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Sports Party is one of the similarly titled Party games from Ubisoft. It delivers a strong set of sporting activities that aim at the sort of nuanced control offered by Wii-Sports.
Mini Games come in a variety of shapes and sizes. What unites the genre is the speed with which players can pickup the games and the relativley short time requried to complete a level or two.
Sports Party is the first of the Ubisoft Party games and seems to have had a good amount of time and money spent on the presentation and controls. It is unique in its ambitious use of the Wii's controls. Where as some games (EA Playground Wii) reduce the Wii-mote gestures to triggers, Sports Party (like Sport Island Wii and Wii-Sports) implements a much more sensitive use of the controller.
Each of these Party games (like Raving Rabbid TV Party Wii, Sports Party Wii or Babysitting Party Wii)) offer a variety of minigames around a particular theme. They all have in common a high quality of presentation and well labelled boxes that indicate how many players can take part and how many different games are provided.
Each sports themed minigame can initially seem simplistic, after a few plays you start to develop a sense that there is more to this than meets the eye. Whether it is the power of your smash in a game of volleyball, the direction and strength of a lawn darts throw or shot selection in badminton, you are given a high degree of control through the just Wii-mote. The game does this by detection the speed and angle of your gestures, as well as the timing, to determine the outcome of each move.
The game is themed around an island (something that will be mirrored in Nintendo's own Wii-Sports follow up Wii-Sports Resort) that gives each activity a nice sense of place. The visuals match the fidelity of the controls and the game has an overall feel of quality.
Up to four players can compete in the games. Some, such as badminton or volleyball, are played simultaneously. Others, such as lawn darts, horse shoe throwing or crazy golf and player in turn.
At times it can feel as if the game gives too much credence to your gesture controls as evidenced by the odd unpredictable outcome. A little more intelligence would have offset the inaccuracies of the Wii controller in some settings - something Nintendo are planning to fix with their new MotionPlus add on with Wii-Sports Resort.
Players will be drawn to Sports Party because of the more unusual events - horse shoe throwing and lawn darts. The other sports included in the pack are also well executed though and will offer just as much entertainment.
It is the more novel games though that Sports Party excels at. Get a family or social group together in front of the horse shoe curling and the game is much a testament of the validity of the Wii's approach to gaming as any first party title. The cries of victory or anguish are palpable as each player realises they are going to have to concentrate hard to perform consistently well here.
Although this is a minigame collection, each event has sufficient depth to warrant multiple plays. The nuanced controls also lead players to go off and practice for an hour or two on their own - to perfect their game.
Young players may find the controls a little too sensitive to perform well, but regardless they will enjoy taking part. Older beginners or intermediate players will soon become fascinated with their ability to control so much action with just the flick of a wrist.
Although experts may prefer the well franchised (and excellent) Mario and Sonic at the Olympics Wii, the ambitious use of the Wii controls more than make up for a slight lack of visual style.
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