Support Andy, click to buy via us...
Build a Bear Party may not be incredibly inventive or unusual. But what it does it does well - integrate a little light exploration with some minigames and bear building fun.
Party games have existed since video games first began. They are typified by their short duration and simple tasks. More recently, the entertainment of mini-game based releases has focused on variety, novelty and quantity of experiences on offer in a single package.
Build a Bear Party is unique because of it's theme and character creation that is built squarely on the franchise of public bear making shops. But more than this, it understands its audience well. The games involve activities that younger players will relate to - whether swing ball, popping balloons or tricycle racing. The difficulty can also be adjusted to suite different abilities.
Before play begins you are presented with a basic set of bear pieces with which to construct your character. As you play you then win more accessories and parts that can be used to customised you onscreen self. This being the mainstay of their business, time has even spent to ensure this part of the game works smoothly and many will find it to be their favourite part. Whilst this is some way from the endless options of LittleBigPlanet PS3, our kids seemed to spend more time here fiddling with their creations than playing the game proper.
The game controls are reasonable, although still include a fare share of Wii-mote pointing, something still tricky for our kids. This is offset though by the use of just the Wii-mote (no Nun-chuck) to control all the games. It keeps things simple and also means you don't need to invest in extra peripherals.
The single player game proceeds through four in-game seasons that allow steady access to the various games. To progress players need to succeed at each minigame and win map pieces. This then enables them to travel to new islands and discover new games.
The game is then held together by an explorable over world. Here gamers can explore to find new games, play some tasks to win other points and hunt down treasure chests. This all contributes to their overall progress which in turn opens makes more games available in the four player mode.
Whilst the visuals and sound in general don't stand out, having some authentic UK voicework in a Wii game was a nice change to the usual American twang.
Players will be attracted by the Build a bear brand, and the simple minigame play the Wii has become the popular home for. Something about the bear creation, and the knowledge of the franchise of shops mirroring this activity throughout the country, adds some sense of reality to the process of avatar creation.
Having made you bear, and then taking him out in the world was thrill enough for our young kids. Being able to collect and customise him some more as they went seemed like heaven. Although they often hit frustrations with some of the game controls - again minigames using Wii-mote pointing were most problematic - there was enough in the bear creation for them to persevere.
Most players will want to win some new items for their bears before ending a session, and this can take a good twenty to thirty minutes. Multiplayer games are a good option when time is shorter. Not only can everyone play at once but these minigames can be played in as little as five minutes.
Very young gamers will be torn - drawn to the bear building but hampered by some of the more complex controls and activities. For them, playing with an adult or older sibling will be the ideal combination.
Intermediate young players are best suited to the game. Provided they are still of an age where the franchise interests them, there is plenty to entertain here.
Older and expert players will obviously balk at the kiddie focus of the game, and with good reason.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: