A roommate stomps all over my feet while the two of us dance a waltz, and then, a friend holds his lips mere millimeters from those of my girlfriend while the two squish an imaginary orange between their faces. This should be the start of an awful evening, the kind that leads to drinking and reevaluating the company I keep, but I just can’t stop giggling at how silly it all is. What else should I have expected after inviting friends over for a game of Spin The Bottle?
Yes, somebody made a video game out of the raunchy pre-teen party fixture. You might remember the developer, KnapNok Games, from their Nintendo Wii experiment, Dark Room Sex Game (sensing a theme here?), or from B.U.T.T.O.N. (Brutally Unfair Tactics Totally Okay Now), a game that involved players dashing across their living rooms to smack each others’ controllers and protect their own. KnapNok have made a fine tradition of asking players to reconsider what makes a video game different from analog party games, designing software that encourages people to interact with one another rather than with a computer.
Spin The Bottle: Bumpie’s Party continues that experiment, asking players to get as uncomfortably close to their friends and family as possible. It tests the boundaries of your personal space, willingness to laugh at yourself, and even general personal hygiene. I’ll remember which of my friends did not brush their teeth far longer than who won or lost. (So play it safe, and use that mouthwash.) By spinning a virtual bottle on the Wii U GamePad’s touchscreen, two players are chosen to engage in simple yet outlandish physical challenges that test their ability to communicate in a short period of time. They may need to pass a sleeping badger (Wii remote) over their heads without waking it, find the rabbits (Wii remotes) other players have hidden in the room, or even cut through a log with a two-person saw (a pair of Wii remotes).
There’s a common thread here of calling game controllers anything other than game controllers. Spin The Bottle is a game played (almost) entirely within your imagination. There is nothing to look at on the big screen, in fact the developers recommended that you turn your television off while playing. The Wii U GamePad provides the instructions and the Wii Remotes track you movement and button presses, but the game is largely played via the honor system. Any sort of innuendo is entirely up to the players as well, so a round of Spin The Bottle can be as wacky and wholesome as an episode of Phineas And Ferb or as lewd as a game of Strip Cards Against Humanity. (There has to be a strip version of that game by now, right?)
If your group feels especially silly (pro-tip: always be especially silly), there are “bonus challenges” that add new wrinkles to the games for guaranteed ridiculousness. Instead of just slow dancing, now you must slow dance cheek-to-cheek, feeling the warmth of each others’ breath on the nape of your neck or someone’s stubble scratching your ear. You may be asked to play certain games using only your feet or while impersonating a frog. There’s no “extra credit” for this, and these challenges, again, work exclusively on an honor system. The fact that your friends are watching and may tease you if you don’t do it or be extra impressed when you pull these shenanigans off might be incentive enough to stay true. I quickly found myself wrapped up in the foolishness of these activities and craving the additional bizarre challenges, so much so that I’m tempted to write my own ideas on slips of paper or on a Wheel Of Fortune-style spinner for future sessions.
There are points and winning and collectables, but they’re inessential. While it could just as easily be played without a video game console—and perhaps it will inspire players to design their own party games—Spin The Bottle demonstrates a creative mastery of the Wii Remote not seen in years. Hearing chickens cluck through the speaker and feeling the roar of a rocket’s engine through its little rumbling motor creates an immersion that no high-tech onscreen simulation could replicate. While one of my friends was being lead around the room blindfolded, another remarked through muffled laughter that these were the best graphics he’d ever seen in a video game. I couldn’t help but agree.