The original Wii Party was a considerable success for Nintendo, one which came as a surprise to many.
After all, shifting over eight million copies worldwide was impressive enough, but doing so consistently over four years into the Wii's life - by which point the party game genre was synonymous with shovelware - was quite an accomplishment.
Nintendo doubtless hopes Wii Party U will offer the Wii U a similar boost and bring over more of the casual gamer market its newest console is currently lacking. But based on the strength of its content, we'd argue success a second time round would be an even bigger surprise.
As is so often the case with mini-game compilations, it's awkward to summarise the whole experience when its parts are so varied. With that in mind we've divided this review into sections, discussing the trio of main modes Wii Party U presents the player with: TV Party, House Party and GamePad Party.
The first batch of 'events' comes under the TV Party banner, since they make use of the television in a traditional party game style. These mainly make use of Wii Remotes, with the GamePad's touch screen only offering additional information or the occasional 1-vs-3 mini-game that pops up.
Slideshow: Summaries on individual TV Party mini-games
In all, TV Party mode is the most enjoyable collection on Wii Party U. The board game format is obviously tried-and-tested, and though all five offerings have a random element which can be annoying to skilled gamers who may feel their talents are being wasted, it's obviously designed with large groups of varying abilities in mind. The hilarity that no doubt ensues when Gran beats her 15-year-old hardcore gamer grandson is the key here.
It's also the only mode where Wii Party U's numerous mini-games make an appearance, and these are fairly strong throughout. All control well, all have clear instructions at the start (as well as the option to do a practice round first), and all have a charm that may not necessarily be up there with a Nintendo Land or Mario Party but should still have families smiling.
A promising start, then, but sadly the only high point.
House Party mode is a collection of eight different games with the vague catch-all description that they're played "in the house". What this means is they tend to feature more real-life interaction between players; GamePad-passing,arguing and occasional folk dancing is the order of the day.
Slideshow: Summaries on individual House Party mini-games
The House Party games all suffer from a lack of real substance, feeling more like brief examples of GamePad functionality than proper events. Some are needlessly convoluted too - Folk Dance Fever and Water Runners takes longer to explain than actually play - while others have potential but are played at such a pedestrian pace that excitement depletes rapidly. Fast Food Frenzy, meanwhile, is probably the most feeble and forgettable mini-game we've played in a long time.
Overall the games present what feels like a missed opportunity, with some innovative uses of the GamePad but ones that ultimately do little to show their worth.
Finally, GamePad Party offers six small multiplayer games that exclusively make use of the GamePad. Two players sit either face-to-face or side-by-side to play these games, sharing the GamePad and its controls in fairly inventive ways.
Slideshow: Summaries on individual GamePad Party mini-games
Sadly, this collection is another example of Wii Party U's preoccupation with uniqueness over experience. The ideas presented are novel ones - turning the GamePad into a mini table football game is genius, and the dinky baseball game is a miniature delight - but the execution constantly left us wanting for more. Just as you're getting into a game, it almost inevitably ends.
Each of the GamePad Party offerings feel like 'Lite' versions of iPad games with the 'Buy Full Version' option removed, and in truth, this is the overriding feeling when playing the whole game. While the TV Party board games offer the same sort of random chance-based antics that give the Mario Party games its cult following, the rest of the package just feels feeble.
There are only a handful of unlockables to speak of, meaning once you've played through everything on offer the barrel is empty, completely in contrast to Nintendo Land and its seemingly never-ending stream of extra stages and modes. Nor are there the truly inventive modes and ideas in here that match the ingenuity shown in the previous Wii Party.
Wii Party U is a passable and relatively inexpensive (£34.99 with a Wii RemotePlus included) game for families who have completely exhausted Nintendo Land's offerings and are looking for something different to pass the time, but in no way should it be considered anything resembling a classic. All the mini-games control well and are functional enough, but there's far too much filler in there, making the few genuinely enjoyable board game events feel more like the exception rather than the rule.
It's cheap and charming, but most of its offerings are shallow. You won't be playing it in a couple of months.