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Review #367

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Disney Guilty Party
Publisher: Disney Interactive Studios
Developer: Wideload Games, Inc.
Genre: Mini-Games/Party Game
Release Date: 08/31/2010

I’m a big fan of mystery games and I review several of them every year. Guilty Party caught my eye as it was a multi-player mystery game that appeared to offer a light hearted story while combining Mario Party ’s mini game/board game feel with Blue Toad Murder Files. Savy gamers might recognize Wideload Games as the creators of Stubbs the Zombie and Hail to the Chimp. The former was neither a critical nor a financial success, but the latter received positive reviews from both DHGF staffers Matt Yeager and Joel Rose. Having played neither title, I decided to take the review duties on this simply due to a cinematic for the game I saw that made me laugh along with the aforementioned love of mystery games. The question is, did the game keep me laughing throughout…or was I ready to snap the Wiimote in two by the end of it?

Let’s Review

1. Story

Guilty Partyis divided into eight chapters (Seven known at the beginning and the finale is unlocked as a surprise after you beat the rest) starring the Dickens Detective Agency. The entire agency is made of three generations of the Dickens’ family, led by the Commodore who has just announced he is going to retire and leave the agency to one of the other members. At the same time, this news triggers a massive crime spree by the Commodore’s arch-nemesis: Mr. Valentine. Said crime spree starts with the kidnapping of the Commodore’s own wife and eventually includes the murder of a flautist, the kidnapping of a singing manatee, setting a cruise ship adrift and directly into the path of an iceberg and more. The Dickens Detective Agency must solve all the crimes leading up to the eventual unmasking and capture of Mr. Valentine himself.

There are six playable characters (seven once you beat Story Mode), each of which has their own distinct personality, but which is only really shown in the very first opening cinematic and then everything goes to two-dimensional “stop the bad guy in each scenario” for each. Each character is also a parody of a famous detective or crimefighter. You’ve got a Sam Spade/Harvey Bullock gumshoe, a redheaded FBI agent, a little kid super hero wannabe, an elderly Miss Marple with the kung fu of Charlie Chan, a Samuel L Jackson version of Shaft who is FLAAAAMING, and an adopted Asian school girl who is the only straightlacd (sane) one of the bunch.

There are humorous bits sprinkled throughout the game, but only in the cinematics. The core board game style antics are relatively boring and monotonous. As such, you’re playing FOR the cut scenes, and since that’s such a small part of the game, it’s a big of a letdown that the rest of the game is dull by comparison. As well, the last case in the case has you exposing who Mr. Valentine is, but honestly, you should know who it is almost right away since it was that obvious. I was pretty disappointed about how transparent it was and I hated the last case, because it meant I had to go through all the rigmarole instead of being able to skip directly to the accusation part of the game. The ending was also a huge letdown and instead of being funny or a nice wrap-up, it gets a bit surreal (not in a good) and then just plunges directly into stupid with no real plot threads resolved and a dance party as out of place an inappropriate as the one in Transformers: The Movie over Ultra Magnus’ corpse.

Guilty Party is definitely geared for an age group of 9-12. Older gamers will find the cut scenes equally amusing, but they’ll also find the four and a half hours it takes to unlock everything pretty dull and the end of the game lackluster.

Story Rating: 5.5/10

2. Graphics

I was really impressed with the character models provided here. Although every character in the game is an original creation and not related to some other Disney product, they all looked and felt like Disney characters. Kid Riddle felt like he was from The Impossibles while his mother reminded me of an adult Kim Possible. I also loved the design of Mr. Valentine. That’s one cool looking bad guy! The cut scenes are almost Pixar movie quality and again, these are the highlight of the game.

The actual board game aspect of the game leaves something to be desired however. The animation walking between rooms is a bit wonky and the rooms themselves are a bit dull and nondescript. Sure a bedroom has beds and posters, but it rather detail-less. Think a high end PSX game rather than a late generation Wii title.

Mini Game graphics are hit or miss. The ones featuring character models look great, while other ones like hitting metal squares with a hammer are lacking in terms of visual quality. Still, for the most part, the game looks pretty good, and it’s actually better looking than the PS3 equivalent of this in Blue Toad Murder Files and those games are in high definition. That’s something, isn’t it?

Graphics Rating: 6.5/10

3. Sound

The voice acting in Guilty Party is top notch. Outside of the cut scenes, each character only has a few lines that they will repeat (or say through your Wiimote) until they drive you nuts, but every character is well acted. When you factor in there are several dozen characters that have voice acting in this game, and all of them are nicely done, you can’t help but be impressed.

