Disney Interactive Studios
From: Disney Interactive Studios
Genre: Caper, Comedy, Family, Party, Puzzle
ESRB Rating: Everyone (6+)
Like sitting around the kitchen table playing a board game with the family, minus the table and the board, but still pretty hip to the whole "family" thing, Disney's Guilty Party offers up a truly original game experience that isn't so oddball as to alienate the leery, nor too conventional to blend in with all the other lousy family/party games currently dragging the mighty Wii to the epicenter of mediocrity.
With echoes of Carmen Sandiego - or Carmen Sandiego playing Clue, maybe - Guilty Party tells a turn-by-turn sleuth's tale of scouring a scene for clues conspicuous or discreet, following leads and interrogating witnesses and then piecing all discoveries and intelligence together in a handy, deductive-reasoning menu system that reminds you of what you've learned about who-might've-done-it and what you still need to figure out to crack the case. It's all beset with lies and genuine witlessness, blusters and finger-pointing, and you deduce the truth with your handy-dandy portable lie detector - which can be bluffed, for shame. Oh, and mind the double negatives. You wouldn't say it is wasn't a lie, would you?
Guilty Party delivers all that in a rather seamless blend of cerebral challenges and modest-but-fun dexterity tasks, all swaddled in an o'er-the-top gumshoe narrative and presented as Saturday morning cartoon.
Surprisingly, the mini-game interludes don't come off as mere filler nor point-and-waggle distractions, even though that's exactly what they are - as is usually the lackadaisical case with pre-teen "family" games. Instead, they're contextually relevant undertakings that fit the scene at hand. Make like a fan to clear the "fog" on a witness' memory, for example, or literally "tickle" the truth out them, hypnotize them with a rhythmically-waggled pocket watch, that sort of thing.
Guilty Party doles out tokens for turns (or hints) along with one-off "Savvy" cards invoking special conditions, actions or sometimes counter-actions depending on what wrench has been thrown into what gears by your resident omnipresent nemesis, Mr. Valentine.
Characters are each charming in their own Disney-esque way - caricatures, the lot of 'em - while the story is clever but playful, dastardly but mostly harmless in the all-ages way of family games. And while the mini-games are none too tough for neophytes, the difficulty of each will ramp up automatically should you prove to be handy at them - a nice balancing system to ingratiate all comers of any skill level.
As a single player game, Guilty Party offers several different stories, each with its own mystery and tall/fat/skinny/short/male/female culprit to be unmasked, so to speak.
Of course, you can't put "party" in a title without delivering a multi-player experience, be that co-operative or competitive, and Guilty Party does both and does them both really well. With multiple players, not only are the mysteries randomly generated to make a fresh experience each go, but you also actively invoke the wrench-in-cog machinations of Mr. Valentine to stymie other players, be that locking them out of a particular room containing a particularly handy clue or witness, or coercing a character to bluff a testimony and give a false reading on that aforementioned lie-detector. It's all very underhanded and yet never mean-spirited - not overtly, anyway. Instead, it's the rowdy stuff of board games families used to play around the kitchen table, now in front of the TV instead, but still just as fun.