In the United States, every Wii system sold has come packed together with the wildly popular Wii Sports game. This compilation of sports mini-games served as a template to showcase what the system’s motion controls were capable of in a variety of different types of gameplay. Since Wii Sports helped to define the console, as well as sell it to the casual market, it didn’t come as much of a surprise to find a multitude of imitators quickly trying to capitalize on this somewhat new genre of video games for the system.
Fast forward a little over two years now and there are so many mini-game compilations available for the Wii that any new entry in this genre either needs to be very good or ridiculously bad to have any chance of standing out in this completely oversaturated market. Unfortunately, the massive middle zone of indifference located between these two extremes is exactly where Neighborhood Games falls into.
As with just about every other mini-game compilation on the system, Neighborhood Games gives players an assortment of different motion controlled snippets of gameplay to experience. In the single-player portion of the game, players will create their own characters and then attempt to topple the masters of several different events around town. Keeping with the neighborhood theme, every available mini-game is at least loosely based on something that you might find neighborhood kids doing to pass their free time.
Players start out with five events to choose from consisting of lawn darts, horseshoes, shuffleboard, bocce, and basketball 21. Every event in the game comes with three different difficulty levels to tackle but successfully completing them on their easiest difficulty is all that is required to progress. Once this victory has been achieved, players will unlock the next event in its series. For example, beating lawn darts unlocks dart ball, which can then be completed to unlock water darts. There are three different events for each type of activity found in the game and combined with the three difficulties apiece; total completion should take you at least a few hours of gameplay.
While each event has its different difficulties and unlockable variants, the fact still remains that everything in the game feels basically the same. Every mini-game involved in the single-player aspect of Neighborhood Games borrows its controls almost directly from Wii Sports Bowling. Everything from throwing a lawn dart to shooting a basketball is handled by having the player hold down the B trigger, swinging the Wii-mote forward and up in an underhanded motion, and then releasing the B trigger.
Logic would dictate that if every mini-game uses the same controls as a two year old game (Wii Sports) that already got them right, everything should work rather well. Unfortunately, this is just not the case. Although the motions required are fairly basic, the speed at which you swing your Wii-mote plays a huge role in every mini-game. The distance lawn darts, horseshoes, and basketballs fly are all determined by how much oomph players exert in their swinging motions.
The major problem with this mechanic comes in just how inaccurately a player’s swinging speed is registered. Generally speaking, a quick motion will result in a high speed and a slow swing in a low one. However, most games require much more subtlety than this and definitely provide enough repetition to expose just how imprecise the controls can be. Trying to find a middle ground can be an exercise in frustration, especially when performing the same swing multiple times will often result in completely different speeds.
Anger becomes an even greater issue when competing in a timed or real time versus mini-game. While most of the events in Neighborhood Games will allow you to take your time in turn-based competitions, there are a few that will give you a time limit or have you face off against an A.I.- controlled adversary. The only thing more frustrating than already struggling with the game’s poor motion detection is doing so against a ticking clock or an unrealistically accurate enemy. As an example, Super Battleshoes has you throwing horseshoes at pole covered boats floating in water at the same time as your opponent. Whoever sinks the opposition’s boats first by scoring enough ringers on each, wins. While playing this mini-game on its hardest difficulty, I actually lost a match despite the fact that I somehow managed to score a miraculous 40% accuracy with my throws.
However, things do get a little better when playing with friends. Besides putting both players at a similar disadvantage due to the controls, there are nine additional mini-games to try out. While there are a few that stick to the bowling controls found throughout the rest of the game, the majority at least try something different. Games like water wars, RC planes, and RC trucks even use very little, if any, motion controls. Up to four players can also participate in quick matches in almost any one of the 24 included mini-games or can set up tournaments for a more structured competition.
In the end, Neighborhood Games is a package that isn’t completely terrible, nor is it remarkable in any way. The mini-games that are included are fairly simple to play and could have been a lot more fun if the controls had been fine-tuned. Conversely, while the controls can be frustrating at times they don’t completely ruin the experience, especially when playing with friends. If you are looking for a mini-game compilation for the Wii, you could definitely do better but you could almost certainly do worse.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 2.6 Graphics
Everything from the game’s characters to its environments are bright, cheerful, and inviting 2.0 Control
Inconsistent speed detection hampers the overall experience of some of the included mini-games. 2.5 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
The music and sound effects are adequate without becoming too repetitive. 2.2
As with most mini-game compilations, unless you are playing with friends don’t expect to spend a ton of time with this title.
2.3 Overall Rating – Poor
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.