The music however, tended to annoy me. You have a single “theme song” track where you are in the menu sections of the game, and a single track per board game level that loops repeatedly. All these tracks start to grate after a while, and I definitely was looking for a way to mute the music but not the voice acting.

Sound effects are a nice mix. Whether it’s the sound of walking up stairs or dusting for fingerprints on a giant safe, Guilty Party offers a large array of different effects; all of which sound highly realistic.

Due to the quality of the sound and cinematics in Guilty Party, I found myself wishing this was a Disney cartoon series rather than a video game. Especially when we see the next section…

Sound Rating: 6.5/10

4. Control and Gameplay

Like a lot of third party games, the wiimote controls in Guilty Party leave a lot to be desired. Some mini games, such as shooting rockets at boxes falling from Mr. Valentine’s blimp or trying to keep a pair of eyes from touching your opponents are nigh unplayable due to the controls being akin to driving a tank or just being flat out unresponsive. There are other games, like trying to pull clues out of a stack of books that are equally difficulty to pull off, because some of the clues are paper thin and the game won’t go for the clue, but the large books on either side. With this game I eventually had to get right up to the screen and move ever so slightly and hope that this would be the time the game would actually notice the single clue I needed before time ran out. If this was frustrating for me, imagine how it would be for the small children this game is geared for.

A good chunk of the puzzles are certainly playable, but they tend to be rather dull. Move a stack of money from one hand to another while batting away the hand of a thief is a common game, as is “bad music,” where you hold your Wiimote like a sax and play a two chord version of Guitar Hero. None of the mini games are especially fun or interesting and the control issues with a lot of them left me cold.

The game unfolds like this: You pick a character, you pick a mystery to play and then you are transported to the level, which can be anything from a building to a cruise ship. On your turn, you have a set number of tokens given to your character (default is four) and tokens can then be used to move to any other room on the board, investigate a clue, or interrogate a suspect. Each of these actions requires a single token, and the latter two generally involve a mini-game needing to be played to get the actual clue. After getting said clue, it is added to your notebook and once you have either all the clues, or an accurate description of the suspect, you can accuse a suspect.

Accusations take one of two forms. In the early levels, it’s like Clue, where you just give the four clues showing the suspects height, body shape, gender and hair length. No two suspects will have the exact same of these characteristics, so one you have the description locked in, you’ll have only one possible person that it could be. With later levels, you’ll instead have to prove everyone but the accused is innocent, which is achieved by using clues and statements from your cluebook. So if the accused says “How do you know that fate judge didn’t do it,” you would provide the clue showing it could only have been done by a thin person, or a clue that shows the judge had a rock solid alibi. Repeat until the accused is the only one left.

The game also has a turn limit (default is 30), so you have to accurately accuse the correct suspect before this limit is reached or it is game over. Of course, I never had a game last more than ten turns, so you’re never in danger of this happening.

There are also “Savvy Cards” which offer a degree of different effects. These range from moving for free, unlocking doors, getting one to three free tokens, getting a testimony from a suspect without playing a mini-game (my favorite) and more. Mr. Valentine can play several of these as well, so look out!

The most annoying part is that even after you have all the clues you need, you might still have to explore. A lot of the clues are actually pretty useless and some won’t be accepted as acceptable ones for accusing even if they come out and say “IT’S A MAN.” on the clue.

With some serious Wiimote detection issues, some games that are outright dull and a pretty monotonous feel to the game. I can definitely say the gameplay needed some more fine tuning. I found myself swearing at the control and the slow moving nature of the game towards the end, and it’s for kids! That’s never a good sign.

Control and Gameplay Rating: 5/10

5. Replayability

Story Mode has virtually no replayability as each level will always have the same culprit and will unfold almost exactly the same. If you try and play it with friends (up to four people can play Guilty Party at once, whoever has already beaten the game has a very unfair advantage. This is very Party Mode and the Game Room come in.

Party Mode lets you play any one of the levels you have already beat in Story Mode, but it remixes things. This means you’ll have different mini games to play and a different culprit. It’s all randomized, meaning you can play these levels over and over again, with only the board staying as a constant. You also have three options for Party Mode – Single Player, Cooperative Mode and Competitive Mode. Single Player is self explanatory, Cooperative Mode plays just like the levels in Story Mode and Competitive Mode is merely a race to see who solves the case first. There’s not much difference here, but the remixing helps to stave off boredom for a while.

