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Neighborhood Games

Score: 61%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: THQ
Developer: Jet Black Games
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 4
Genre: Family/ Party/ Sports

Graphics & Sound:

There's a skyscraper tall stack of mini-game compilations for the Wii, and here is just one more to put on top of that. Neighborhood Games promises to bring all the entertainment you might find in your backyard if you were so inclined to venture out into that wild.

There seems to be no question (as far as the current consensus of game developers seems to be) games like this need bobble-headed people and Neighborhood Games delivers. The design does go past the "make it look like a mii" stage and actually looks fairly detailed. The characters look like caricature art, with an almost painted quality to them. There are a range of different faces, hair and skin color to choose from, but you have to spend your time in the Single Player mode in order to unlock a bigger variety of clothing. Backgrounds are usually just as detailed, and most levels have some interesting and colorful background activity. For example, the horseshoes level looks like it takes place in an abandoned lot on the "rough" side of town, but everything is still bright and happy, including the cartoony cop car that goes down the street. Overall, the game does a good job of looking genuinely adorable.

The music, however, is nothing to get excited about. There's one theme song for just about the entire game. It's light and happy kiddy fare with one long whistling chorus that really grates on the nerves. As for character voices, everyone speaks in a kind of garbled, sped-up voice, but it actually works well with the art. In the Single Player mode, the computer opponent will sit on the sideline and make chicken calls or laugh at you, and those little snippets can get very annoying fast.


Gameplay:

Neighborhood Games offers a number of backyard or playground-themed games such as lawn darts, horseshoes, bocce ball, and other classic games that you might play in a backyard or a park. There are 24 games in total, but many are variations on a single game. For instance, there are three different kinds of shuffleboard, with one having a standard scoreboard, one having bumpers that you need to light up, and one having walls to rebound your disc off of. They do feel unique as games, but chances are in a large group, you're going to be gravitating to only a few of these games.

In Multiplayer, you can choose from any of the games right away, which is a good feature for these "party" types of games. No one wants to bring home a multiplayer game and then have to sit alone to unlock the main parts of the game. Also, any games that require 2 or more Wii-motes to be hooked up will automatically be disabled. At least if you only own one remote, you can enjoy the turn-based games. The Single player mode is pretty much a quest to unlock more things such as clothes and extra characters. There are opponent characters that give you a little trash talking before each game, but there's not much story beyond that.

It seems there is a lot of character customization available, but you'll have to set up a profile before you can use any of it. It may slow down the multiplayer experience if you want more than just the default few characters.

Of course, the game does enough in itself to draw out the experience, so character customization may be the least of your worries. It immediately feels like every game is way too long, with too many rounds and darts, and turns to get through in each game. It also seems some games can go on indefinitely if both players keep making mistakes. In the shuffleboard rebound game, you can land on an area that will cause you to lose 10 points. You could end up wiping out your score over and over with this space, effectively keeping the game in an endless, miserable loop.


Difficulty:

Neighborhood Games is not difficult, but it can be frustrating due to its controls. It feels like you need to find a very precise movement and then be able to replicate it 10-20 times in between waiting for your turn. When the difficulty is low, the A.I. conveniently misses a lot and makes a lot of moves that are downright stupid. This allows you more time to fumble around with the controls, but it's still quite possible to lose. I may have been mistaken, but it seems like the difficulty automatically goes up on the third round of each game, making it very difficult to master any one game.

Anything past easy just hurts to play. The A.I. suddenly discovers the rules of the game and will do everything perfectly. It will block you, it will knock your discs or balls out of bound, and it will make all the points it needs right when it needs to.


Game Mechanics:

Neighborhood Games supplies frustration mainly in its control department. Nothing really "feels" right. It's one of those games where you feel like you have to make a very precise motion over and over, but it's hard to tell what that motion should be. It often feels like a roll of the dice as to how much power the game thinks you're putting into a throw.

Many of the games have identical controls. You'll be doing a log of "hold B, swing, then release B." You could consider this a good thing for simplicity's sake, but again, it doesn't seem to feel right. And some games such as the RC planes feel ridiculously complex in comparison. When you have 4 tiny, pixelized planes flying around, it only adds to the confusion.

This is definitely not as pick-up-and-play as Wii Sports. So if you're looking to get the very young or the older crowd to mix with this one, don't get your hopes up. Neighborhood Games has its charm, but it's hard to find the fun in its repetitious, dragged-out gameplay.


-Fights with Fire, GameVortex Communications
AKA Christin Deville

Nintendo Wii Neopets Puzzle Adventure Nintendo DS Elebits: The Adventures of Kai and Zero

 
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