Mario has thrown eight parties since the Nintendo 64 days. That’s more than me in my lifetime! While criticism has increased with every bash the plumber has thrown many have bought the game regardless mainly due to its fun multiplayer. But with the Wii’s motions controls, this version seemed to hold a lot of promise and breathe much needed life into the dying franchise. Does it do the trick though?
The premise of Mario Party is as always to select one of your favourite characters and move around an interactive board collecting coins which in turn can be used to buy more valuable stars with. The winner is the one who has the most stars at the end of the game – a simple idea and one that hasn’t really changed for eight games! While Hudson have tried to mix things up a little with new board styles it doesn’t feel like enough. You still have the usual looping board where stars will cost twenty coins and appear randomly on the map, but slightly different is a beach themed stage which is essentially a race from point A to point B or a haunted mansion where you must search room after room for a hidden star. They are nice alterations but essentially feel like tiny tweaks. Every player takes one roll of the dice moving around the board collecting items and grabbing coins with a mini game following after. That is the basic formula for the Mario Party series and while it works, is looking quite stale in desperate need of something fresh.
Items or “candies” can be used to mess with your opponents or give you an advantage. These range from getting an extra dice to roll or turning your character into a giant ball and running people down to steal their coins. My favourite is the “retro candy” that turns you into a 2D sprite giving you coins every space you move. It’s a neat system that’s been used before and still works okay. Something that never changes in any Mario Party game though are the animations and constant text needed to go through during turns. The game can get ridiculously slow paced and at times you’ll wish you could skip it all. Why hasn’t this been streamlined by now? It has literally gotten to the point (and I kid you not) where my friends have gotten bored of sitting around too often waiting for their go.
Perhaps the biggest part of any Mario Party are the mini games and without a good selection to choose from you’d be left with a very poor game. While this game has a large collection of around seventy to pick from, there are problems with a number of them. Firstly some games are either just too short or downright boring. One game for example has you shaking the remote up and down (easy with the dirty jokes) for five seconds as fast as you can and that’s it. Another may have you cutting a rope with scissors and praying you don’t get shot off a cliff. These are the games you find yourself hoping to avoid. Secondly, while a selection of the games use the Wii remote as a gamepad in normal fashion, a big number try and add motion to the equation. This wouldn’t be an issue if it weren’t for the unresponsive nature of the controls as not only does it provide a more inaccurate way to play a mini-game, but sometimes fail to respond to your movements at all. We’ve seen Wii games use motion controls for mini-games really well, so why it falters here is a mystery.
But enough of the bad and onto the good. While there are some bad mini games in there, you’ll also find some great ones too. For example my friends and I had a blast swinging the remote to see who could hit the most baseballs and also using the control as a pointer to shoot targets. These are great fun and its here where Mario Party 8 becomes a great party title. Rather than constantly playing battle royale style games you will also get the chance to team up with someone in 2 vs. 2 or play on your own against the other three. It makes a nice change and results in some funny banter between team mates who were battling it out only a minute ago. When you do come across a truly brilliant game, you’ll find they’re some of the best mini games in Mario Party to date. It’s just a shame the experience is also plagued with a number of unimaginative and boring ones too.
Single player is very boring. End of. Tackling a random computer character in each of the six boards, you need to gain that all important star or stars before they do. Unlike the multiplayer system though, this is no more than a normal board game with the odd mini game here and there. Without the reaction and funny utterances from your friends playing on your own is really uneventful. Multiplayer though can have its moments if you can get by the painfully slow pace at times.
Along with the normal party mode there is also an extra mode that offers a few more in depth games such as bowling and moped racing. These are mostly miss though. Moped and table tennis are okay at best and games like bowling (which should have just used the Wii Bowling system) feel like they were added at the last minute. You’ll also be able to unlock trophies the more you play the game but to be honest what’s the point?
Mario Party 8 looks bright, bold and colourful with detail kept to a minimum. It’s hard to see much difference between this and the previous Gamecube versions which may seem bad enough but to make matters worse you’ll find a total lack of widescreen support here too.
The music won’t amaze you, but its decent enough with the odd Mario remix here and there and the rest consisting of upbeat, cheerful tunes. Sounds are okay but Mario and his chums repeat their phrases too often. A nice touch though is your character will make a noise from your remote when it’s your turn.
You’d think that getting four people together to have a laugh with a bunch of wacky mini-games would be fun. Sadly however this party is bogged down with a number of control issues, pacing problems and a general lack of any real excitement. With no short supply of mini-game collections out there, you’re much better off giving one of those a shot. Turns out Mario’s eighth party is one that’s not really worth attending.