Game Room is simply all the unlocked Minigames (and a few challenges) that is locked until you beat some things in Party Mode. I barely touched this to be honest, because of my dislike for most of the mini-games.

So there’s a nice amount of replayability to Guilty Party, but to get to it you have to play the four and a half hours of Story Mode, which actually feels like double or triple that. By the time you have it unlocked, you really don’t want to have much to do with Guilty Party for a long time.

Replayability Rating: 6/10

6. Balance

There are four difficulty settings in Guilty Party, all of which save Novice must be unlocked by playing through Story Mode. The only real difference between the settings is the time limit. The fact that only the time limit changes on higher difficulty actually shows some development mistakes by Wide Load as there are some puzzles that are nearly impossible for a child to do on these levels and even for an adult such as myself who grew up with button mashers like Track and Field or various Shoot ‘Em Ups can barely get past them. It’s a generic time limit for each difficulty setting, yet some mini-games are such that they are designed in such a way that there is a minimum time that they can be beaten in. As such, it will probably not surprise you to learn that these two overlap on occasion giving you a mini game that can only be done on “Super Sleuth” or “Diabolical” through a miracle like having the answer right there in front of you the second the puzzle starts up. You can combine this issue further with the fact several puzzles either have a poor description of what you should be doing and/or the wonky controls and Wiimote detection issues and the end result is a poorly balanced game. On the opposite end of the spectrum is “Novice” which gives you such a large time limit that the only way you can lose is through the aforementioned poor controls of certain games. Ugh.

Much like with the gameplay issues, Guilty Party could have used some better balancing. Just cutting a time limit isn’t a proper increase of challenge and in sometimes due to the length of a mini game, the time limit makes things almost impossible on higher levels. Again, poorly done here/

Balance Rating: 4/10

7. Originality

Guilty Party is basically Mario Party, meets Clue - two games that have especially been played out to the point of being a cliché. The combination of the two is a nice touch however, but the game never really feels like its own entity. The characters are fun, but I feel the characters and story might have been better served in something more akin to a point and click adventure game than a board game. The Wii has a ton of mini-game collections already and Guilty Party does little to stand out from the pack.

Originality Rating: 4/10

8. Addictiveness

I admit that the first two or three levels of Guilty Party had me amused and I enjoyed the game for what it was, even if it brought back memories of every other mini game/board game collection out there. Yes, even Pac-Man Fever. By the end, I was just glad to have beaten the game and was thankful I never had to play it again. Control issues, wonky balance, and a lackluster ending killed the optimism I went into the game with.

That being said, I definitely enjoyed the game more than I have other Mario party style games, especially the single player mode. Most games of this nature are excruciatingly to play by oneself. Guilty Party however, had moments of fun and amusement, which definitely is a plus in its favour. I can’t really say I had a hard time putting the controller down, but I can say it was better than most game of its ilk – especially on the Wii.

Addictiveness Rating: 5.5/10

9. Appeal Factor

I know I’ve been hard on Guilty Party in some respects, but as long as you can get around the control and balance issues, this would be a fun game for a family to play. They’d best be served doing it in Story Mode, since Party Mode lacks the cinematics and plot and thus will be far less interesting to the tykes and parents alike. It’s definitely a game that is best in small doses, so if you have a lot of friends that you game with in person rather than online with, Guilty Party might be a nice addition to your collection. For kids and families, this might be worth your $39.99. Other games should probably pass.

Appeal Factor: 5.5/10

10. Miscellaneous

At the end of the day, I liked the Dickens Detective Agency, as hamfisted as every race, age group, and gender was into the family. It’s a cute idea and the end result was better than most of the mini-game collections out there for the Wii. I still rather play the second Rayman Raving Rabbids over this, but when all is said and done I think Wide Load games has made a rather decent game that should hopefully find an audience.

Miscellaneous Rating: 5.5/10

The Scores
Story: 5.5/10
Graphics: 6.5/10
Sound: 6.5/10
Control and Gameplay: 5/10
Replayability: 6/10
Balance: 4/10
Originality: 4/10
Addictiveness: 5.5/10
Appeal Factor: 5.5/10
Miscellaneous: 5.5/10
Total Score: 54

Short Attention Span Summary
Disney Guilty Party doesn’t really bring anything new to either the board game or the mini-game compilation genres, but what’s here is mildly fun for the family. Story Mode is roughly 4.5 hours long, and although the ending can be seen coming a mile away (and it’s a stinker), there’s something inherently charming about this Mario Party meets Clue mash up.

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