Go Vacation Review

Go Vacation Review

What we liked:

+ Hidden collectibles
+ More depth than other minigame collections

What we didn't like:

- Traveling around the island is tedious
- Some very odd minigames
- Minigames unlocked via single player “campaign”

DEVELOPER: Namco Bandai Games   |   PUBLISHER: Namco Bandai Games   |   RELEASE: 10/11/2011


Not exactly the vacation I had in mind.

Minigame collections have become synonymous with the Wii. From representations of realistic activities like Wii Sports to the more absurd Rabbid-filled diversions, you can find pretty much anything in minigame form, even Beer Pong. The genre is flooded and developers need to differentiate their game, which is exactly what Namco has attempted with Go Vacation.

Go Vacation is largely focused on what can loosely be called a campaign mode. As a visitor to Kawawii Island, you have four different resorts to visit. You’ll start at the Marine Resort as your concierge, Lily, guides you from one activity to the next. In order to earn stamps as part of the Kawawii Stamp Dash, you will have to take on the events in the order they are presented to you. You need to earn stamps in order to unlock the other resorts. Every four stamps you earn unlocks another area as you progress toward 20 stamps, which gives you your own Villa to remodel. Add in hidden treasures and photo locations around the island and you’ve got what seems like a more engaging experience than other minigame collections. Unfortunately, it’s not all palm trees and piña colada.

In order to get from activity to activity, you have to traverse the open world resorts. You cannot just choose to move to the next event, though there are quick travel points around the locales. If you happen to find an activity along the way, don’t bother competing in it. You won’t earn a stamp unless you are supposed to be competing in it. To speed your way around the resort, you’ll have “gear” that you can use. ATVs, roller blades, horses and skis are just a few of the ways you can get around. None of them, though, control intuitively. Most use a two-handed twist mechanic and a pedal motion with your hands to pick up speed. I kept trying to use the nunchuck’s thumbstick to turn, which would have been more precise were it an option.

The 50 minigames range from the redundant, like baseball and downhill skiing, to the absurd, like Water Harp, which is a fancy way of saying, “make music with a crystal glass filled with water.” There is even a poor Just Dance imitation that is only worth playing to see your Mii or in-game Avatar dressed up like Michael Jackson. Speaking of Miis, I recommend creating an in-game Avatar. My Mii often looked crazed when talking with other resort patrons or activity directors.

There are some very enjoyable options. The Skydiving game worked well, as did the Scuba experience. Whack-a-Mole was cute and Air Hockey would be a lot of fun if the AI had half a brain. A lot of the control schemes, though, make absolutely no sense. Beach Volleyball and Tennis were simply boring and the Pie Throwing game when you are dodging simply doesn’t work well. In addition, some things are very oddly named. Jet Skis are called “Water Bikes” and there is one game that is called “Wheel Slider,” which is just a downhill rollerblade event.

The worst part, though, is that people will expect to bring Go Vacation home and be able to play with their family or friends right away. Unfortunately, all of the minigames are locked until the stamp is earned in the “campaign”. It’s a lot of effort and frustration, and Namco seems to have missed the point of these minigame collections. They aren’t fun to play alone and, even though you can have multiple players in the campaign, it’s a drag having to schlep all over the island to play the game you want. In addition, there information desks at each resort where you can change your clothes, travel to other resorts, or get training on the gear. There are five different people, though, and the symbols don’t always make it clear which person can help you. Why these weren’t consolidated into one NPC makes no sense.

To make matters worse, if you are simply looking to collect stamps, you’ll be (un)plugging your nunchuck over and over again. You need to have it plugged in when you are traversing the resorts, but many of the games require you to remove it. On the bright side, the game does support Wii Motion Plus and the Balance Board (for certain games).

Graphically, the game has a very cute feel, with the Avatars having a chibi look to them. The Miis don’t fit in very well with the Avatars aesthetically, but it’s good that they are incorporated for those that want to use them. It isn’t the prettiest game on the Wii, but what is there is serviceable. The audio is a completely different story. The too-cheery pop songs and the in-game music repeat over and over to the point where you simply want to mute the whole thing.

I commend Namco for trying to make Go Vacation more than a minigame collection. It’s a shame that they seem to have lost site of why people buy minigame collections. Additionally, the frustrating open-world system that exists without any sort of way to directly access the game you want is a serious misstep. Unless you want to spend the time systematically unlocking the minigames to play with friends, you might want to look for your minigame fix elsewhere.

Review copy provided by publisher.

Mike is the Reviews Editor and former Community Manager for this fine, digital establishment. You can find him crawling through dungeons, cruising the galaxy in the Normandy, and geeking it out around a gaming table.

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