When I first unwrapped the Muppets Party Cruise, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. While I was excited to see the Muppets ensemble, I was a little worried that the game would be just another lame attempt at the party genre. I wondered if a great cast of characters, one most of us grew up with, would be enough to pump life into a tired and run down genre. Perhaps I was expecting too much.
The Muppets Party Cruise is pretty much what you’d expect, a board game masquerading as a PlayStation 2 (and GameCube) title. It has a brief story involving Kermit, Miss Piggy, and the rest of Jim Henson’s stuffed creations reminiscing about their troubles last vacation on that cruise liner. No, no, they didn’t contract the Norwalk virus or any other weird flu like symptoms, they were stuffed into the bottom of the boat and forced to play insanely dull mini-games.
Your adventure may start at the bottom of the ship, in the engine room to be more precise, but soon enough you are invited to play in the Crew’s Quarters, the Star Suites, all the way up to the Royal Staterooms. Instead of featuring a one-directional board so common with games like Mario Party, the Muppets Party Cruise throws away the board all together. Instead you walk on a grid, similar to what you’d find in tactical role playing game (like Final Fantasy Tactics or Tactics Ogre). After you determine the amount of moves you get (done with the help of a strange pinball game) you are free to move where ever you want.
The mini games are held behind closed doors, each with their own specific color. Your goal in each level is to collect a certain amount of a color (or more party favor) before anybody else does. Of course, since everybody is working against you and doing their best to thwart your plans, this is a lot easier said than done.
Though there are dozens of well-known Muppets, this game only allows you to control six: Kermit, Miss Piggy, Animal, Gonzo, Fozzie, and Pepe. Regardless of who you prefer (I’m a Gonzo man, myself) each of these characters plays the same, the only difference being their look and annoying one-liners. All of the Muppets are modeled well, each with a few different familiar animations. Well, all of the Muppets except Animal, who looks mighty ridiculous without his drum set.
Thankfully the rest of the cast is in the game in one form or another, even if it’s just a pointless cameo. Popular characters like Rowlf, Bunsen, Beaker, Sam the Eagle, and of course the Swedish Chef, are all represented on the board, and can even make the difference between wining and losing. They are a nice addition to the game, but it would have been nice to have been able to play as them, or at least more than six characters.
Also lacking are the mini-games, the backbone of a party game like this. You start with fifteen and are able to buy fifteen more, which is less than half of what you’d find in any of the recent Mario Party titles. To make matters worse, most of the mini-games are barely worth playing, let alone writing about. Most of the games are either too frustrating or too monotonous to be entertaining.
Of course, the Muppets Party Cruise does offer a few enjoyable mini-games worth playing. Take Speed Bingo, for example, a game of bingo that, as the title indicates, goes a whole lot faster than you’re prepared for. With friends over this two minute game can be a whole lot of fun, and could really could have been fleshed out to make a far more gripping game.
I also enjoyed the multi-player pinball rip-off Spinball, which, despite its name, is not connected to a Sonic the Hedgehog game in any way. There’s also Beach Speeders, which resembles the classic arcade game Super Sprint to fantastic effect. And really, no cruise is complete without playing a little shuffleboard. The problem lies in the fact that for ever one of these fun mini-games, I can name two or three that aren’t any fun to play at all.
Strangely, even though the mini-games aren’t much fun and the game is ghastly boring, it’s the music that is the worst feature in this game. Imagine, if you will, a two-minute long loop of the worst Caribbean music of all time repeated in every aspect of the game until you’re ready to listen to a John Tesh concert just to get it out of your head! This music definitely goes a few steps beyond unbearable, and may actually be hazardous to your health.
All the while I was playing this title I found myself wishing I could enjoy polygonal Muppets in something that wasn’t a cookie cutter genre; something other than kart racing or party games. Even at $20 this game is too expensive for the little fun you’ll get out of it. Considering how many high quality Greatest Hits titles are out there for exactly the same price, this Cruise just doesn’t seem worth taking.
To say that the Muppets Party Cruise does nothing new seems like a bit of an understatement. Even though it has a fantastic presentation, you just can’t overlook how old and limited the game is. You’d have just as much, if not more, fun picking up one of the numerous other board game titles at your local used game store. Or better yet, why not just buy a real board game and play it with the television turned off.
The Muppets Party Cruise will not make you physically ill and may seem like a great deal, but looks can be deceiving. Even at $20 you may want to think twice about buying a ticket for this cruise.