It's time to play the video games, it's time to dim the lights, it's time to meet the Muppets on the Party Cruise tonight!It's time for multi-player, sit down and play it right, it's time to raise the curtain on the Party Cruise tonight!Why do we always come here, it all just looks the same, it's like a kind of torture, to have to play this game... It's time to get things started on a non-sensational, pretty marginal, fairly typical, Muppetational, this is what they call the Muppet's Party Cruise!
All hail The Muppet Show, the classic late 70's/early 80's variety show featuring the coolest puppets ever, which is now a party game for your PS2 and GameCube. I think it's pretty safe to say that everyone at GR loves the Muppets and are entirely confused that they're making an appearance in the first party game from TDK. Oh well, at least it's not another Mario rehash. Besides, it gives us an excuse for a great Swedish Chef holiday sound byte! Hit it, fellas!
The basic premise is simple: run around a cruise ship and collect a number of color-coded party favors by winning as many mini-games as you can. At first it sounds a lot like Nintendo's Plumber Partypalooza, but after spending some time with Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Animal and Pepe, you'll quickly realize that there's more strategy packed in here than any party game deserves.
Rather than a traditional one-direction game board, Muppets Party Cruise opts for an RPG-style map where players can choose which direction they go. Some movement squares contain Cruise Credits, which can be used to buy items as well as a handicap in the mini-games. Other squares include covert and overt dangers such as quicksand or a typhoon which will rob you of your turn or credits.
You'll also find a variety of special items lying about, including Hypno-Disks, which allow you to control another player's moves, and Life Preservers, which keep you from feeling the effects of the danger squares. Other characters like Beaker, Rowlf and Rizzo will show up and hook you up with goodies provided you can catch them.
Much of Muppets Party Cruise takes place behind closed doors - colored ones, in fact, which lead to mini-games and party favors. Most of the games aren't bad and generally require a skill other than mashing buttons. Some of my favorites include the self-explanatory Speed Bingo, a multiplayer pinball game called Spinball, and Ticklin' the Ivories, a Muppet billiards bonanza. Then again, there are a few less than stellar games, like Pigsty Party, where all you do is count the number of pigs on screen. Great if you're this guy, but kind of a bummer if you're anyone else.
If you look at the Party Cruise on these grounds alone, there's certainly not much to write home about. But what really saves this ship from the bargain bin abyss is its subtle allowance for some nasty strategy that you just don't get in other video board games. Since it takes a certain number of favors to win, you'll know exactly when to go on the defensive. If someone needs a red favor to win, it's best to avoid the red doors. You can also run back to one of the mini-games won by the leader and try to steal one of the favors away. Other strategies include heading to the Automated Trouble Machine and stealing a favor directly or stepping right up to the leader and challenging him/her to a game of rock/paper/scissors where the winner takes half of the loser's credits.
But despite this added strategic gameplay, the most glaring problem with Party Cruise is that it doesn't have enough staying power. A paltry fifteen mini-games are available at the start with another fifteen available to unlock.Mario Party 5 more than doubles that, and there really isn't much replay value here unless you're a rabid Muppets fan. Even then, this party might not last the night.
At least the production values are good. The real people behind the Muppets are in on this adventure and all of the voice work is done by the official crew. There are even a bunch of high quality "inspirational" Muppet movie shorts to unlock.
Between the two console versions, it's important to note that the PS2 falls short of the GameCube version simply due to the fact that a four-player game requires extra hardware in the form of a multi-tap. Party games simply aren't much of a party if you don't have a full house. Otherwise, the two versions are identical.
Muppets Party Cruise brings a fresh look to the party game scene with its unique brand of strategy and absence of plumbers, but it doesn't have much of a life span. At $20, though, the frog, pig, chickens and things are better than you think.