It is the age of ports onto the Switch, however, this time it is not an underplayed WiiU classic that is getting the treatment, but rather the sports-themed minigame collection Go Vacation that was originally released on the Wii back in late 2011 that is getting a new lease on life. Go Vacation is somewhat of a successor to the Bandai Namco We Ski series and is very much in the Wii Sports and Wii Sports Resort mould. Nintendo published this Switch version in the European (South Africa) and North American areas.
The game received only moderate success and mixed reviews during the Wii era, and its port seems to be more due to a clever move to fill a gap in the Switch’s library of the ‘party, sports mini-game genre’, than due to huge public demand. That being said, even back then the game attempted to broaden the simple mini-game mechanic by adding an explorable open-world and adding some additional and rather detailed ‘decorating’ sub-games and lots of character and gear customisation options. The Switch version has also added special prize-drops made by passing planes which, when found, add to your points tally, as well as a new 40+ animal photography mechanic and mountain and marine fishing mini-games. So is this all enough to convince you that it is time for you to take a new trip on your Switch to the polygonal resorts on offer?
Basicallii the same old Wii Storii
With no storyline, the game is built around four-themed holiday resorts: Marine, Mountain, City and Snow. Each of these resorts is located on the island of Kawawii and after being unlocked, they can be explored with various locations highlighting different activities (mini-games) you can attempt. You start off in the Marine Resort and here several beach-themed activities are available. Later you visit the other resorts and each area provides some unique activities as well as slight variations on certain mini-games available at all resorts.
All the resorts have their own charm, but the traditional ‘Wii’ look and feel of the game feels a little dated.
All the resorts have their own charm, but the traditional ‘Wii’ look and feel of the game feels a little dated. In the Wii version, there was a multitude of controller options from the Wii MotionPlus to the Wii Balance Board. The Switch version allows single-player Joy-Con play as well as Pro Controller use, and multiplayer (1 to 4 players) can join in using single Joy-Cons. In general, the controls are very simple and so no major modification was needed to make this work on the Switch. However, the motion-controls do seem a little limited. This was particularly obvious when playing the Baseball mini-game. In Wii Sports for example, characters would move in the same way that the player did; while waiting for a pitch, swinging the Wii controller over your head would get the character doing the same on screen. However, in Go Vacation rather than replicate the motion being made, it seems that the movement of the Joy-Con was the exact equivalent of a single button press. Swiping towards the ball is just pressing “A” in an overly complicated way. This was rather disappointing.
When it’s just Mii…
When playing in single-player mode a friendly tour-guide will suggest activities for you. After you have played the specific mini-game you earn a stamp. The basic goal is to collect all the stamps to complete your collection. Despite not being forced to follow this guidance, as you collect stamps the other resorts will become available to you and eventually collecting all the stamps will earn you the credits screen. Hence, I suspect that anyone trying this game will follow the ‘guided’ path. I completely understand why the game has been designed this way. After all, when you cut through all the excess, this game is essentially a collection of mini-games. Because of that, the game wants to expose you to the large variety of games available while you traverse the open world by essentially forcing or at least guiding you to try most of the over 50 activities one after the other. However, having tackled the game in this way and then gone on with less guided-play afterwards, I would have much preferred if the single-player did not progress in the manner it did.
Varietii… only, maybii
Firstly, despite some of the mini-games being a whole heap of fun, even when playing against the computer, several mini-games feel superfluous and unnecessarily simple. For example, one of the first games you will try out in the Marine Resort is beach volleyball. During your first attempt at this mini-game, you will notice that you are not in control of your character. All running is handled by the game. It is your job to press “A”. A smash may include the arduous task of following the “A” press with pressing “B”. That’s pretty much it. Timing is also a factor, however, this is so forgiving that at times it felt like pressing the button 4 years before the game was developed may have still worked.
Of course, I understand that the game is probably targeted at younger children and having such a low barrier to entry is a good thing, but, because of that fact, it does mean that too many of the games will feel so easy to complete that losing interest becomes a real possibility. Once you have completed a mini-game, more difficult challenges do become available, however, after a few seemingly longer-than-ideal loading screens and explanatory pages, the prospect of attempting a boring activity again is not exciting. Not many of these single-button-pushing mini-games are present, but still, I would’ve preferred a more obvious way of adjusting the difficulty level.
