After we came back from E3 with tales of a marvellous 'sleeper hit' of the show he'd seen being played, we had high hopes for Go Vacation. We liked the Family Ski titles, both made by the team behind Go Vacation, and if this was indeed the same sort of thing but on a massive scale, surely it couldn't fail to be great.
Imagine a resort island where the entirety of Family Ski is just one quarter of the area. As well as the vast mountain, with its many activities and branching routes, you'd have a water-based tropical version of the same, plus an inland area with horses and rivers, and a city with cars, skate parks, aircraft and more. What could possibly go wrong?
HOLIDAY FROM HELL
Unfortunately Go Vacation's problem is utterly ruinous: a misguided devotion to motion controls that, at best, spoils what might have been a fun pastime and, at worst, renders it barely playable. It doesn't bode well when one of the first things you have to do is hold B while flicking the remote to jump. What's wrong with just pressing B?
After that you're given a jetski to drive around, which you control by holding the remote and nunchuk out in front of you like handlebars and tilting them both to steer. Uncomfortable after a couple of minutes and rather imprecise at all times.
Okay, so let's dig around in the menus and switch it to joystick control... But of course there's no option for that, and things only get worse from there.
Most vehicles use the same sort of cack-handed control method, except for things like the roller skates, skis and horses, which make you waggle the remote to put on a burst of speed. Hold both hands in front of you and shake with your right to keep going. Perhaps we could excuse it if it was just a throwaway control method for a single minigame, but this is how you navigate the entire island. And if you decide to stop and admire the scenery, you can't even invert the camera controls, which is a massive annoyance for anyone who's accustomed to an inverted Y-axis.
Some parts of the game seem like they were never tested properly. For instance, when you want to jump off a vehicle you have to bring it to a complete stop. It makes getting from a jetski to the beach a pain in the backside - either you stop out in the water and swim slowly to shore or you take a chance and try to bring it to a halt close to the sand. Overshoot just a little and the game will reset you way back out in the sea. Apparently you're not allowed to hop off a beached jetski.
You can ride around at breakneck speed through a group of swimmers, though. If you manage to hit one (it's not easy, given those controls) you stop dead, so maybe a good way to exit your jetski without a long and tedious swim would be to aim at some unfortunate holidaymaker paddling in the shallows.
The new mountain area is gorgeous, with craggy hills and waterfalls. You can explore it in a 4x4 car (the usual two-handed steering applies) or, like all the other areas, simply warp from point to point via the map.
But while the game does a great line in natural scenery, the city zone is comparatively ugly. Its flat textures and pastel colours remind us of the town from Kirby Air Ride on the GameCube.
All four zones have loads of minigame activities, few of which are as much fun as making your way to the top of a mountain and sliding down on an inner tube. If anything, the variety shows how far the designers have overstretched themselves in expanding the Family Ski formula. Few are worth playing more than once, and some - the dancing minigame, with its dire tunes and 'early days of Wii' gameplay springs to mind - are quite objectionable.
As you're introduced to the different areas of the island, your task is to collect stamps, which are earned simply by experiencing a minigame for the first time. Your holiday guide tells you which one you should be trying next, and you just have to walk, drive, slide, swim and waggle your way to the appropriate location.
Travelling between areas and exploring the landscape is far more enjoyable than the enforced 'fun' of the minigames. In the first area we spent a while zooming around islets, pursued by a creepy ginger bloke called Kevin who had taken a shine to us on the beach earlier and refused to be shaken off.
When we reached our destination, the promised bungee jumping activity turned out to be a depressingly crap affair involving a single waggle of the controller and what felt like a drop of about 50cm. Were it not for the abysmal controls, we could happily ignore the minigames and play Go Vacation like a kind of holiday version of Endless Ocean, simply exploring and having strange photo opportunities with an unlikely gang of Miis as we traipse around the island.
If this was on any other console, we'd buy it in the hope that a patch would be swiftly forthcoming and we could one day play it without having to pretend we were holding a wheel or horse reins or whatever. As it stands, it just doesn't work for us.
Order NGamer here and have it delivered straight to your door
Looks like it should be fun but the minigames are mostly sub-Monkey Ball rubbish and the controls leave us as cold as Kawawii's frosty peaks
- It looks pretty good
- Nice character designs and expansive scenery
- Utterly compromised by some of the worst motion controls we've ever endured.