Ain't No Party Like A Mario Party
Hudson and Nintendo have been putting out Mario Party games pretty consistently for the last ten or so years; it’s pretty likely you know if you enjoy the series or not. You jaunt around a bunch of different themed board-game areas, stepping on circles that will either negatively or positively impact you, and once everyone has taken their turn, you play a minigame. It’s all luck, of course, and many would validly argue that the game is far to reliant on this luck, the end result being a game that almost plays itself. If you’re into the unfettered fun mood Mario Party brings along with it, this is a good party game, made more interesting by its portability and the ability for four people to play off one game cart. With its extreme similarities to the rest of the series, though, it won’t be changing your mind about the original party game any time soon.
Like I mentioned, one of the first and best things I discovered about Mario Party DS is that only one person actually has to own it. The rest can simply select Download Play from their DS menu and join in fully. This mimics the console version’s sit down together and play mechanic, and for the most part it works beautifully, with very few connection errors getting in the way of the fun. Some load times do occur to keep everyone’s DS up to speed, but it’s not noticeable or lengthy enough to detract much from the game.
This instalment has a Story Mode in which Bowser invites all the famous Nintendo personalities to a shindig, to which they all attend (fools!). Of course, the Koopa King is up to no good, and he shrinks every down to a tiny size. The miniature characters then go through a bunch of different boards in which – of course – everything is huge. There’s not much point to playing the Story Mode other than earning sums of Mario Party Points, which grant you some very small and mostly pointless rewards.
The real action, of course, comes from the core multiplayer game, which puts any combination of four human or computer-controlled characters onto a board and tasks them with traversing it by rolling dice, then finding the star spaces on board and collecting them with coins they’ve earned from either luck on the board or from winning minigames between turns. The person with the most stars at the end of a bunch of turns wins; there’s a bit more to it than that, though.
Lots of things will turn your luck throughout a game of Mario Party. Maybe you’ll land on a Bowser space and lose all of your coins. Or maybe you’ll find a hidden block and get three stars, just like that. The luck factor is so high that the actual game can at times seem inconsequential; even if you win every single one, you may still wind up dead last by the end. Although some of the game’s extra modes let you do competitions based purely on the mini-games, the core game – which is by far the biggest part of the package – still feels unbalanced.
Still, by and large, this is a solid entry in the Mario Party series. You’ll be mashing buttons, swirling your stylus around on the touch screen, and even using your microphone to do things like blow out candles, flap wings to grab coins, slice cucumbers, and all sorts of frantic stuff. The pace at which the game moves is quick enough that you’ll stay entertained, at least for a couple dozen games go by and you’ve unlocked all the minigames and exhausted most of your play options.