On your mark, get set, Go Vacation.
Up until recently, I would say that Wii Sports Resort was easily the best vacation-themed video game on Wii. A new challenger has arrived, however, and takes the formula set by Nintendo with its Wii Sports games and goes absolutely crazy by packing in 50 mini-games and four huge open-world resorts. While Namco Bandai is unable match the level of polish found in Wii Sports Resort, Go Vacation excels at creating a wholly unique take on the mini-game collection that is tons of fun with friends and not too shabby when playing solo.
Your first task in Go Vacation is to create a character. Players may choose to import an existing Mii or use the game’s built-in creation tools to produce an avatar. Once that is complete, the game's travel guide will welcome you to the beautiful marine resort and invite you to participate in the Kawawii Stamp Dash. After completing an activity (a mini-game) for the first time, you are awarded a stamp. Collecting stamps serves two functions. First, you need a certain number of stamps to unlock the game's other resorts (snow, mountain, and city). Their other purpose is to lay down an easy-to-follow structure. As long as there is an activity you haven't encountered, the guide will help you reach the next one by placing a destination marker on the map. Players are also free to find new mini-games by simply exploring the different resorts at their own leisure.
There are a number of different ways to travel around the resorts. Motorbikes, horses, skis, and off-road cars are just some of the options. Instead of using the analog stick, the majority of transport vehicles are controlled by basically pretending the Wii Remote and Nunchuk are handlebars and tilting them in the direction you wish to go. This method of motion control is quite similar to the Power Cruising game in Wii Sports Resort. It takes a little while to get used to the controls, but once you get the hang of them they work quite well.
Go Vacation delivers a mini-game smorgasbord. The developer was able to include so many activities by creating a number of very similar ones. I hope you enjoy races and performing tricks because you'll partake in those activities with almost every vehicle. Also making appearances are a lot of activities that seem to be in almost every mini-game collection, such as tennis and target shooting. While a few of the mini-games are clunkers, the vast majority are well designed and fun.
Most activities in the game have multiple levels of difficulty and sometimes a number of interesting variations. However, the game doesn't do a good job of telling you about those features. When first playing a game for a stamp, you are usually introduced to its most basic version. Certain games, like volleyball and tennis, don't even let you move your character around when you first try them out. The game makes certain activities appear very shallow when they actually have a lot more depth.
One of the biggest incentives to replay mini-games is to collect silver keys. You can usually obtain a silver key for an activity by completing all of its levels or getting a high score. The game also has gold keys, which you can obtain by hitting certain achievements (like jumping off a huge ramp) while exploring the resorts. These keys are then used to spruce up and furnish your own personal mansion. Anybody who likes The Sims should have at least a little bit of fun decorating a villa.
The area where the game truly excels is multiplayer. The game features four-player gameplay for most mini-games and even lets you explore the resorts at the same time with split screen. The frame rate does drop a bit when doing cooperative play, but the game always stays playable. I had some of the most fun when playing the co-op mode. Searching for the game's hidden treasure chests is a great team activity, especially because as a group you can cover a lot more ground in less time.
Owners of Wii peripherals should be happy to learn that Go Vacation supports pretty much every single one out there. The Wii Wheel works exactly as you would expect in the Motor Fest activity, and you can even drift around corners like in Mario Kart. Very few mini-games support Wii MotionPlus, but the ones that do, such as the Sword Fighting, use it to good effect. A large number of activities work with the Wii Balance Board. You can even use the Balance Board to control many of the vehicles when exploring the resorts. It was quite enjoyable to skate around the city resort with the Balance Board, even though I felt a bit more in control when using the Nunchuk and Wii Remote control scheme.
If you're looking for a great multiplayer game to play with friends and family, Go Vacation is an extremely solid choice. The developer made a few strange choices that hurt the experience, but overall Go Vacation is a trip worth taking.