…too many of the mini-games feel so easy to complete that losing interest becomes a real possibility.
Secondly, despite the fact the over 50 mini-games are available to try, many of these follow a familiar pattern and become repetitive. As an example, racing mechanics are virtually identical throughout the resorts, and whether you are sliding through snow, hopping across the water or a tearing up a race track the feel of the vehicles are all very similar – like getting a cruise-liner that sounds like it has an electric-toothbrush engine around your local swimming pool.
Now before I get too negative, the reason I highlight those limitations is that after I had collected all the stamps by completing the ‘assigned’ activities I was ready to score this game a really unremarkable 5. The hours spent completing the mini-games became a chore. However, after this I went back and travelled around the resorts at my own pace, trying the mini-games I wanted to try as I discovered them. I was able to adjust the difficulty in a much more obvious way and even avoid anything I didn’t enjoy. And it is here is where the single-player campaign really took me by surprise and I started to enjoy it much more. Exploration in this game is actually pretty great. In the City Resort, in particular, crossing the world while on roller blades is really fun. A similar thing can be said about the Mountain resort while using the off-road car.
…the single-player campaign really took me by surprise and I started to enjoy it much more. Exploration in this game is actually pretty great.
Once I was exploring at my own pace I also noticed the other game mechanics and started to enjoy those. From searching for and taking pictures of the variety of animals that could be spotted around the world, to collecting the seven treasure chests hidden around each resort, to completing fetch-requests that were way more fun and challenging than a good portion of the mini-games, to taking up challenges posted by NPCs and friends – I quickly began to change my opinion of the game. The variety of tasks and vehicles really add something to this game that you simply don’t notice otherwise. Completing all these additional quests earns you points which eventually allow you to unlock a massive amount of furniture and villa types. After building your own villa, you can then spend hours decorating it and although this was not my particular cup of tea, fans of The Sims and even Animal Crossing may love this aspect. Plus, when you delve into the all the customisation options for your gear, character and even your dog breed, the creative juices can really start flowing and you find a game that is a lot more than just a mini-game sports collection.
Partii with Friends
Of course, despite the long dissection of the single-player modes, the real reason many would be interested in getting this game is having something not too serious to play when friends come over. The good news is that virtually all the mini-games I tried improved substantially when played along with friends and family. Not to say that the concerns raised above of repetition and simplicity went away completely, however, the addition of several people (especially those with different levels of gaming skills) really does minimise these issues. I can definitely see this game being played in a party context with several friends sitting on a couch and taking turns to perform the most audacious skateboarding trick, or trying to outscore one another other in the strange yet charming ten-pin-bowling-downhill-snow-tyre combination mini-game. Plus, the inclusion of traditionally good multiplayer mini-games like Tennis and Air-hockey are sure to be crowd pleasers.
The good news is that virtually all the mini-games I tried improved substantially when played along with friends and family.
In my particular playthrough the best games when playing with multiple people somehow always revolved around games like the water-gun challenge or the snowball fights. There is just something oddly satisfying that simple PvP battle-based games are always the best to bring friends and families closer together around a couch and always seem to involve more shouting, laughing and general merriment.
Citii, Snowii, Mountanii and Sumarii
Go Vacation is a game clearly aimed at younger kids and those looking for a ‘casual’ and fun gaming experience with friends. In those areas it mostly excels, however, despite the supposed variety of mini-games, many feel unnecessarily superfluous and disappointingly boring. Despite its Wii-themed charm, it desperately calls out for an update to the dated graphics and limited motion-controls; trimming a little of the excess mini-game ‘fat’ would’ve been welcome.
The single-player is surprisingly abundant, including some fun exploration and decorating mechanics, unfortunately, these are hidden behind hours of mini-game repetition. However, if you stick with it, Go Vacation is sure to provide a somewhat unanticipated deep and good single-player experience. If you have younger kids or are looking for some casual gaming with friends this title will probably work for you. Most of the mini-games have their charms and the additional content all make this a slightly-dated and simple, but ultimately fun party option to have in your collection.