Party games are an interesting genre on the console systems. With gaming becoming more and more popular, people looking for quick games to play with friends would be increasing in number fairly rapidly. Which is why its puzzling that party games are one of the most neglected genres and never seem to turn out well. Of course there are games like Mario Party from Nintendo, but they are the exception rather then the rule. Muppets Party Cruise is exactly that, a party game for the PS2 console which takes your favourite Muppet characters and throws them into a series of mini games to determine a winner. It's not a bad game, but its no Mario Party.
Muppet Party Cruise is split into two main game modes; long cruise and short cruise, so as you can tell right off the bat, there isn't much variety in game modes from the out set. The only difference really between the two is the short cruise allows you to select the mini games to play rather then have them randomly determined. This may sound the better game mode because you can control the length of the game and also which games to play but it has numerous restrictions. You can only play the mini games which have been unlocked and to unlock them you use coins obtained from the long cruise game mode so in reality, the game forces you into the long cruise game mode if not right away, eventually.
The long cruise game mode somewhat differs to the short cruise in that it is more fleshed out and a lot more random. After you choose the four characters to participate in the game, you have to choose a deck of the ship. There are five decks on the cruise and each deck is unlocked when three new mini games have been opened by the player. The decks are a board game littered with items and doors, with the doors leading into new mini games for players to try. The aim of the game is to earn the most cruise credits and win the most mini games to become the champion. The current game finishes after three mini games are completed.
There are some gambling elements in the game. Before each mini game you are asked to wager a number of your currently held cruise credits. The more you wager, the more you get in return if you win and this is really an essential requirement if you want to unlock the mini games which are initially locked. At the end of the game, party favours and money is delved out to the various characters. The party favours are used to reduce the price of the mini games, but not by much which almost sees them as useless. It will take quite sometime to unlock all the mini games because most of them aren't cheap to unlock.
Being officially licensed the game contains many of the Muppet characters but not all of them are playable. For instance it has Bunsen but he isn't playable. The playable characters are Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Fozzie, Animal and Pepe. Generally the most loved and well known Muppet characters. There doesn't seem to be any advantage in selecting one over the other with all having identical statistics and abilities. Something which may come as a disappointment to some is the introduction to the game is not taken from the TV series and is rather lackluster in comparison but that's more a nostalgic problem then anything to do with gameplay.
The mini games are quite varied and as mentioned before only a small number are unlocked initially. Overall the game contains thirty mini games with twenty unlocked initially. They range from pushing cars to a fuel station, to sliding down a rapid on a rubber tyre or gathering smelly cheese while balancing on a beach ball. None of them really stand out as must play but together form a fairly good game. The only issue we have is the cost of the mini games to unlock them. The fact is you can complete a long cruise game, dominate and almost win everything and still not have enough coins to unlock one of the mini games.
In terms of visuals the game looks fairly decent with some nice, authentic character models used for the muppet characters and the limitation of setting the game on a cruise doesn't seem to become a problem because of the various mini games offering such variety. The voice acting is quite authentic and the music is a big band style, what you would expect to find in a party game.
Muppets Party Cruise is a decent party game which has used the Muppet license quite well. Taking away the license wouldn't have made it less of a game, but the familiar characters and their traits will make the game more enjoyable to play especially for the younger gamer. If you're looking for a party game to get off the shelf every few weeks or months to play with friends then Muppet Party Cruise is a viable choice, just don't expect the quality of the Mario Party franchise.