Disney Interactive Studios recently entered a partnership with Chicago developer Wideload Games in an attempt to get new family-friendly original IP video games that were really good games in their own right. They’ve gotten exactly that in the partnership’s first title, Guilty Party, a mystery-solving family party game (pun assuredly intended). Players explore rooms, looking for clues and interrogating suspects through many different minigames using the Wii’s motion controls. It’s a simple gaming formula made great through original characters brought to life by great writing and voice acting.
Like the latest Mario Party or the upcoming Wii Party, Guilty Party uses the special abilities of the Wiimote to power its minigames. You may have to click and drag money into a suspect’s hand to “bribe” information out of them or swing the Wiimote pointer from side to side to “hypnotize” them. The games are all very simple, and generally very easy to complete, but a somewhat dynamic difficulty adjustment system will eventually give you the right amount of challenge. Special cooperative minigames come up once or twice a level, challenging all players to work together on a common goal.
These minigames factor into the main map of the level, on which players run around and click on clues or suspects to investigate. Each minigame yields a new clue, though some are more useful than others in actually determining the culprit. The really useful clues will tell you one of the four important traits of the guilty party for the mission you’re currently playing, like hair length, gender, weight, and height. This must all be completed within a set number of turns (before the guilty party escapes), though the turn limit isn’t really a very close or threatening deadline.
The game’s real strength is the original characters and storyline. Certain elements like the repeated references to pudding and mustachioed singing manatees are genuinely amusing for kids and adults. Even though the game doesn’t give much time to telling a story, we still get one that manages to furnish several distinct levels while staying somewhat sensible and delivering a satisfying ending. While they get little or no introduction, the characters still stand out and seem likeable. This comes through a combination of good writing and some of the best voice acting to be found in video games. Plus, the game’s wedged-in references to Sam & Max: Freelance Police are entertaining for experienced gamers.
Guilty Party isn’t very long or very challenging as an actual game, but it will entertain you with its charming original characters and family gameplay. It’s not easy to find family games with this much actual quality. The pushover difficulty and simplistic gameplay will still put off most gamers, but they’ll be missing a storyline with some quality. Now we just have to hope that a sequel can let us really shine a light on these characters so we can enjoy them a little longer.
Guilty Party is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Comic Mischief and Mild Cartoon Violence.