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Squeeballs Party

Score: 88%
ESRB: Everyone 10+
Publisher: Performance Designed Products
Developer: Performance Designed Products
Media: DVD/1
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Party/ Mini-Games

Graphics & Sound:

Squeeballs Party is a collection of mini-games unlike any to previously come to the Wii, and considering the system's affinity for such titles, that really says something.

The visuals of Squeeballs Party come in a couple of different flavors. At the beginning of each mini-game, you are treated to a wonderfully pre-rendered movie that relates to the particular style of mini-game you are about to partake. I really enjoyed the style of these movies because they had a very claymation feel to them. After the video, the game throws a few comic book-styled stills at you explaining the basic rules behind the game or challenge. The in-game graphics themselves won't win any awards for realism or polygon pushing, but they get the job done and the cartoonish style of the overall game definitely does the title justice.

As for the audible aspects of this game, Squeeballs presents some nice background music that keeps quiet and out of the way, but because the only other sound effects you might hear are the occasional explosions, splats, zaps and cries (of squeeballs), the music itself is one of the more prominent aspects to this game. There definitely isn't anything unpleasant or grating about the audio, but it doesn't really do a whole lot for the overall game either.


Gameplay:

The story behind Squeeballs Party is little more than an excuse to run these quiet little plush toy animals through the wringer (or shoot them from a cannon, or launch them with a slingshot, or blow them up). The idea is that there is an island out there somewhere where these little guys run free and in an attempt to market them, you are testing their endurance before putting them on the shelf. What's odd is that most of these tests are very destructive, so I don't know how so many toys can make it to the shelf. Anyway, the game is broken down into 11 game settings, each with their own ladder of challenges.

There are some pretty basic mini-games here that you could find in other Wii titles (though the Squeeball twist makes it humorous). Games like 10 Pin Bowling, Cannon and Cooking are just new variations on Wii Bowling, Wii Tennis and Cooking Mama, but they are still enjoyable.

10 Pin Bowling starts off with some easy challenges like taking down a certain number of pins with a certain number of balls, but as you progress up the ladder, challenges include pulling off strikes and tough splits. The Cannon games launch squeeballs at you and all you have to do is whack the flying toy with your racket. At first, it's just a matter of scoring points, but you then have to develop some accuracy as you try to hit the living plush toys into land mines.

The Cooking ladder has you dicing, grinding and firing various squeeballs in order to feed the only apparent carnivore in the bunch - El Toro. If you've played, or even seen Cooking Mama, then you know exactly what to expect from this game type.

Once you've completed a round of new challenges, you are then presented with a new game ladder, and then that ladder's challenges are entered into the mix and need to be completed before the next game is unlocked. The other games include Shock, where you have to guide a loop down a electrical wire in the hopes of electrocuting a squeeball or two, while Stampede gives you a cannon full of Craboom squeeballs as you try and stop a heard of characters from overrunning your screen with love. A similar game is called Feeding Frenzy where you must shoot particular squeeballs at colored El Toros in order to satisfy their hunger before they get to you.

The Crazy Lanes mini-game is a variation of bowling, except that you actually have some control over the ball as it goes rolling down the curvy and cracked lane in order to knock down the pins/squeeballs.

In the Pumping mini-games, Ardi is hooked up to a bicycle pump and you are challenged to make him pop in an alotted time or inflate him to some size without popping him.

Probably my favorite game type is Paint By Squeeball where you load a squeeball into a slingshot and fire it off into a picture. The line drawings are of one or more squeeballs and the idea is to use the plush-toy's coloring as paint in order to fill in as much of the picture as possible in the alotted time. For the most part, you will be using the squeeball from the picture to paint that picture (since they are naturally the same color), but some critters have a few colors in them, like the slug one named Boris. In those cases, a squeeball for the other color will be thrown into the mix every now and then. At first, this somewhat demented mini-game simply asks you to cover a certain percentage of the picture that you can in a time limit, but it isn't long before it starts floating water balloons in front of you (which wash paint away) and starts having you paint a few different squeeball portraits with wildly different color schemes.

There are two other mini-games in Squeeball Party, Golf and squeeball Testing Belt. I wasn't able to get past the second challenge in Golf since I haven't quite figured out how to skip the Octo across the water (which is the challenge) and because I haven't made it very far in that particular challenge, I still haven't unlocked the Testing Belt, but from what I gather, you follow on-screen instructions to inflict the hardest tests on these toys.

I would definitely say that, between the number of game styles, and the number of challenges in each game, this is one of the biggest mini-game collections I've seen for the Wii yet. There is a multiplayer aspect to it, but besides a few head-to-head challenges where two players can play at the same time, most of the multiplayer aspect of this game involves a controller-hand-off styled implementation.


Difficulty:

Squeeballs Party is fairly unusual when it comes to the difficulty of the game. Each game ladder goes from basic and easy tasks to really hard challenges that can take quite a few attempts to beat. Because the game unlocks new ladders as you make your way up older ladders, what you end up with is a series of harder and harder challenges mixed in with easy ones for the game types you more recently unlocked. For instance, by the time I unlocked the Feeding Frenzy challenges (which start off pretty simple), I was finding myself stuck on a couple of the older ones like 10 Pin Bowling and Cannon. What you end up with at the start of a round of challenges is tough mini-games at first that get slightly easier as you work your way through to the more recently unlocked game types. You can also progress up a single challenge ladder on your own instead of moving from game type to game type, but this means that you will have even harder challenges to face when you get back to that particular ladder again when you want to unlock new game types. Like I said, the nature of Squeeballs Party's main gameplay style makes for a really unusual difficulty slant. It isn't necessarily a bad thing, just unusual.

Game Mechanics:

Squeeballs Party is a game that uses the Wii-mote in many strange and varied ways. While several of the games feel like ones we've seen on the system before (i.e. 10 Pin Bowling and Cooking), other games like Paint By Squeeball and Shock use the motion control in other unusual ways. For instance, Paint By Numbers loads the squeeball into your slingshot, but from there, you have to hold down the (B) button and pull back on the controller to draw the slingshot. As you pull back, any shaking in your hand is amplified to make it harder and harder to aim at your target. It really feels like you are using a slingshot ... well, without any actual arm and muscle strain that is. Meanwhile, Shock has a very simple concept, drag the loop from left to right while making sure the ends don't touch the wire and drain the electricity from the machine. At first, it's very simple. A straight line, maybe a couple of waves, not too big of a deal, but when it starts throwing in some of the stranger patterns, it takes a solid control over your hand and the Wii-mote in order to pull off the challenge. While it doesn't use the controller for anything more than knowing the cursor's position, it's still something I don't believe I have seen before ... at least not quite like this.

While the game is a ton of fun, and should be enjoyable for anyone who likes crazy mini-games like this, the fact that you are taking animals (granted, they are cartoony, creatures that don't really exist) and cutting them, squishing them, grinding them, blowing them up and otherwise mutilating them could very well turn off a lot of people. There is no gore, no blood and for the most part, any actual destruction you see on camera looks more like you're playing with clay than anything remotely alive, but still, if you get offended by anything remotely close to animal cruelty, you shouldn't really play this game. For the rest of us though, Squeeballs Party is chock full of demented fun that has quite a lot of gameplay time (both first run and replay).


-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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