Disney Guilty Party review: Waggle, She Wrote

Oh great, a Wii game with "Party" in the title. Do we really need another one of these? I mean, we've already got Raving Rabbits TV Party, Pool Party, Game Party, Babies Party, Mario Party 8, Boom Blox: Bash Party, and ... trust me, I could go on.

Wait a second. What's that? Disney Guilty Party's actually fun? It doesn't look like the developers were locked in a closet throughout the design process? Oh, fine. I guess I'll give it a shot.
Guilty Party manages to change up the party game formula for the better by having players work together to stop the crime spree of the mysterious Mr. Valentine, the arch nemesis of the Dickens Detective Agency. Everything from interrogating suspects to finding clues to escaping traps set out by the clever villain himself is as accomplished with various minigames. Interrogations especially tend to be hilarious, due to their morally questionable practices. Threatening violence with a Wiimote? Yes, please!

It's way more fun than keeping the facts to yourself in Clue. Pfft. Clue. Who needs it?

The motion-sensitive sleuthing doesn't stop there. You'll gather clues with every action from carefully plucking suspicious envelopes from a precarious stack of books to shining a flashlight in a suspect's eyes to intimidate them. My group's favorites tended to be the ones that appeared when Mr. Valentine himself set a trap for us. You don't really know your friends until you've cooperated to patch up a sinking ship or used fireworks to pop balloons filled with noxious gas before they float to the zeppelin you happen to be on.

Unfortunately, dusting for fingerprints and the like for the hundredth time can be fairly tedious. Three difficulty levels provide a challenge to more experienced players, but there are definitely diminishing returns on fun. Competitive modes do exist to shake things up a bit, shifting players into teams racing to find the culprit first. Each game is randomized with a brand new mystery to solve with new clues, so the stories stay fresh even if the minigames don't. Fortunately, every player chooses their own difficulty level, and there's a drop-in anytime feature, allowing for players of all ages and skill to get in on the party.

Of course, it being a Disney title, the characters are super stylized, likable, and downright funny. Taking cues from classic sleuth stereotypes, they've filled the family detective agency with characters ranging from Charlotte, the direct-out-of-Murder, She Wrote grandmother who somehow knows kung fu, to Ling-Ling, the Nancy Drew-style schoolgirl, to the suspiciously Ladies Man-esque Butch Johnson. Everyone is wonderfully well-written and the voice acting is genuinely hilarious, a welcome break from the generic avatars in just about every other party game ever.

Despite the obvious love and care that went into the presentation of the game, the real selling point is the mystery solving itself. After completing enough minigames, players are given clues to the height, length of hair, gender, and weight of the culprit. Easier difficulties lay out the traits right in front of you, while the harder ones require a solid amount of brainpower to suss out exactly what the vague clues mean. Arguing over the Super Sleuth difficulty level clues with a group of buddies leads to some of the most satisfying "AH-HA!" moments I've experienced in gaming. Way more fun than keeping the facts to yourself in Clue. Pfft. Clue. Who needs it?

So while more hardcore players may scoff at the very idea of party games, and Guilty Party definitely doesn't necessarily avoid the inherent pitfalls of the genre, it's still some of the most fun you'll have on your Wii with a crew of interested buddies. Go get 'em, gumshoes.

This review is based on the retail version of Disney Guilty Party provided by Disney.

About the author: Taylor Cocke is a Bay Area-based recent graduate from University of California Berkeley. After spending a couple years as the world's greatest lowly intern at Official Xbox Magazine, he has begun his life as a freelance games journalist.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.