Disney Guilty Party Review

By Scott Alan Marriott - Posted Sep 08, 2010

Solo sleuths won't find compelling evidence to own Disney Guilty Party, a Clue-style game that's best enjoyed with nearby friends and family members. While the emphasis on completing fast-paced mini-games is somewhat disappointing, the strategy associated with outsmarting your friends makes Guilty Party worth investigating.

The Pros
  • Goofy characters
  • Randomly generated mysteries in party mode
  • Multiple difficulty settings for different age groups
The Cons
  • Hit and miss mini-games
  • Boring solo play
  • Local-only multiplayer limited to two teams of two

Clue meets Mario Party in this lighthearted take on the mystery genre. You won't be solving grisly murders, cross-examining witnesses, or handcuffing suspects, but you will be cracking safes, rifling through papers, and matching fingerprints. Disney's involvement suggests a game that skews toward younger audiences, but older players might be surprised to find that they're sticking around instead of fleeing the scene.

What the Dickens?

Guilty Party draws you in with its infectious theme song, offbeat sense of humor, and oddball cast of characters. You control a member of the Dickens Detective Agency, a family firm of six rookie detectives, who are pressed into action when the mysterious Mr. Valentine, a tenacious troublemaker with a taste for the theatrics, abducts a relative.

Once you've selected a green gumshoe, your goal is to solve Mr. Valentine's crimes in a series of eight cases that make up the game's story mode. Instead of rolling dice and moving across a board, your character runs from room to room simply by pointing the Wii remote within the 3D environment. In each of the seven maps, ranging from a mansion and cruise ship to a zeppelin and aquarium, your goal is to find the criminal by clicking on question marks and gathering clues.

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Building a Mystery

Some question marks appear over objects like a desk or a safe, while others appear above the heads of potential suspects. Each action in the game will cost you one of three "detective tokens" provided at the beginning of your turn. So moving to a room will cost one token, while interrogating a suspect will cost another. Once you've exhausted your tokens, your turn ends, at which point the suspects will scamper to different rooms and Mr. Valentine will plant a trap to slow you down. Traps include turning the lights out, locking doors, stealing tokens, and so forth, forcing you to either play one of your "savvy cards" or wait until the hazard goes away after two turns.

Savvy cards allow you to take shortcuts, counter traps placed by Mr. Valentine or another player, and even collect evidence. You'll draw one of three savvy cards before each turn, which can be played immediately or saved for later. Clues are earned by clicking on a question mark and completing one of 44 different mini-games before time expires. These mini-games range from clever to annoying, but they all at least have some connection to solving a mystery. You'll remove parts of a suspect's disguise, keep a flashlight trained on a suspect's eyes, assemble photo pieces, dust for evidence, and crack eggs with a hammer. Okay, not all of the mini-games are crime related.



Getting a Clue

Completing a mini-game reveals a clue, which is stored in your notebook for later viewing. Clues can be red herrings, alibis, or evidence relating to the suspect's four characteristics: hair length, gender, weight, and height. In each case, you need to either build a sketch of the criminal from the clues or eliminate the rest of the suspects by finding alibis. To solve the case, you need to accuse a suspect and select the specific clues that support your decision. If you don't have all the evidence, you won't be able to proceed.

This is one of the sticking points in Guilty Party's story mode, as you have to basically collect all 16 to 20 clues found within each environment just to obtain the necessary evidence to solve the case. It's boring and overly simplistic, as the order of the people you talk to or where you should go doesn't seem to matter. Once you've completed a case in the story mode, you open up the level in party mode, which is where the "real" game lies. Party mode does away with the story mode's static case structure in favor of a more strategic experience with randomly generated elements.

It's A Trap!

Challenging a friend is where the game shines, since each turn involves making important choices, particularly with the savvy cards. You are both racing to collect enough clues to piece together the mystery before the suspect escapes after a set number of turns. You can steal your friend's cards, set trap doors, make suspects uncooperative, and much more. While both parties share the same notebook, only the player who collects a particular clue knows whether the highlighted info is the truth or a lie (the cursor functions like a lie detector, and the clue earner can influence whether the highlighted text says "true" or "lie" by holding down a button while examining the passage).

In addition to the story and party modes, you can practice specific mini-games, play a random set of mini-games, or see how long you last in an endurance mode. While youngsters might enjoy this part, most will tire of performing the same fast-paced, repetitive actions -- wiggle the remote back and forth, flick the remote up and down, and so forth. Another slight drawback is that while up to four players are supported, they can only participate in teams of two.



And Then There Was Fun?

Considering its high production values and reduced price compared to other Wii titles, Guilty Party should please most purchasers as long as they realize that the game isn't designed for solo play. There are no computer-controlled bots to play against, and there's little strategy associated with solving the cases, since the majority of savvy cards don't come into play. Competing against a friend or family member changes the game's dynamics considerably, to the point where it's safe to recommend for those looking for a whimsical take on Clue. It's far from perfect, but considering the signal-to-noise ratio of "party" games on the system, Guilty Party is a guilty pleasure.