerns, providing riffs on some classic arcade titles, popular casual games, and some mobile goodness as well to create a package that probably has something just about anyone can enjoy.


The first distinction to make is that, in general, Party Planet doesn’t do “mini games” in a traditional Mario Party kind of way. There are simpler games, and these are often the riffs on titles from mobile like Timber Man or Snake, but there are also bigger and meatier titles to play based on arcade classics like Balloon Fight / Joust. By aiming pretty wide while I don’t know that people will collectively love all games represented it does manage to improve the odds that there’s something included that can appeal to everyone and that’s not a bad strategy.

What’s great, as well, is that they’ve worked out a means for many of these games to be played with 2 - 4 players, sometimes competitively and sometimes cooperatively, so it does a fairly good job of trying to fit to match the needs of the group of people you have ready to play. Even better, aside from the fact that all games can be played for high score by yourself there are also games meant only for 1 player, including a nice puzzle game and a variant on the classic Zuma Deluxe among others. Best of all, whether you’re playing alone or with friends you’ll be accumulating points that will go towards unlocking additional games (some that aren’t to be missed) so there is an incentive to continue to play for a while which is a smart touch.


One word of warning in all of this is that by casting such a wide net and giving everything a consistent look and feel people who are familiar with the games these are based on will likely notice the differences pretty quickly and easily. Having an expectation that such a wide array of game styles would be expertly realized is obviously unrealistic but some games are better converted than others. However, it is also possible that people new to some of these games may not even notice the difference or may even appreciate the way they were implemented more. While over-arching metagames like in the Mario Party franchise don't always work well it is worth noting that Party Planet dodges this bullet and is instead simply a collection of individual games. It could be a disappointment if you were looking for that though in this specific case I'm not positive it is necessary either.

When Party Planet was announced I’ll admit to feeling some level of nervousness. Game packs like this have a history of crashing and burning critically even while they may be widely purchased by families in search of something to play together. I’m happy to report that overall I found the collection of games offered to be pretty impressive, even if often derivative, and fun to play both solo and with the family. The diverse selection of games should, in terms of both style and skill required, practically guarantee that there will be something that just about anyone, no matter the age, should enjoy.


Score: 7.5

Pros:
  • A wide variety of inspirations for games ranging from mobile to arcade to console classics
  • For the most part everything is highly accessible to people of all skill levels
  • Options to play solo, with a single friend, or with 4 people give it versatility

Cons:
  • From game to game the quality of the experience can vary
  • Many, if not most, of the games are a knock-off of some kind and some lose something in translation
  • No metagame to bring it all together, just a collection of individual games to play together


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