Making a game for the whole family is something of a fine art, and even so called 'family' games often prove to be too difficult for some, or far too simple for the person who bought the console in the first place. Sony has really taken the bull by the horns with its Buzz! And SingStar range of video games, and Buzz! Junior: Jungle Party for the PlayStation 2 is perhaps the best example yet of a game that really is for the whole family.
Jungle Party is once again played using the Buzz! Controllers, so normal DualShock pads aren't needed. The big difference between Jungle Party and other Buzz! Games is that this isn't a quiz, and Buzz himself is nowhere to be seen. This is a collection of 40 mini-games, playable with up to four players, or by yourself if you want to go for a high score. When played solo, less games are on offer but they're tweaked to be better suited for lone players.
You're practically held by the hand as you move through the game menus and everything is selected by a colour button that corresponds to a colour on the screen. Players get to enter their names and choose a monkey (it is called Jungle Party) and costume, and then it's on to the often hilarious, and sometimes incredibly tense, mini-games.
It really couldn't be any simpler. Before each mini-game the voice over lady tells you what the game is and gives basic instructions, and then you're off. The forty mini-games are nicely varied, although a few use the same basic principles. You get a few 'hot potato' style games, where you need to keep hold of an item for as long as you dare, before passing it on to another player of your choice; there are numerous target shooting games; a fair few of the collection are reaction-based, and reward the player with the quickest buzzer finger; and all the rest use the buzzer or the four coloured buttons in a simple, but fun way.
The length of each game can be chosen before you start, and specific mini-games can be chosen if you don't fancy a random selection. As you play through you'll get score updates from the voice over lady and the loser will usually be ridiculed in one way or another. Winners and losers are only separated by a few points in each round, and this keeps things close until near the end, which is key for a game where those playing could well lose interest half way through. At the end of each game there's an award ceremony of sorts, and if you scored highly enough your name will be placed on a leaderboard.
To fully test out the game's family appeal I set up a game that included myself, my mother, and my six year-old sister. It seems that Sony has hit the nail on the head, as the controls seemed perfect for novices and the mini-games were fun enough for players of all ages. A few of the games might need explaining to younger players, but once you've gone over each game it's a remarkably straightforward game to understand.
There's very little else that needs to be said about Buzz! Junior: Jungle Party. It looks pretty simple, but it's got a cuteness that will appeal to a wide range of players, and enough mini-games to keep players interested for a good while. It's certainly not a game that experienced gamers will want to play every day, but as something to entertain the whole family every now and again, it's brilliant. Now, that's not something you can say that often about a video game.