As you can gather, most of these games, or at least their basic ideas, have been "borrowed" from Nintendo’s party game offerings or the innumerable Wii Sports imitators that have been on store shelves for years. The label on the front of the box promises over 150 minigames, but these turn out to be small variations on the 11 main games. Each game has its own challenge ladder and as you play more challenges new ladders are unlocked until you have all 11, but once you’ve unlocked them all there’s little incentive to keep playing. Some of the variations they’ve gotten out of these 11 concepts are admittedly creative and fun, but each ladder has you doing essentially the same thing, just with different requirements.
Squeeballs Party also falls prey to the waggle curse that has plagued so many minigame collections before it. Several of the challenges, especially Cooking, Cannon and Golf, require that you fling your arms around like a madman, usually to complete a task in a give time limit. I tested out different gestures in Cooking, and small movements really don’t get the job done—you have to spin your arm in a giant vigorous circle to do something as simple as grinding pepper or stirring soup. Small movements do register but don’t finish the tasks nearly fast enough to satisfy the ticking timer. Cannon has similar problems, requiring a hard swing of the remote to register anything stronger than a light tap of the racket. With so many minigames out there containing disconnected waggle, Squeeballs doesn’t do much to differentiate itself.
It’s the personality of the Squeeballs themselves that keeps the game entertaining. Each of the 11 ladders has an accompanying pre-rendered intro movie. These shorts are well done and humorous, but I’m a little unsure of the “family fun” intentions of the developers. The Squeeballs are all very cute little creatures and most of the minigames have you doing unspeakable things to them. I almost felt guilty zapping the daylights out of them, or grinding them into sausages, or feeding them to monsters. They look like cuddly stuffed animals—the publisher, PDP, even offers some plush Squeeballs—but in the game you do some pretty sadistic stuff to them. The violence never goes beyond Bugs Bunny levels but it’s still disconcerting.
Unfortunately the game’s humor reminded me of the Raving Rabbids games. The Squeeballs act and sound an awful lot like the Rabbids, but the Rabbids are intentionally annoying and that’s why it’s so much fun to torment them. I liked the toy factory idea behind Squeeballs but the execution steals too much from the Rabbids to be original, and the cuteness of the Squeeballs makes it a little uncomfortable.
Squeeballs couldn’t call itself a party game without including a multiplayer. The four player mode is a pass-the-controller affair which I found a little disappointing, but in retrospect I’m not sure how most of the games would work four-player simultaneous. There is a head-to-head mode for two players, but again only some of the games can be played at the same time.
I’d like to give Squeeballs Party a little extra credit for being a budget priced game, but the hard truth is that there are so many games exactly like it. There are dozens of party-themed minigame collections on the Wii, most of them featuring generically cute characters, and promising accessibility through the Wii remote’s motion controls. Instead of intuitive interactivity, they offer unresponsive arm-flailing that scarcely imitates the action happening on-screen. These party games also steal a lot of their gameplay from the handful of good party games like Wii Sports or the Rabbids series, but don’t do it as well. Squeeballs unfortunately is guilty of all these flaws. The goofiness of the Squeeballs makes the characters endearing and the graphics, sound and music used to present them aren’t that bad, but the cartoony theme and humor of the game aren’t enough to overcome bland gameplay.
If you own a Wii you almost definitely own Wii Sports, Wii Play or Wii Sports Resort, and as a result you really don’t need any other party games or minigame collections. Few imitators add anything new or do it better than Nintendo’s offerings. I hoped Squeeballs would be something out of the ordinary but it’s mostly more of the same. It’s not a bad party game, just not a unique or interesting one.
Squeeballs may look like fun but it tell the same jokes and brings the same snacks to the Wii minigame party that everyone else already showed up with. Squeeballs isn't really a bad party game, but you've seen everything it has to offer--from sense of humor to gameplay--many times before and probably done better.
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