At last, croquet comes to the Wii! It's just one of nine mini-games which comprise Sports Party (except they're really just four mini-games wearing different hats, but more of that later).
Have no fear, Sports Party has nothing in common with the abominable Game Party. Well, "nothing" is a bit strong; they've both got the word "Party" in the title, and they both represent a waste of the time of every single individual involved in their creation. But the former is published by Ubisoft and is merely piss poor; the latter is published by Midway and is less enjoyable than drinking piss. Then sicking it up. Then washing your hair in it.
Plus, Sports Party has better production values (the fact Sports Party has production values is an improvement over Game Party, though). There's a nice tiki theme to the whole thing. The visuals are relatively decent, with a fair amount of detail and animations that aren't completely wretched. The steel drum-infused soundtrack makes you want a pina colada.
But what of the games? Why, they are rubbish, of course. The true test of any sports-themed Wii mini-game compilation is its Wii Sports tennis rip-off, and this one wears a badminton hat. It's rotten. Immediately after a player serves, the camera swings round from behind their character to take an overview of the court - even though the shuttlecock is still in motion. This is extremely disorienting and makes it hard to time your return accurately. The problem is compounded by the fact you don't have the extra second of thinking time afforded by the bounce in Wii Sports tennis. The volleyball mini-game is badminton dressed up differently, and suffers from the same stupid camera thing.
Quite why Ubisoft decided to revive the olden days sports of horseshoes and lawn darts is anyone's guess, but here they are. It's hard to imagine throwing rusty bits of metal at another bit of metal was all that much fun in 1848 and it's certainly no more fun today, though you are less likely to die of tetanus. You just press B and make a throwing gesture to chuck the horseshoes, and it's hard to believe the game is really measuring the motion or strength of your movements; so any success you enjoy feels like pot luck. The lawn darts mini-game is horsehoes with a hat on, and just as entertaining i.e. not very.
But ah, the croquet! Or as it's more commonly known, polo for people who are too poor to own horses but too posh for Swingball. I've never played the real thing, preferring to spend my time dancing, drinking, smoking some fags, playing some pool and watching roaches climb the wall. So I do not understand the rules and cannot tell you if this is an accurate virtual interpretation of the sport. It's quite relaxing though and you can choose what colour balls you want.
The mechanic is the same as that used in the mini-golf game - hold your remote pointing downwards, and swing it like a mallet / club. You have to ensure the remote is perfectly straight and aligned with the floor, which is annoying, especially if you're on your fourth pina colada of the afternoon. And the game isn't brilliant at judging the strength of your swing. However, the mini-golf courses are nicely designed, and certainly more interesting to play around on than Wii Sports golf's tedious old rolling hills.
And finally, there are three basketball games. Not six, as the main menu cheekily implies; just the same three games on two different courts. Someone ought to call Trading Standards. All the games are rubbish due to the fact the mechanic of flicking the remote doesn't work properly. As with horse darts, it feels any points you score are down to luck.
There are other problems with Sports Party. The instructions preceding each game are over-complicated, absent of any visuals and for some reason presented in capitalised font, Which Makes Them Odd To Read And Is Very Annoying Let Me Tell You. They're likely to put off non-gamers who just want to wave a remote around without worrying about super-spikes and scoring systems.
But the main issues are the limited selection of mini-games, and the fact none of them are much fun. There aren't really nine games here, whatever the back of the box might say; you're really getting horse darts, volleyminton, crogolf and basketballbasketballbasketball. They're all lazily designed and won't entertain anyone for more than a handful of goes.
It could be worse; it could be Game Party. I described that as being like "a party where there's nothing to drink but Tesco Value brandy and there are only four other guests and they're all racist then your ex turns up and gets off with a Danish supermodel". This is like a party where the brandy is at least from Sainsbury's mid-price range, and the four guests are thinking about voting Conservative because it's time for a change actually, and your ex turns up with some CDs you left behind and you have a nice chat about how work's going. Still. You wouldn't pay 19.99 to go to that party either, would you?