Platform: Nintendo Wii
Developer: Jet Black Games
Wii Remote compatible
If there is one thing that is consistent with the Nintendo Wii it is that there are a large number of party like game games released that include lots of mini-games for people to enjoy. The gaming community at large has been very weary of such games given that so many of them have been sub-par quality. THQ is the latest publisher to step up and enter the party game arena. I received a copy of Neighborhood Games recently and it was with much trepidation that I opened the package, took out the disc, and took the game for a spin. So is this game another title just trying to cash in on the casual audience? I would have to say no as there are some great aspects to it. That being said, it is no masterpiece either.
I have to caution you about this review. I have played so many types of these games that reviews of this nature are not nearly as in-depth as other genres. So let me apologize right off the hop for the shorter length of this review.
For those looking for a game that pushes the Wii hardware, this is not one of those games. It is a very simple looking title that manages to get the job done. If there one thing that stood out in this visual area is that Neighborhood Games really does fit the typical Nintendo fair of what is expected on the Wii: Cute. The game is very cartoonish as the neighborhoods have that surreal type look that looks to be out of some Sunday comics found in many newspapers across North America. Characters are also very endearing given that they have a bobble head style to them. You can make your own custom characters to use in the game, and there are quite a few options to make your character look the way you want too. I was impressed with the fact that my in-game character could take on a look and style that fit my own taste and real-life looks. There is no doubt that the game keeps the feel light hearted as evidenced by the visuals. Overall, given the audience that this game is targeted towards, most will not mind the graphical look to Neighborhood Games, and even I didn't mind what style they took.
Given the source nature of the content, the sounds, like the visuals, manage to get the job done. They fit the simple theme of the game, which is a compilation of mini-games. From lawn darts, golf to the slingshot challenge, everything included in the game gets across the message you are playing the game, just don't expect the realism you would in a more mature title. As well, for those use to the usual bells and whistles of the other next-generation consoles, the sound does not pack the 'oomph' you would get from the 'other' consoles, but again, what would one expect in a title like this. Overall I found that there was very little to complain in this department, and given that I had minor expectations for the games sound, I was not disappointed.
Neighborhood Games, as mentioned, is a party like game that features a large number of mini-games. There are 24 in total and each are relatively simple games that seem to have their origin from times spent in the backyard at your own or a good friend's house. Don't expect a deep story or career like mode as this game is simply about playing games. The single-player mode features five different categories of games such as basketball, lawn darts, horseshoes, shuffleboard and bocce ball. You challenge the computer in any of the aforementioned games and upon beating the computer you unlock new variations of each game. Winning also rewards you new clothes for your customizable avatar. Should you beat the computer three times in one particular activity you are then declared the Master of that specific activity.
Along with the single player mode comes a multiplayer mode. Up to four players can take part in all the games available in this latest THQ release. Play is usually done in a tournament style mode in either a best of three match or in a winner moves on match. You can play any of the aforementioned games, but there are also around nine other types of games such as golf, football, tennis, remote control plane flying or truck driving, water gun fights, batting, slingshot, and ladder golf.
I have to give kudos to this title in terms of how many different games are available. 24 are quite a few, and even though there are some variations on existing modes, there is a lot of stuff to play here. There is no doubt that the target audience is both the younger crowd and casual audience alike. A lot of these games within the game really brought me back to my youth on lazy summer days or made me think about the summer that just passed. There is nothing like picking up the Wii Remote and actually tossing some virtual lawn darts across a virtual yard or playing a round of bocce ball on one's own T.V.
The Wii Remote is also used in innovative and simple ways for playing all the games included on the disc, and this includes the water gun fights to the slingshot challenge. I really did appreciate what the development team did in their effort to make this game as inviting as possible for all those who play. If there is any negative I would have to say that the control is not as responsive as it could be as it was apparent there was some inconsistency. This was very evident in most of the games where you needed to emulate throwing an object underhanded (e.g. lawn darts or horseshoes). There were a few times when it seemed that my 'lighter' throw went wildly into the air, and vice a versa. It was as if there were communications issues between the Wii Remote and the game itself. This control issue is not a deal breaker, just an annoyance that raises its ugly head now and then.
Overall I had some fun with Neighborhood Games and even my four year old daughter, although not the best gamer out there, had fun too with some added help from me. It may not be the most engaging game out for the Wii at this time, and there are some control issues now and then, but the amount of games within the game is pretty impressive and it can provide some great family fun. Now excuse me, I must go and play a round of lawn darts inside while the snow falls down outside.