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This game is a few flaws away from being a genuine diamond in the rough. The holiday mini games are repetitive and extraordinarily easy, but the visuals and sounds create a wonderfully festive atmosphere. The game itself is perfect for a young family at Christmas times or for a holiday party, but otherwise, that's about it. This flaw is the major flaw of some of Wii's biggest success hits, like Wii Play or Wii Sports, given the success of those two games, its not really a big deal and is basically a given when talking about this time of multiplayer collection of mini games.
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The graphics are nothing special, but set the mood with traditional Christmas images and animations. The game menu is a living room decorated up and down with stockings, nutcracker soldiers and, of course, a Christmas tree. The graphics are intentionally cartoonish and are clearly targeted to younger gamers, though adults will find them amusing as well. Suffice to say, this didn't need to be a graphical masterpiece.
The sound effects in this Panic Button title are silly and amusing at first, but become annoying quite quickly. On the upside, the music is great. Instrumental Christmas music permeates each and every mini game, activity and menu. The music, even more so than the game's visuals, set the Christmas mood.
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This is the only major downside to the game. The controls respond well enough, but nearly all the mini games are mind numbingly repetitive and can be mastered literally within minutes. There is no real challenge and no variety in the mini games. There is typically a steady increase in difficulty through changes in speed or other alterations. Though some mini games do increase the number of targets or objects, it really doesn't add to the challenge.
This appears to be another part of the game where Destineer was intentionally trying to keep the game simple. Though the games are designed so that even the youngest of gamers can pick it up and have success, the games are admittingly fun.
The controls though are well done. The Wii controls are used creatively and work quite well. In a few mini games, the motion seems very sensitive, however, there is shorting learning curve and you'll find yourself appropriately compensating for it in no time.
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Now, for the mini games themselves. They include: Santa's Sleigh, Hot Chocolate, Candy Cane Lanes, Present Catch and Deck the Halls. Santa's Sleigh is the best example of the repetitive gameplay issue. Essentially, you control Santa's Sleigh, using the Wii remote, catch the presents falling from the air and shoot them at the designated houses, it sort of reminded me of Paper Boy, though not as challenging.
Hot Chocolate was my favorite. An elf will order a hot chocolate and based on the ingredients at your disposal, you must make the holiday treat based on his specifications. This is also one of the few mini games that is engaging through increasing difficulties.
While Hot Chocolate is my favorite, Candy Cane Lanes is the best. It is essentially a bare bones clone of bowling from Wii Sports, though the controls are well applied here, thus making it essentially the second best bowling game available on Nintendo Wii. Here, the pins are replaced with elves who react amusingly when hit with the bowling ball.
Present Catch is probably the best example of the overly sensitive controls. You control an elf by moving the Wii remote side to side on the screen to help him catch presents.
Deck the Halls is gaming at its most basic. Just match three and you win, it doesn't get much more simple than that.
The game also boasts features that add to the depth at gameplay. Including an Advent calender that gives gamers a new ornament each day to use on the tree. Other activities include a coloring book, writing a letter to Santa and matching finding objects in a busy holiday scene a la "Where's Waldo?"
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At first glance, this game is a very underwhelming title from Destineer and Panic Button, LLC. However, there is a ton to do in this game. Overall, there are 13 games and activities. You have to remember the target audience: young families and more specifically, children. The game is actually perfect for these gamers. It offers perfect Christmas presentation with music and graphics, while the games are enough to keep young parents engaged as well. Its also a great holiday gift as most stores have it for only $19.99.