Now that the Wii has had its time in the sun many gamers will probably remember a few worthwhile titles drowning in an ocean of mini-game collections, many of which served as promotional tie-ins for various kid’s films. The Croods: Prehistoric Party doesn’t bring anything new to the genre, other than the skin of the movie it’s wearing.
The main game plays like a Mario Party title where up to four players play a board game in a pretty much entirely automated sequence until a player eventually lands on a special tile, usually initiating a mini-game. Players can choose their character although there is no difference between each of them beyond the cosmetic. After participating in each game to their conclusion, the winner is awarded some seashells which appear to only unlock more mini-games than can be played outside of the board game confines and silver coins can also be collected which can unlock artwork in the gallery.
There are two ways to play through a board: hunter-gather or trailblazer. Trailblazer is the simplest mode as the first player to reach the end of the board is crowned victorious. In Hunter-Gather mode players are rewarded with eggs based on their performance in each activity with the winner being determined by which player has the most eggs after a set number of rounds. Each board takes around twenty minutes to determine a winner but the time spent actually playing is very limited thanks to the automated progression and relatively low amount of time actually participating in the activities the game has to offer. Special spaces on the board are also disappointing as when landed on that player simply automatically accomplishes a task such as discovering fire or builds a bridge which in turn allows every other player to progress beyond that point with no other gameplay purpose.
The mini-games are simplistic and for the most part entirely forgettable, having been done to death in many similar games for the Wii. Some are passably entertaining such as the Snake style mini-game where four players run around avoiding the trails left behind by themselves and each other until one man is left standing. However, the game is also easily broken as all four players can just keep to their own corners without risking anything as there are no obstacles to avoid or any lengthening of the tale as in the classic arcade game. There are also a few competent runner-style games where players must jump and limbo under obstacles as they race to the finish. Many of the games are good in theory but aren’t as polished or responsive as you’d hope. A four player Bejeweled style game could provide frantic fun with others but the stodgy controls slow the game down considerably.
Many of the games are however quite stale and repetitive, going on for far too long. Some will have you running along platforms that are collapsing into lava, playing snap with seashells and batting away incoming boulders. Other games such as a paint throwing activity simply descend into button mashing. Rotational games feel somewhat padded out by the delay between players for such a short amount of gameplay time, further compounding the tedium of much of the experience. Had they been more fast and furious as in something like a WarioWare the lack of depth to any of the games might not have been so grating.
Prehistoric Party may well provide some fun for families with younger children perhaps might find some fun thanks to the recognisable characters and the lack of any offensive content, unless you are particularly anti-evolution. However the clunky controls, tedious waiting for turns and lack of polish or originality in comparison to other similar games certainly makes it a difficult title to recommend even for younger audiences. There is a limited amount of replayability for those who do find themselves enjoying the game with a few extra mini-games, playing boards and artwork to be unlocked with the rewards obtained through participating in activities.
These games are only worth playing in multiplayer as the AI behaviour is awful, such as in the previously mentioned Snake-like game where computer controlled opponents simply turn in on themselves and you win the game without even having to do anything. The minimal animation and occasional delay in button inputs registering actions also make some of the timing-heavy games quite a chore, in addition there is some quite dodgy collision detection which also makes games like the boulder batting game quite frustrating. The characters also feel clunky in games where mobility is key thanks to the limited directional inputs of the Wii Remotes D-pad. Motion controls have been kept to a minimum, which at least ensures that games don’t simply descend into aimlessly waving around controllers.
The game looks decent enough, featuring quite simple graphics even for the Wii, while the Wii U version looks substantially better. Animations however are disappointingly restrained for a title based on an animated movie and often quite slow with long start-up movements for a lot of the different actions the characters perform. The soundtrack is equally unremarkable featuring generic sounds and some annoyingly repetitive voice clips that you will hear constantly throughout play.
The Croods: Prehistoric Party is yet another mini-game collection on a console that for the last six years has been flooded with them and offers nothing new. A few of the mini-games may offer a quick jolt of something approaching fun for the first time, but are greatly outnumbered by those that are just tedious. Even with the allure of the movie license younger gamers probably aren’t going to stick with the game for too long as this game has been done many times before, and much better.