The prevailing perception of the Wii's immense library is that of the 1,262 physical titles released for the system, approximately 1,250 of them are mini-game collections with bad motion controls.
While 101 in 1: Party Megamix may not do anything to change that perception, the fact that they crammed 101 Dalmatians mini-games onto the disc - while other publishers were content with anywhere from 30 or so, all the way down to as few as four (I'm looking at you, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer) - is enough to make you sit up and take notice.
With that many mini-games, can they all be good? Surely not, as even the undisputed monarch of the mini-game genre, Mario Party, has its fair share of stinkers. But the scarier question one has to ask is whether they can all, in fact, be BAD?
I'm going to start by saying that in the couple of days prior to playing 101 in 1, I've been playing Mario Party: The Top 100 for 3DS. I will say that overall, they did a pretty good job choosing some of the best mini-games (although they left out some greats and also included some pretty bad ones). This isn't a review of Mario Party, but I just wanted to make it clear that's what my brain was calibrated to before sitting down to play this.
So, without further ado, here are some mini-reviews for some of the mini-games I played, sorted by the order in which I played them.
1 - Totem Trouble: C A stack of five totems drops onto the screen for about a second. Then it goes away, and five new stacks fall. You point the Wii remote at the screen, and pick the matching stack. It works. It's a simple memory game. Nothing terrible, doesn't last too long - this is the kind of thing that could be in Mario Party with a little more polish.
2 - Mass Sculpting: D A block of stone appears on the screen, with a pulsing circle telling you where to chisel. Using the Wii Remote to point, and swinging the Nunchuk to strike, you pound each chisel spot until it breaks, and go to the next one. Voila! You have a completed sculpture when you get them all. Then a new stone comes and you do it again until time runs out. The Nunchuk is problematic in this game, as it doesn't always register your swing. It's easy enough to swing it again and usually the hit goes on the second time. This one is just repetitive, though.
3 - Difficult Art: C+ You play as an angry person picking up statues, vases, and other valuable works of art, and destroying them by throwing them on the ground, into other pieces of art, or at other people. Use the analog stick on the Nunchuk to move, and A to pick up or throw items. It's a little clunky, but it works, and everyone crashing vases over each other's heads gives it a fun vibe. I actually found this one to be somewhat entertaining, although it went on a little longer than needed.
4 - Flashy Photography: D The screen is filled with birds flying around, or standing on things, and you need to use the analog stick on the Nunchuk to point your reticle at them and press A to take a picture. When you do, it shows a close up picture of the startled bird. Rinse and repeat. There are issues with this one - first and foremost, the Wii Remote has a pointer feature built in - why on earth would you make someone plug in the Nunchuk and use the analog stick to move a targeting reticle across the screen? Secondly, every time you take a picture you get one of a few different close-up shots for about three seconds while the game timer is paused. There are so many birds that you'll probably be able to get a shot every second or so while playing. Which means the game actually lasts about 4 times longer than the 60-second timer. Also, you can just keep pressing A as quick as you can while moving between birds, as it only registers when there is a valid shot. No penalty for missing shots. The shocked bird photos are funny for the first few, but grow tedious real quick.
5 - Shallow Waters: C+ You need to get your submarine across the bathtub faster than your rival. There are mines, boxes, and rubber duckies in your way. Use the Wii Remote to point where you want to go on the screen and the submarine follows. You can boost with the A button occasionally, too. There's no meter or indicator showing when you can boost, but it takes a few seconds for it to recharge. This one isn't bad, although the random layout of the hazards can make it really difficult for one player and easy for the other. Also, all the obstacles just bounce you off of them in the exact same way. It goes for three rounds, which felt about right. Not great, but not bad.
6 - Amateur Alien Abduction: D- Use the analog stick to have your alien mosey around a pasture. Move behind cows and use an energy blast to scare them away from you and towards the glow of your UFO's tractor beam. Collect as many cows as you can. This one sounds more fun than it actually is, because your alien moves quite slowly. Additionally, like the turbo in Shallow Waters, your energy blast needs recharging between uses.
7 - Candy Dispenser Dismay: C+ There's a piece of candy at the top of a vending machine. Move four sliders left or right to move the candy through the gaps so you can retrieve it. There are sometimes non-candy items too, so be careful not to get those or you lose points. This one wasn't too bad. I liked the idea, but the execution was still flawed. There are six "slots" on screen for each slider, plus three off screen in either direction at the start of the game. The problem is you don't know what's off screen until you move the slider. So if you have all six slots blocked, you may move it to the left hoping for a gap. After three shifts, you discover there is no gap on that side. It doesn't wrap around, so now you have to shift it three times back the other way, and then additional shifts to find your gap. It doesn't happen often, but it's annoying when it does.
8 - Urban Sky Diving: C- Jump off a building, and grab everything you can on the way down. Coins get you lots of points, but you also need to grab a certain amount of underwear hanging on lines because you use it to make your parachute. The premise is ridiculous. In practice, though, it's just pointing your Wii remote where you want to go on the auto-scrolling screen, and hitting A once you have enough underwear. But you need some precision. If the cursor ever goes off screen, your jumper stops moving, which can be frustrating if you need a quick move to the left and you jerk the Wii remote just a hair too far.
9 - Dwarf Hurling: B+ Throw a dwarf out on the ocean with a flick of your Wii remote, then gently guide him left or right to hit as many targets and birds as you can. With everything coming from the background forward it's easy to see where you need to go and point the Wii remote accordingly. This one plays quickly, it's simple, and controls well.
10 - Troglodyte Golf: F Shake the Wii Remote and Nunchuk as fast as you can to build up strength, then press A to smack a statue with your club, driving it into the ground. Time your smack for when the pulsing circle is the smallest. I'm not a fan of "shake as fast as you can" minigames at all, and pounding a statue into the ground is not golf. Golf should be things flying through the air. The only redeeming feature of this minigame is that it is mercifully short.
In total, I played 40 of the 101 mini-games available in this package. I thought six were fun, 13 were okay, 20 were awful, and one was actually broken. That one (Fatal Distraction) is a Space Invaders style game where you use the analog stick to move and the A button to shoot. In theory at least. The A button did not shoot when I played, and neither did any other button or shake of the controllers. I tried it 4 times with the same result. I don't know what the issue is, but I watched a YouTube video of that mini-game, and it worked fine for that player.
There's another issue, though, which is almost as frustrating as how thoroughly below average the mini-games are. That issue is that the majority of them are single player. When you use the word "party" in your title, there are certain assumptions that people will make about your game. One of those assumptions is that you will be able to break it out with a group of friends and play together.
There is a Marathon mode in the game that is for 2-4 players. But it just picks a random smattering of five mini-games, and you play them one at a time, and compare your score at the end. Then it's back to the menu. For the single player games, you take turns. Parties are apparently a one person at a time kind of deal where developer Nordcurrent is from.
The overall presentation outside the minigames leaves a lot to be desired too. Mario Party and Wii Party wrap their minigames in a relatively interesting way. Mario Party has its board game element, and Wii Party has a board game as well as other game show style modes. 101 in 1 just has menus.
Additionally, in Mario/Wii Party, you choose a character or Mii and play the macro game and mini-games with that character, which gives a sense of continuity to the game, and a sense of ownership of your performance. 101 in 1 has you playing as whatever thing they've chosen for a particular mini-game, whether it's an alien, a skater dude, a cow, a submarine, or just some omnipresent thing that points.
101 in 1: Party Megamix isn't the worst mini-game fest on the Wii, but there are far better options out there - both for mini-game collections, and for other games that work well for parties.