Riddled with torturous, repetitive controls, this budget mini-game collection is the antithesis of a fun party game.
The Wii is generally regarded as a good system for party games. The strong North American sales of Wario Ware Smooth Moves, Mario Party 8, and Carnival Games have established as much. Family Party: 30 Great Games—a rebranding of the Wii party game entry in the Simple series —is targeted squarely at the Wii's expanded audience, but falters with its incoherent controls, dismal variety, and mismatched presentation.
A bare-bones collection of four-player games using only the Wii Remote, this release is a waggle-fest at its worst. The majority of mini-games involve shaking or pulling the remote in one or more directions, often in a very forced and arbitrary manner. For example, in The Obstacle Race you must shake the Wii Remote quickly up and down to run while also timing jumps over hurdles with the A button, occasionally switching to an in-and-out motion while holding A and B to crawl under mesh nets. Rapidly moving the remote while pushing buttons is already difficult enough to execute, yet this game is also very particular about timing its muddy controls to very poor visual cues. Perhaps the worst culprit of poor user feedback is The Sky Swing, in which you must make your way across a cavern by jumping from trapeze swings, grabbing each computer character's hands "when you are close to your partner." However, the game fails to convey what you are doing wrong, resulting in repeated failure and cursing until you're saved by the clock.
That isn't all, though. In an unwelcome attempt at extending the game's life, a third of the mini-games are initially inaccessible. To unlock them all, you must suffer through the single player challenge mode and garner first place overall in each of its fatiguing and frustrating mini-game sets. If you are patient and determined enough, you will be rewarded with a more tolerable and varied, though still fairly redundant, collection of shooting galleries and other game types. The computer opponents are unnaturally good at some games, so if you're bad at (or can't figure out the controls to) a few in the same set, unlocking them all is a daunting task.
Once a game is unlocked, it can be selected in the multiplayer battle mode. You can hand-pick one or a series of games, or opt for a random selection. Assuming you avoid the worst games, the multiplayer mode is less agonizing but still woefully mundane. Many of the mini-games feel similar to each other, and in very few do you directly interact with your opponents. As in Mario Party, AI opponents will flesh out the competition; unlike Mario Party, you cannot set their skill level.
The game's assertion that it is appropriate for families in North America and Europe is also dubious, thanks to its very blasé attitude towards cultural differences. Some mini-game objectives any Japanese person would immediately understand come off as disorienting to westerners. While anime and gymnastics aficionados might know of the vaulting box, I question whether a Grandma in Idaho would recognize it as a familiar activity. And the average American will be bemused when they find themselves weathering an earthquake by balancing on futon mattresses in a tatami room. Also, there is some content that parents might find mildly objectionable, such as a teen girl in a midriff shirt and hot pants. The E10+ ESRB rating (versus CERO's A rating in Japan) accurately reflects American sensibilities regarding what is appropriate for all ages. But hey, at least the unabashedly Japanese presentation gives the game personality.
Despite its claim of greatness, Family Party's mini-games range from abysmal to bland. Many are physically abusive and/or feel redundant; others have moderately interesting ideas but leave much to be desired. This game only offers frustration to those that would try it, and is not worth anyone's time or money.