After a hard day’s work that includes saving the princess, go-karting with the Koopas and engaging in multiple sporting events, the moustached plumber we all know (and love) as Mario heads home to rejuvenate his burnt-out spirits... for about a minute or so... for now it’s time to par-tay!
Mario Party 8 is the eighth instalment of a long-running series of fusion boardgame-minigame multiplayer fiestas. Along with his usual cast of Nintendo odd fellows, Mario makes his way through a selection of themed boards, racking up coins and participating in a variety of short, Wii-based minigames. The ultimate aim is to acquire the coveted shining stars that will determine who ends up being crowned the winning ‘Superstar’, netting a whopping year’s worth of candy in the process.
There are six different boards to play on, each one with their own quirks to accompany their unique visual presentations. Donkey Kong’s Treetop Temple houses swinging vines and the big monkey’s signature barrel cannons to warp you about the place. King Boo’s Haunted Hideaway features mysterious rooms that contain a myriad number of surprises from unexpected pitfalls to abrupt encounters with some ghostly pests. And Tycoon Town offers a twist to star collecting by implementing a simplified Monopoly mechanic whereby shelling out collected coins to purchase property is the key to success.
Things can get pretty complex at times. There is no end-goal, but rather the individual or team that fulfils the quota of stars first is declared the victor. To obtain these sparkling celestial bodies, one must negotiate their way around a board that is littered with plenty of opportunities to receive coins, lose coins, steal coins, and spend coins on candies that impart special abilities unto a heavy-pocketed fellow. Board modifiers follow the theme of each stage, so you’ll find ravenous piranha plants ready to chomp on your wealth in the depths of Boo’s mansion, or dolphin shuttles on Goomba’s Booty Boardwalk that you can hitch a ride on to distance yourself from rival competitors.
If you’re any sort of Nintendo fan, this all sounds like a very exciting prospect, and with Wii-mote specific minigames to flesh out the experience, Mario Party 8 sounds like it’s made of 100% win. Unfortunately, this party is not all it’s cracked up to be.
If you like your boardgames to be fast and furious, never letting up, you’re sure to be disappointed at how slow this one paces itself. When you finally get to participating in the (randomly selected) bunch of minigames, there just isn’t enough play-time to satisfy even a baby Yoshi’s appetite. As expected, the composition has its high notes and low notes, but they tend towards the latter; if you’re familiar with rival Wario’s wares, you’ll realise that Mario’s evil brethren trumps him in the quick-play stakes. Seeing who can punch and smash up a statue of Bowser first, or who can spray paint the most Goombas before time runs out are activities that are just as enjoyable as they are ridiculous, but time does run out a tad too fast; as soon as you’re starting to go crazy with the momentum, it’s all over.
So, it’s great for the kiddies then? Kind of, but as I mentioned previously, the whole process of Mario Party runs at a crawl and thus a degree of patience is required to bring out the best that this less-than-stellar package has to offer. Yes, you can instantly access all the minigames you’ve already played, but first you’ll have to unlock them and this is rather tedious since not only do you have to get the minigame wheels in motion, but there is the randomness of the selection process afterwards that you’ll have to deal with as well. Despite the undeniable charm that Mario and company bring to the house, you’ll leave this party somewhat sober.