I was almost expecting Party Arcade to be a fairly decent experience, but in truth, it’s not worth the space that it’s written on. There’s so many bad design choices present that I struggle to find where to begin. That’s not to mention its greedy execution, its shoddy presentation, and its lack of refinement. Though, perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s take a few steps back and go from the top. Party Arcade offers a combination of some popular party games, complete with both local and online multiplayer functionality.
The game wastes no time at throwing you into the thick of it. From the main menu, you’ll see a total of four options; Game Select, Free Roam, Prize Shop, and Settings – the latter of which is self explanatory. Game Select and Free Roam is where you’ll want to be if you’re looking to dive straight into the action. The difference between the two is that Game Select compiles all of the included games in a list-like format, whereas Free Roam enables you to trot around an arcade environment in first-person perspective. That’s pretty much it.
I would certainly recommend hitting up Game Select above Free Roam. Why? Well, both modes share the same outcome. The only real difference is that in Free Roam, you’ll be parading around a confined space as you observe gaunt-looking characters lifelessly interacting with the games that you can engage with. It’s more of a novelty than anything else, and not a very good one at that. It doesn’t help matters that said characters will often strut around the same space, occasionally going out of their way to blank stare at a wall.
Those that remain confined to their stations typically tend to bug out; either freezing on the spot or awkwardly celebrating a win with flat, haunting expressions. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a deal breaker by any means (there’s plenty of that elsewhere) but it does break what little immersion the game relays. Nevertheless, there’s a healthy range of games to select from, including the likes of; Slot Machine, Air Hockey, Billiards, Bocce Ball, Corn Hole, Cup Pong, Darts, Disk-O, Hoop Shot, Ping Pong, Puck Bowling, Skill Ball, and Stop Light.
The problem? They don’t play all that well. Those that do play on a serviceable basis are usually far too easy to circumvent. Not all games support multiplayer, but those that do offer support for both online and local play. The drawback, however, is that despite my best efforts, online play is already dead. I haven’t been able to find a single online match. Whether you’re playing in the Game Select, or via the Free Roam, you’re given the same options to choose from per-game, with varying options preset depending on the game.
Slot Machine, for instance, simply allows you to play it in singleplayer, which makes sense given the nature of the game. That’s the only option present for this game, as well as other like minded experiences; Disk-O, and Stop Light. Air Hockey and Ping Pong, on the other hand, offer up the choice to play only in a multiplayer space, which again makes sense given that these games are strictly PvP. The rest of the games however, allow the option to play either in singleplayer, in multiplayer, or via a challenge mode. More on that shortly folks.
The crux of play sees you taking to a game of your choosing and competing to either beat your opponent, meet/exceed a highscore, or win a gamble. The singleplayer-only games are gated behind a token system, which you can earn through playing the other available games. I’m not quite sure why this system is in place, because in truth, playing either Slot Machine, Disk-O, or Stop Light, are not all that fun. If anything, they’re relatively tedious and come across quite filler. Regardless, you’ll need tokens of varying amounts to partake.
You’ll earn these via pretty much any other game that you can take to, but they’re dished out very poorly. Essentially, this means you’ll need to grind the other games if you fancy a spot of gambling. Throughout play of any game, you’ll also earn tickets. This currency is used for purchasing cosmetic additions, such as trading the sack you throw in Corn Hole for a baloney sandwich, or, altering the color of your darts in darts. It’s all relatively straightforward stuff. You can also use tickets to unlock the aforementioned challenge modes.
The problem, yet again, is that the payout vs. the amount of tickets needed to unlock something is ridiculously steep. You’ll either need to grind the hell out of these games, or, surprise surprise, visit the Xbox Store to purchase packs of tickets with real-world money. Focusing strictly on the challenge modes (costing 2500 tickets per-whack) it’s absolutely unacceptable for a game to hide content behind a paywall, when the game itself costs a fair bit of money to purchase. That lack of an online population is starting to make sense.
On top of all of that, as aforementioned, barely any of the games are that fun to play. In fact, most of them consist of the same method; aim and hold back the thumbsticks to adjust the power of your shot via a gauge, and off you go. Sure, some of them come with a little bit of added complexity, but not by much at all. What’s shocking is how easy it is to bypass any difficulty. Take darts, for example. I found that once I was in a correct alignment, I could just continuously shoot my darts using the same power to achieve a cheap, senseless highscore.
Billiards is one of the few exceptions due to the fact that it’s pool-based and you’ll never be able to rely on cheap tactics to get a win, but even so, the feedback is awful. The balls move about the table with no realism, and oftentimes bounce back out of a pocket for no good reason whatsoever. This lack of fluidity makes what could have been the best game on show, the most irritating. I’m not going to waste your time going over the quality and depth (or lack thereof) of each game included, so I’ll just summarize the overall package for you.
The odd game that stands out is not at all worth playing for the length of time needed to unlock everything on offer. The rest of the games are either that dull, that bland, or that tedious, that you’ll grow bored after just a round or two in each. Whilst there’s enough replay value present through the acquisition of cosmetic additions, the barriers to acquire even just one of these is set far too high. Further, they offer up very little excitement, if any whatsoever. That’s not to mention the steep barriers that prevent access to challenges.
You’ll witness the sum of the game’s depth and test everything it has to offer in the space of just twenty minutes. If you’ve got a good capacity for forgiveness, can overlook some glaring faults and poor design choices, and feel content with heaps of repetition, you may pull more from this than most, but even then, that’s a big ask. I grew tired within my first hour of play, and couldn’t find the will to continue with the slog to unlock many of the extras. It would have been nice to see some overall distinction, if for anything to inject a bit of variation.
Instead, it’s all just too samey-samey. I appreciate the developer’s vision here, but the need to gate content behind barrier after barrier is just stupid, and very poor practice. Sadly, the game’s visual and audio design remains about as interesting as its gameplay. There’s some nice details to some of the games on show, but the majority of them are lacking on this front. Unfortunately, I cant at all commend the audio presentation, being that it’s hideous, annoying, and generic from start to finish. Do yourself a favor and pass this one right by.
Even with its technical drawbacks and its disgraceful design choices to the side, Party Arcade just isn’t fun. Most of the party games included are either too tedious, too repetitive, or too frustrating. Furthermore, the game demands far too much of a grind from its players in order to access more content, likely put in place to encourage the purchase of its needless microtransactions. This is little more than a greedy and desperate cash-grab.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.Want to keep up to date with the latest Xt reviews, Xt opinions and Xt content? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.