Friends, I have a question for you: What defines a great party game? In particular, what defines a great Mario Party game?
In my opinion, I think it comes down to a few traits. Excellent boards that allow you to go on a whirlwind adventure against your frenemies. A roster of characters, each with their own quirks. There needs to be a frantic feeling as well. One wrong move could move you from first to last place. And of course, a selection of minigames that are unique enough to keep players coming back for more while also being short enough to not overstay their welcome.
These traits are why games such as Mario Party 3 and Mario Party 4 are much more fondly remembered than Mario Party parts 9 and 10.
But with the popularity of Mario Party came games that tried to replicate its success. Titles such as Pac-Man Fever, Sonic Shuffle, and even Nintendo’s own Wii Party come to mind. Maybe most obscure of these, though, is VeggieTales: Veg Out! Family Tournament for the ZAPiT Game Wave Family Entertainment System.
The Game Wave is a system both incredibly obscure and incredibly notable for a few reasons. It was the only video game console to be fully designed in Canada, being a collaboration between two Mississauga, Ontario firms – ZAPiT Games and Nytric, Ltd. It’s also a completely standard definition console with no online functionality that was released in 2005, literally a month before the Xbox 360.
It was a massive failure – perhaps due in part to the CEO of ZAPiT using part of his time at the company to commit millions of dollars worth of fraud – and only thirteen games were ever released for it. Only one of them was a licensed title, too, and this was VeggieTales: Veg Out! Family Tournament.
The reasoning behind the final Game Wave game being what was intended to be a Mario Party clone featuring vegetables and Bible references is especially odd. Around 2007, now-disgraced former attorney Jack Thompson was gaining notoriety in the United States, with his messaging about video games being the root of evil in our society gaining traction particularly in conservative areas of the American South.
ZAPiT pivoted the aim of the Game Wave around this time from mostly Canadian families on a budget to conservative Christians in the States. Why would parents get their kids sinful consoles like the Xbox 360 that had Grand Theft Auto on them when they could pick up a Game Wave and titles such as 4 Degrees: The Arc of Trivia: Bible Edition?
That was the hope of those at ZAPiT, anyways. Game Wave sales still never really took off, and upon release in late 2007, VeggieTales: Veg Out! Family Tournament would be the final Game Wave game.
As far as Mario Party clones go, it’s not much to write home about, either. There are only six minigames and – like with all Game Wave games – there is no option to play against AI. Couch co-op isn’t just a feature – it’s a requirement – something that makes the Game Wave feel like a relic from a bygone era. Between that, a hardwired power cable, and controllers that feature a telephone-style number pad, it feels like a console more so intended to compete with the Colecovision than the Nintendo Wii.
At the very least, VeggieTales: Veg Out! Family Tournament looks fantastic. There are many beautifully done pre-rendered cutscenes, accompanied by some stellar voice acting. Plus, the soundtrack is great, too, though perhaps that should be expected from the cartoon series responsible for hits like Where is My Hairbrush and God is Bigger Than the Boogeyman.
You’re competing against up to three friends to win gold medals in minigames, and the presentation is charming enough. And sure, some of the minigames are fun and there is a basic built-in leaderboard. But there is just not a lot of content here.
There are no game boards. No single-player options. Not even a roster of playable characters!
Sure, you input your name at the beginning of each game and encounter a slew of VeggieTales characters throughout the game, but you do not get to actually play as any of them. Players are just represented by a name card as they go from minigame to minigame.
Speaking of which, there are only six total minigames – a paltry number compared to the dozens featured in Mario Party titles. These games are Veggie Bingo – which is basic 3-by-3 bingo, Crazy Caper – which is a basic quiz game that feels like some sort of DVD bonus feature, Memory-Mixin’ MatchUp – which is a basic card matching game, Scene Scramble – which is a swap puzzle game that again feels like a DVD bonus feature, Prop Hunt – which is actually a really fun I-Spy type of game, and Ball Bash – which is actually a fun basic rhythm game.
It’s nothing special, but it’s somehow the most complex game on the Game Wave. It may not be much of a Mario Party clone, but it is probably the best that this shiny silver glorified DVD player can do.
This game was only $30 CAD at launch – around $24 USD. But even at that low price, it would not be worth picking up. And as for in 2021, while Game Wave stuff, in general, is very rare, most of it is pretty worthless. Most titles can be found for under $10 each, though I’ve never found a copy of Veg Out! Family Tournament in the wild.
This article and a recent video I did on YouTube were only made possible thanks to Unkinderpine0 on Twitch, who was kind enough to let me experience this odd title.
VeggieTales: Veg Out! Family Tournament is no Mario Party. It’s basic. It’s light on content. It’s not even worth $30. But it is kind of charming and it definitely has an odd story behind it. Even with its shortcomings, I’ll still gladly christen it The Great Canadian Mario Party Clone.