Overall Score: 2.5/5 Stars
Among the publicized trends for Nintendo Wii is its unfortunate abundance of so-called “shovelware” – games so terrible that they, in their bulk, may as well be shoveled into a furnace or onto a garbage heap or something. These are the cheapy little barely developed “games” that some quick-to-profit company out there slapped together, thrust motion controls into it, and unleashed it onto an unsuspecting public.
Yet, among the gingerbread ninja games and other wacky not-quite-gaming titles of racing and singing and stupidity, eventually emerge some titles that, though not spectacular, are good for some fun and actually not completely horrible. Among those Wii games, the ones of the sort that a relative may get you as a Christmas gift from the superstore bargain bin that makes you initially roll your eyes yet upon trying it actually grow to be fond of, is Rec Room Games.
Rec Room Games is, aptly, a collection of 20 different mini-games that could be ones you would play in your garage, backyard, or, indeed, a dedicated rec room. From Darts to Whack-A-Mole to Ring Toss to Backyard Rubber Band Shooting Gallery to Wastebasket Basketball (seriously) to even including a couple card games, the premise here is very simply and very intuitive: Grab a couple or few friends, pick a game, have fun.
For the most part, the formula works. This is, of course, a game built for multi-player play – most fun with four people, and likely disappointing with just two. Some of the games can actually grow very competitive, and even have differing options that enhance their value. For example, there are three different variants of Darts, lending themselves to different forms of competition. Maybe the most intriguing possibility is the Rubber Band Shooting Gallery – in timed mode, all players have the same time limit, and as the clock winds down their goal is just to keep frantically shooting in an attempt to garner the highest score. But there is also a mode where everyone has limited ammo; say, 12 shots, and thus must very strategically, carefully make every shot count for the most efficient high scoring.
Some classic stand-by games are here, like Skeeball, Ring Toss, Ladder Ball (which some may know as Hillbilly Golf) and Tic Tac Toe with beanbags. But, then, there are a couple questionable game choices too, such as the option to play the card games War or Snap, which mercifully rely more on reaction-time button presses then physically dealing the cards out or some such outlandish function, and then the weakly shallow games of wastebasketball and that thing everyone remembers but nobody likes, the wooden box with a maze with holes that a marble must be successfully navigated through by tilting. How thrilling, right?
Then there are even some games that require the Wii nunchuks accessory, like the seemingly out-of-place Dodgeball event. What is likely to organically happen, though, is that a play group will end up with a certain favorite or two, and find themselves reverting to those when in need of some lighthearted fun. For example, for this reviewer, the quirky game of Gorodki ended up being the playgroup favorite, pitting uniquely implemented skill sets into tense competition.
Then there is always Bowling, which seems to vaguely shamelessly echo the superior Wii Sports iteration. Hey, they cannot be blamed for copying success, even if the scaled-down, Chuck E. Cheese version is not quite as rewarding.
Well, the nice thing that can be said is that it is at least a step up from the pixelated polygon days of the Nintendo 64. However, this is not a mind-blowingly beautiful game. It is fairly standard. Although some neat details are included, like background items and objects that make a garage look more like a garage, overall the presentation is underwhelming, even for the Wii. In some spots it even looks outright bad, like the poor way in which the Ladder Ball bolo strings fall straight through the floor, a very obvious programming error. Clearly, the visuals are not the selling point, and are just trying to be functional enough to keep people’s focus on the gameplay at hand.
For some reason, Rec Room Games has the option to select from a group of characters, which includes some token stereotypes, a couple animals, and a robot. And, for some other reason, they each have a few phrases they endlessly repeat after taking a turn. They have a “taunt” phrase for a successful action, and a “bummer” phrase for an unsuccessful action. These voice effects get very old very quickly, although in all fairness, a couple are decent and can be emphasized for humorous effect, like the mechanical, almost devious “hahahahaha” of the robot. Very intimidating, that one.
The sound effects are minimal, and the background music is like elevator music – effervescent, hardly there, serving to merely accentuate the on-screen action. Nothing is tremendously out of place, and nothing is worth spending too many more words trying to describe.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is your average Nintendo Wii video game: Fun under the right circumstances, a variety of very different games, unobtrusive sound, minimal effort visuals, noticeable programming flaws, and mindless multi-player enjoyment worth two and a half stars out of five.