I’m a massive fan of Mario Party. That is no surprise to those of you who know me, what is a surprise is how much so. It’s strange I know, especially for a series that evokes such hatred and love from it’s simplistic mechanics. In fact, there’s something about video board games that truly hits the spot for me. Maybe it’s the fact that no matter how much bad luck you have in rolling virtual dice you still have a chance to get points back with your skill, or even the randomness of it all, there’s something enthralling about playing a good video board game with friends or family. So, with that in mind, let me tell you about a little game that was on sale (for £15!!!!) for the Wii U called Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival.
Amiibo Festival, as the name implies, revolves entirely on Amiibo’s being placed on the Wii U gamepad in order to interact with the board game on screen. There are 2 game modes to do this in: the main board game or the mini-games unlocked through playing the main game. To get you started with the character placing, Amiibo Festival includes two starter amiibo’s, Digby the dog and Isabelle the poodle. You don’t HAVE to play as these characters, but due to them being amiibo’s, and them inherently saving progress as you go around, it’s best to, as doing so unlocks more costumes and animations for your chosen characters.
So the main board game, is it any good? Unfortunately, nope, not at all. You see, the reason I love mario party games is because of the balancing that happens due to mini-games’ very existence. Just like being good in Mario Kart gives you bad items but doesn’t detract from your actual skill, Mario Party games can give you the worst dice rolls imaginable, but you could still win thanks to your skill in the mini-games.
Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival does away with anything you thought a board game should contain, meaning there’s no skill involved, apart from the skill to place an amiibo on a controller. The game does literally everything for you, there’s no thinking involved, no games to play, nothing. You are literally spending 45 minutes to an hour of your time watching characters interact with each other and lose coins. The objective of the game is to get as many happy points as possible, with coins turning into happy points at the end of the game. Some spaces of the board give you happy points or money, with others taking it away. This is all fine and good as a main objective, but as I said before, there’s no urgency, and certainly nothing on the players part in the way of skill – it’s all luck based on what you roll, and that, in itself is annoying.
The only, and I mean only, two decisions of consequence you actually have during an entire game is trading turnips and deciding whether you wish to use your movement cards you pick up or to roll the dice. That’s it. Literally, the most thinking involved has to be the turnip buying, which happens once a week, and involves you deciding whether to buy as many as you can (the best strategy) or whether to hold on to some of your money. In most, if not all circumstances, the best tactic is to just buy as many as possible, as chances are, you’ll sell them at a profit during the week anyway.
The only redeeming feature Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival has is it’s absolutely charming presentation and cute world. Every nook and cranny of the world features cute animals, each with their own charming personalities, and each going about their lives like any normal person would. It’s a lovely world, and one that makes me jealous of my other half’s love of all things animal crossing; it’s cute, and reminds me of how I felt about Disney when I was younger.
Onto the mini-games, that require brand new amiibo cards. Yep, these are separate to the two main figures that came with the game, and are Nintendo’s attempt to draw even more money from their already heavily milked cow that is their fanbase. These cards look and feel like Pokémon trading cards from yesteryear, albeit with the new technology that is NFC built into everyone of them. Tap a card to the Wii-U controller, and you’ll perform an action with the character printed on the card.
Each mini-game makes different uses of these different animals. One for example was a balloon game where you’d have to hold your card onto the wii-u until you decide you want your character to fall – doing so bounces them off balloons and points, with you trying to get your character to land on as many as possible.
Another was a game of rock paper scissors mixed with whack-a-mole. It sounds crazy, but is actually fairly simple: each of the 3 character cards you place on the wii-u represent rock, paper or scissors. In front of them is a mole that spins around and chooses a different symbol every other second. It’s up to you to place a character card to the wii-u game pad both as fast as possible, but also ensuring you get the correct result (paper beats rock, rock beats scissors for example). Whilst I didn’t play this myself, I could see my other half enjoyed it no end.
So were the mini-games worth it? Well half of them cannot be played with the included cards. Some require more than 3, which is yet another attempt within Animal Crossing Amiibo Festival itself to get you to spend more money. They were enjoyable, don’t get me wrong, but should they have been included as mini-games at the end of rounds they’d have been of greater use rather than side-projects.
As for Animal Crossing Amiibo Festival as a whole; It could have been so much better. Every design decision, from the single board game (yep, no variation, always the same board), to the limited way in which you interact with the game feels like a hollow attempt by nintendo to grab more cash from you. It’s a shame, as the game does have a lot of genuine charm, but when you’re constantly made to feel like you’re missing out of features because of what you have or have no purchased, you can’t help but feel regret at stooping so low as to buy something so underwhelming. If you’re an animal crossing fan, you’re bound to find something of value here (namely the amiibo figures themselves), but for everyone else; avoid this game like the plague. There’s nothing of value here.