Same Sky
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Review: Mario Party 8

The Mario Party franchise has been around for 8 years now, and every year during that period, without fail, a new Mario Party game has come out. From the N64 to the Gamecube and now to the Wii, this series continues to sell well with minimal upgrades. The first title was fresh and original, and a blast to play. The 2nd and 3rd titles were worthy additions and expanded upon the basic formula, adding depth while not being too convoluted. However, since then, the series has slowly been wilting into a dud of a fire flower.

Mario Party 8, unfortunately, continues this downward trend. However, the game doesn’t deserve to be completely drilled into the ground. It’s not great, but it’s not horrible. It’s extremely average.

 

I’m surprised these guys aren’t hungover from the last party…

 

The gameplay of Mario Party doesn’t even need an explanation at this point–4 players take turns rolling dice and moving across a board, making decisions as they reach branching paths, etc. Between each turn, a minigame is played, and the winner(s) earn coins with which to purchase items, open pathways, or buy coveted stars. At the end of a game, the person with the most stars wins. It’s simple, and that is part of why casual gamers can hop in and have fun.

This time around, as per usual, there is a new setting. A freako carnival master with a talking hat and a huge mouth has invited Mario and his friends to his carnival to find a new keeper of his Star Rod (how many of these are there, anyway?). That’s about the extent of the storyline here, so let’s move on.

 

As exciting as real gardening…

The boards–there are six–are each unique from one another. This is a good thing. The first board follows the old school Mario Party basics of buying a star for 20 coins, and the position of the star randomly jumps around. However, the second board is insanely long and straight, the star is at the end, and it’s free–you spend coins on items and dolphin ferries to get there as fast as you can. There are a few interesting ideas in the boards, but the key is that they all require distinctly different tactics in order to win. This is to the game’s credit. Despite this, the boards still feel bland and lacking of detail or life. There could’ve been much more original ideas here, but there aren’t.

The items have a new theme this time–candy. Appropriate for its carnival theme, the candies have varying effects. There are some candies that are only available in certain stages (namely star-stealing candies only found in the final board), and while they mostly provide the same effects as items from parties of old, some feel a bit more new. The variety is noticably less than previous entries, and while it’s fun seeing character physically transform, there could have been some more variety. The items can be very useful, but mastering their use isn’t key to winning–this is probably a good thing for casual players.

The character roster has been upped by two newcomers–Blooper and Hammer Bro, which must be unlocked by completing the one-player mode twice. The choice of characters is nice, but it is completely aesthetic, meaning it has no effect on gameplay whatsoever. It would have been nice to see some kind of distinctions between characters.

Sound and graphics? Meh. You’ll hardly notice the music because it’s so bland, and the sound effects of the characters can at times be grating to the ears. The graphics are comparatively ugly when looking at some Wii games, but they don’t burn your eyes out. Again, the word “bland” comes to mind.

The extra features boil down to some cheesy figurines, and 8 extra minigames you can play using your Miis. Unfortunately, they’re mostly throw-aways–like most of the minigames present. It would take a long time to unlock everything, but since this has no point, you can just unlock the things of note–like “Super Hard” difficulty.

 

The fun of this minigame is “accidentally” whacking your couchmate on the the head.

So, with all of that out of way, we get to what matters the most in Mario Party: the minigames. “It’s the Wii remote!” you say. “Motion-sensing tech, gameplay not possible on the Gamecube!” Well, potentially, yes. Too bad the developers didn’t take the time to master the Wii’s controls and craft some quality minigames. There is definitely a quantity over quality issue going on. There are a few minigames that are genuinely fun and interesting, but these are extremely rare. For the most part, the minigames are lackluster, unoriginal, bland, and don’t even make good use of the hardware.

The minigames have instruction that show animations (similar to Raving Rabbids) that teach you how to play. However, aside from the pointer elements, these are almost all waggle-based games with no real control. If that’s not the case, you flip the remote sideways to play shoddily made platforming or “brawling” games that feel like cheap movie license material. It’s lose-lose. They can be fun with other people, yes, but that doesn’t make them good. Watching bad movies can be fun with friends, too. The point is that the minigames, as a whole, are mediocre, lack creativity, and are lax in craftsmanship.

Add to this sad and obvious effort at milking its namesake, Mario Party 8 doesn’t even feature basic presentation that the first entries had. For example, you cannot turn off the minigame explanation screen–something that becomes a pain after you learn how to play the games. This, added to the multiple brief loading times and awkward pauses create an inconsistent pace that can be blaze by one moment and screech to a halt the next. Other simple features present in the original game are nowhere to be seen and actually contribute to making the board navigation somewhat broken. After you roll your die, you start moving, but once you reach an NPC to talk with or a pathway to travel, you’ve better remember how many spaces you had left, because it won’t show you until you start moving again. This means that when you check the map (both versions of which are ineffective, as one is hard to make out details and the other simply feels incredibly awkward to control) you won’t know where you will land unless you memorized your die number–the game doesn’t display the spaces remaining. This small detail is gone, and damages the board trudging element of the game.

You know you want to waggle your Wiimote repetitively…

Speaking of trudging, the one player mode is atrocious. Composed of 6 “matches” against 1 player, this mode strips Mario Party 8 of what little good it has going for it–somewhat fun minigames and multiplayer–and throws them out. We’re talking 1-2 hours of almost straight board navigating. Minigames only happen when a player lands on a duel space, which leads to a duel minigame. The duel minigames way back in Mario Party 2 were more fun, challenging, and rewarding; this title, however, doesn’t come close. This mode is torture, not fun. The only reason to play this is to unlock Blooper or Hammer Bro. Which is sad, really. They should be unlockable by other means, or even available right at the outset–it’s not like they play any different than other characters.

All of this griping aside, Mario Party 8’s minigames require minimal instruction, mostly work well, and can be fun when played with other people. However, multiplayer is the only way to go with this game to have any kind of a good time. Even so, Mario Party vets will opt to go back to the beginning instead. Believe me, it’d be more fun to dust off the trusty 64 and play the older Mario Parties than to pay this one, especially if you intend to spend $50 on it.

I’m sure the title will sell a million copies regardless of its quality, and that is precisely why this title didn’t reach its potential–because people keep buying Mario Party games when the developers slack off.

Awards:

Fun Multiplayer

 

Score: 2.5/5

Final Word:

 

You can’t hide it, Mario: you’re not the party animal you once were.

Don’t buy this game–hold out for something better, play the older party games. Nintendo needs to overhaul this franchise next year and set it on a new track. The potential is there–but it’s far from being reached. And that’s all Mario Party 8 really is: missed potential. In the meantime, all we’re getting is a slopped together and stripped down fest of mediocre minigames. Dont RSVP for this one–call Mario and tell him you’re sick. I’m sure he’ll understand.

“Welcome to the Star Carnival!”

You and your candies can’t tempt me.

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3 Responses to “Review: Mario Party 8”

  1. I think Mario Party 7 is my fav. I don’t have a wii though, which really stinks because I love the mario party games! I even have one for nintendo 64!

  2. i love mario party 8 i have all the versions for it!

  3. mario party 8 is a really good game even though i beat it within 3 days of buying it… i don’t understand why everyone thinks it’s so bad =S


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