Love them or hate them, the Mario Party series of games has been around for a long time. Going by the no-longer-numbered entries, I think we’re only Mario’s 12th party, not including the five or so spinoff parties. Originating on the Nintendo 64 and appearing on every one of Nintendo’s console since, including the e-Reader of all things, it’s safe to say Mario Party has a winning formula for minigames with friends.
Much of the early success was thanks in large part to the developers over at Hudson Soft. They directly developed the first eight Mario Party’s, as well as the Game Boy Advance and DS iterations. Game boards with exciting modes and games to play might be easy to do once or twice, maybe three times, but at a staggering ten entries, it was inevitable the team at Hudson Soft would eventually run dry with ideas and development would change hands for the next game. That is exactly what happened between Mario Party 8 (the last game developed by Hudson Soft) and Mario Party 9 (the first game developed by the current series developers NDcube). Fan reactions to Mario Party 9 and a few of the direct followups were mixed at best, and hated at worst.
Worth noting, NDcube is a subsidiary Nintendo, and was originally formed in 2000 by a very large amount of former Hudson Soft staff. This included former Mario Party developers. With that in mind, it kind of made sense to move to this new developer, since they are an in-house developer for Nintendo, and they clearly have experience with the series.
Which brings us to the game we’re talking about today. I believe I picked this one up while visiting family in Texas, and thought, “Oh neat, a minigame collection I never heard of for just $5. I’ll give it a try!” And then fast forward a couple years and I finally did give it a try and found the game to be actually kind of good. Or at least way better than a budget title had any right to be. And it was developed by Hudson Soft, the same developer that had so much time with minigames and the Mario Party series.
Help Wanted: 50 Wacky Jobs has a terrible name but a lot of heart. There is a gigantic meteor on a collision course with Earth, and your family (led by an eccentric grandfather) has decided to right thing to do is save up money to purchase a device that transforms the user into a bonafide superhero. And what better way to do this than by, you guessed it, signing up for some wacky part time jobs and earning some extra cash!
The premise is absolutely bonkers, distinctly Japanese, and actually one of my driving factors for the game. It’s weird, it’s funny, and it’s entertaining: What more can you really ask of a game’s story? The developers could have easily just slapped a menu on a few dozen minigames and let you have at it, but instead they created a family of characters that made me laugh and smile while also enjoying the minigames. The game still suffers from a lot of content being locked away behind single player modes, which is a big pet peeve of mine. However, after playing the game through, it’s clear this is a single player game first, and multiplayer game second.
Oh, and the minigames are all themed after jobs, or what I suppose you could call a “job”, and integrate the Wii’s motion controls in some regard. These range from picking carrots by yanking the Wii Remote upward, to preparing sushi on a conveyor belt, to carting patients down the aisle of a hospital. They’re hit or miss, but mostly hits, and I found myself grinning playing most of them. As with the Mario Party minigames, you’re only playing them for a few short bursts, and they are usually the highlight of these types of games. With Help Wanted though, there’s a glimpse of a dire story behind each game, and a single player system that has you progressing toward a ultimate goal. It’s like the game knows you’re going to play it probably just once, maybe by yourself, and tried to cater the game to that type of expereince.
It’s not all fun and games though. There is an inevitable comparison one has to make to Nintendo’s Mario Party series, and not just the obvious one of this being by Hudson Soft, developers of the original games. Rather, with Mario Party you’re getting a multiplayer minigame experience. With Help Wanted you’re getting a minigame experience with some multiplayer options. The expectation, though, with minigame collections is that you can play them with others, and that’s only slightly the case here. Help Wanted will provide a good evening of fun, but it’s one where you’ll have to pass a remote to someone to play the next game as you watch. If you can go into the game with that expectation set you can have a good time with this one.
You should also know the game isn’t for everyone. There is a lot of nonsense going on, both in the games themselves and the visuals. The silliness is fairly juvenile. The graphics incorporate a chibi style for each character, and are going for a simplistic approach over a detailed one. Just like in every other mingame collection out there, your mileage will vary depending on how much you enjoy the games themselves. Some are duds, sure, but there are some big winners too (we laughed way too hard at the cow milking minigame).
Is Help Wanted the hidden Mario Party game we never got? I really don’t think so. Rather, what I think happened, is Nintendo moved the rights of the Mario Party series from Hudson over to NDcube, itself a development house comprised of mostly ex-Hudson employees. Then, not wanting to abandon the cash maker that is minigame collections on the Wii, Hudson did their own in-house minigame game, and we were then given Help Wanted. Frankly, I’m all for it. Any time I can get a game for a few bucks, play it with some other people, and have some great laughs, I will be happy.
I hesitate to call this a Hidden Gem on the Wii, but I would absolutely categorize as a game you should look into if you want something new in the minigame compilation genre. You (likely) won’t be disappointed!