A tropical island that offers everlasting fun, if you can look past some issues.
Multiplayer games are something I can’t go without. During the Wii era, I hopped from game to game exploring all they had to offer. My family and friends didn’t exactly mind as it meant new experiences for them too. One experience that has remained around longer than we anticipated was Go Vacation, a multiplayer game by Bandai Namco. With over 50 activities and various worlds to explore, it was a unique specimen within the Wii’s library. Nintendo saw fit to revive the game on Switch, something that I can get behind. That being said, is the game fit for a new system and can they adapt it to bring back lovers of the original?
One thing you need to understand about Go Vacation is how different it was from other multiplayer games. Bandai Namco were ambitious, trying to push everything they could from the Wii. As a result, Go Vacation offers four tiny explorable resorts and plenty of stuff to do. Kawawii Island, the place where all of this takes place, does its darndest to give each place purpose. Each has their own set of activities and various transportation methods to make all feel unique. The feel is something that the game really nails right off the bat and it is hard to overlook. There will always be a smile as I go with a Snow Tube to the top of the Snow Resort. The pure adrenaline of getting down fast is enjoyable in droves.
As you travel to the four resorts, the pure presence of content can be overwhelming. Go Vacation tries to steer you towards recommended activities as you learn the ropes and visit various locals. Quickly, I find myself going off the beaten track. The world is filled with secrets, treasure chests, and hidden paths for you to use. You can take pictures of animals, hop on different vehicles and just take it all in. Once you get back on track, you might find the initial run through the minigames underwhelming. The Kawawii Stamp Dash unlocks the various resorts and their options. They wanted to keep the barrier low, so that most could see the game’s full potential. While that is a neat idea in theory, it gives a bad rep to the full versions found upon your return.
The roughly 50 activities present have more to offer than just a singular run, but Go Vacation does a bad job of explaining this. An example of this can be seen in the activity Moto Fest. Initially, you might see it as a simple car race, digging deeper though and you discover that you have access to five modes with various vehicles and tracks. Personally, I would have preferred to have immediate access so that the player had the choice of what he wants to do. They really didn’t need to force the player’s hand and have a lesser journey as a result.
When it comes to the activities available, there’s a lot you can do. You will find standard stuff like table tennis or skateboard trick sessions, but there are some really clever ideas here as well. Pie Throwing contests, Water Gun battles, and making music with various silverware are just a few examples of some well thought out activities. Sadly, in the transition from Wii to Switch, a few of the games were lost in translation. The original had a fun Sword Fighting game that’s no longer present, which would have been perfect with the Joy-Cons.
Speaking of the controls, this is one of the biggest improvements over the original. The Wii game required some real awkward movement using the motion controls. This is on top of some the weird button decisions like using C button instead of the usual A or B buttons found on the Wii Remote. The button layout is better spread out in all of the optional control schemes. I found this particularly true with a singular Joy-Con, allowing you to enjoy Go Vacation action anywhere you like. With dual Joy-Con and Pro Controller, they have added possibilities to just use the buttons instead of motion altogether. That being said, I do wish when played alone, I could use the right stick to look around more. It made sense with the options the Wii had, but not so much now.
The multiplayer makes Go Vacation thrive in more ways than one. While there’s a lot to do on your own, the game feels better with a bunch of friends. Go Vacation offers support for up to four friends playing together, which has been a solid overhaul from the Wii game. The four characters, which can move separately from each other, can all explore the world in their own way and without any hiccups. The consistent frame rate drops found in the original game, are happily no longer present. Next to a strong split screen experience, multiple Nintendo Switch consoles can be linked together for wireless local multiplayer. You will need your own copy of the game, but any progress you make will be stored under your own save file.
The presentation hasn’t changed all that much. It can look incredibly solid at times, especially during night sequences, but there are aspects that showcase their age. The plants are multiple laps of flat textures overlaid on each other, just to give an example. Go Vacation has mostly received a resolution bump. There isn’t anything wrong with that, but it simply isn’t an overly impressive sight. The worlds, at the very least, still look adorable. The music and performance also remain top notch. The background music makes clever references to old Namco properties, which is a joy to the ears.
Go Vacation has remained the fun experience that it was ages ago. Naturally, it hasn’t aged well from a graphical perspective, but it does a lot of good in its totality. The improvements of the controls and multiplayer really shine through, something I had good hopes for. Sadly, they have done little to fix the complaints of the activity unlocking process. It is a damaging factor on the experience as a whole, something that Bandai Namco really should’ve fixed. If you are in need of a true multiplayer journey, you can do a lot worse than this fine package.