Disney meets Clue in this impressive party game for Wii.
With so many party games aimed at families and casual players being released on the Wii, there is a need to create family-friendly games with a unique aesthetic. Disney's Guilty Party is highly successful in this regard. Developed by Wideload Games, Guilty Party takes the best of mystery board games and party games to create a multiplayer experience that succeeds at being accessible to everyone.
Guilty Party is best described as Clue mixed with a high degree of the Disney design mentality. The game tells the story of a group of detectives from the Dickens Detective Agency, each one based on a classic sleuth archetype seen in various forms of fiction and lead by the plainly named Commodore. They are on the lookout for a master criminal, named Mr. Valentine, who has kidnapped the Commodore's wife and the mother of many of the sleuths. Despite some over-the-top, classic cartoon antics and silliness, Guilty Party is highly enjoyable in its endeavors thanks to a storyline that doesn't take itself seriously and the likable characters that help develop it.
The parallels to Clue don't end there. Guilty Party is a puzzle board game in which the objective is to find the guilty party responsible for the crime. Each stage is laid out like a board game, with different rooms holding clues and suspects. You will go to each of these rooms in order to find a clue and talk to the suspect about what they saw when the crime happened.
These scenes are presented via interactive mini-games. In the clue-finding scenes, for example, you will be asked to dust off the item or connect wires to their respective colors in order to activate a door or a switch. The suspect interrogation plays similarly. One game has you bribing the character into talking, while another has you staring onto the eyes of the character, intimidating him or her into confession. You must find a set number of clues before you can solve the mystery. Once you do, you confront the guilty party, using the clues that contradict their alibi. Some of these include gender, what items they were using at the time of the crime and even the testimonies of other characters.
Of course, not everything will be easy as the mini-games get progressively difficult with each completion. In addition, Mr. Valentine will pop-up occasionally and activate a trap that will make the investigation trickier for the player. He might set a trap door that sends you to another room, or cause a status effect that will make the suspect flee the scene as soon as you enter it. In order to combat Mr. Valentine's effects, you can use cards with different status effects. These will help you gain the upper hand in any situation the game throws you.
There are two main modes of play: Story Mode and Party Mode. In Story Mode, you follow the story to its completion. In Party Mode, the case will always be different, so no matter how many times you play the game, the case will never be the same. Both modes allow up to four players, and can be played competitively or cooperatively. In competitive mode, players can activate trap cards on each other to steal cards or ruin their opponent's opportunity of apprehending the guilty party. In co-op mode, the ideal mode for families and younger players, everyone gets to investigate and solve the mystery together. While having different driving forces, both modes of play are lots of fun.
Guilty Party is very ingenious in its gameplay design. It is very easy to learn while not sacrificing challenge for the sake of a family-friendly game. Difficulty can be tweaked, and if players are having trouble completing a mini-game the game will tone it down after a few hours of play. This also works in the opposite way so if you're steamrolling through a mini-game, it will become more difficult. This assures that players can enjoy the game without feeling that the game is too difficult or easy for them. The title also makes creative use of the motion controls. While many of them have been seen in other party games, Guilty Party finds unique ways of implementing familiar controls into its gameplay.
The title, however, does have some slight flaws. Some mini-games are repeated more often than others, and the card system can get cumbersome during heated gameplay, especially when a specific trap is set and no player has the card to combat it. As a single player game, the game does well enough with the story mode, but the game loses some of its values when played solo in a similar fashion as the Mario Party series.
On the technical side of things, Guilty Party looks very remarkable, borrowing a cartoon style seen in films like Pixar's The Incredibles. Its characters are bright, colorful, and expressive, with some designs being quite clever and memorable. The environments aren't as impressive, but they still deliver solid designs and interesting architecture. The game has good voice acting that features the same kind of cartoony performance you would expect from a Disney product. The music has some very jazzy instrumentals in addition to a catchy theme song that plays at the beginning of the game.
Overall, Guilty Party is an impressive party/family game. A lot of effort was put into creating an experience where both young, inexperienced players and older, advanced players could join together and not feel alienated by the concept. The ingenuity behind the cases mixed with the ability to play every part of the game with four players and tweak difficulty settings make Guilty Party a title worth pursuing.