"Back in my day, we had 2 hidden stages, and DK was playable!"
I can't BELIEVE there are actually 8 games in this series now. It's another mark of just how old I am I guess. I can remember picking up the original Mario Party back in 1999, and getting countless blisters on my hands from Tug O' War, and still losing the game. My N64 controllers now have feeble Control Sticks thanks to that. Then came the second one and the pretty costumes. Then the third one with that talking dice guy who replaced Toad. Then all the Gamecube sequels, the e-Reader game (Which is very awesome, if I do say so myself.), and a GBA spin-off. It's been a long time since I picked up a new Mario Party game, and the only real reason I picked up was because I needed a new party game since Monkey Ball was a complete failure in my eyes. My pick, was the 8th title in the Mario Party series.
After the title and data screens, the very first thing you see is this worm-like guy wearing a top hat flying at you. Dawning again on my N64 memoriam, I shouted "Chuck Quizmo!” the game show host from the original Paper Mario. I was saddened to see it was not the Paper-thin gameshow host, but a new character called MC Ballyhoo, introducing me to the Star Carnival. Oh, joy of joys! A carnival! Where else could I get my party game on?! The overworld concept is a bit kiddy, especially after the original pairs semi-good stories (MP2 theatre opening and ending was rather bloody funny to an actor as myself.), but then again, its Mario can't really bother with that.
The other thing I noticed the second I left the Wii Channel interface was these two black bars on the sides of my widescreen TV. Eh, Wot? No 16:7? In a game that is released in 2007? Its one thing the graphics are nothing above Gamecube faire, but this is just absurd, with no widescreen display. These days, things like that should be second-nature to throw in. It's like a 360 game that forgot the Achievements.
The first area of the Star Carnival to explore is the Party Tent. This is the mode for a standard ol' game of Mario Party in 3 different variations; a simple every-man-for-themselves, a 2-on-2 match, or a 1-on-1 variation, which bored me to tears. The duel mode was unfortunally the focus of the one player Star Battle Arena mode, in which one player goes through the "Story" the game has to offer. Mini-Game Mode allows you to play any unlocked Mini-Games at will. Extra Zone houses 8 bonus games that are slightly bigger than the standard mini-games, and the Fun Bazaar was the place to unlock goodies.
Let's start at the worst point of the game. The single-player Star Battle Arena pits you against 6 eager foes to win a year's supply of CANDY, as well as the title of Superstar. Bowser comes and crashes the party, and blah, blah, blah. This is the lowest point of the game, as all it is, are you against a sole computer player tiring to complete the map's objective first. I'll lie this out here and now. Outside of MP3's Duel mode, where the maps are made for 2 players, Mario Party is a 4 player game. No more, no less. Since Mini-Games come at a once-in-a-blue-moon pace in this mode, the single player is a chore, and should only be played through twice to unlock the two secret characters, Hammer Bro, and Blooper, as will as the unlockable map, Bowser's Warped Orbit.
The gameplay is standard Mario Party board game action, only with some new Wii-mote controls. Instead of hitting A to hit a Dice Block, all you need to do is flick the controller up. Roulettes are done through a dart throwing motion, after the game reminds you to wear your wrist strap. Thanks, Nintendo!
Each of the 6 boards has different goals to meet in order to obtain stars. Whoever has the most stars wins the game, but the way to do it is different on each map. DK's Treetop Temple is the classic variation. Find the Star Space, and trade 20 coins for the star. Then things get hairy. Goomba's Booty Boardwalk is a strait path, where at the end is Cap't Goomba handing out free stars. This map seems to be more about rolling 10's than anything, or paying the Dolphins to move you 20 spaces. Boo's Haunted Hideaway is much cooler, as the stage is a maze that doesn't allow you to look ahead until you enter another room. Some paths lead to dead-ends, while one leads to King Boo, who will sell Stars at 10 coins a pop. Afterwards, King Boo shuffles the rooms, and the hunt begins anew. Shy Guy plays host on a Train with cars that switch positions. Finally, Koop sends you on a real estate quest to invest money in Hotels to gain the stars they hold. However invests the most money in the hotel gains the hotels star. The maps are all different and colorful, and most of them are interestingly laid out, with a ton of personalities to inhabit them.
Across the maps are spaces and shops that award and sell you candies, which take the place of Capsules from previous games. Candy allows you to roll extra dice blocks, steal or destroy coins, or challenge an opponent to a 1-on-1 standoff in a minigame. Although they add to strtagy, there are simply not enough candies, which earlier games have boasted many more items to play with. Also on the maps are DK and Bowser spaces that trade on and off as players land on them. Where DK helps you to earn stars, Bowser is out to steal from you, and hurt you as much as he can.
I'd prefer DK be playable again.
Where MP8 shines though, are the Mini-Games. 64 assorted Mini-Games and one showdown with Bowser are placed within the game in 4-player (Free for all), 1-on-3, 2-on-2, 1-on-1, Battle, and Challenge (1 player) variations. Many of the games use the Wii-mote's functions as a Laser Pointer in some games, or other items, depending on the challenge. A major benefit though, is that not every game uses motion controls. This is very important as it makes the game feel less redundant making the same motions over and over again, which many Wii games tend to do to you, while at the same time, offering more content. Mini-Games happen at the end of turns, when a player lands on a challenge space, or if a player passes another player who has eaten a Duelo Candy. Most of them are frantic and once again showcases the Wii as a party machine. Except for Wii Sports, and Perhaps Warioware: Smooth Moves, MP8 has a multiplayer factor that can't be beat. Just don't go it alone.
The Extra Zone holds 8 minigames (4 needs to be unlocked) for extending the party, including a Wii Sports-estque bowling game, a Moped race on 3 tracks, and a puzzle game. These are fun, but nothing extraordinary. They do use Mii's, placing the heads in a pair of Mario's Overalls (On a side note, that should be something the Mii Channel itself should be supporting. Clothes!). The Fun Bazaar is where you go to unlock new features and extras with Carnival Cards that you earn playing Party Mode and completing Star Battle Arena. Items like Character Voices, A Very Hard difficulty, Music, and Mini-Games you haven't unlocked yet are for sale, as well as many figures to display in the figure parade, which all adds a bit of replay value to the game.
So, for you blokes who love to skip paragraphs, here's the good and the bad in friendly bullet form.
+It's the best Multiplayer game on the Wii, after Wii Sports.
+Wii controls are sharp and responsive. The game never feels broken.
+The Maps are varied and colorful, and catch the Mario Party spirit.
+Many Unlockables add to replay value.
+Ballyhoo's commentary can give a small chuckle at times.
+No mention of Petey Piranha in sight.
-Lack of 16:7 mode.
-The single player is horribly boring, and Duel mode is a terrible idea.
-The music at times can be horrid. Bowser's theme sounds like a garbled mess of poor midi music.
-There should be more Candies.
-The character roster could use some retooling. How's about Diddy Kong, or Bowser Jr., instead of some stupid drones.
-Bowser's Warped Orbit isn't the final stage you'd really wish for.
-That's not Chuck Quizmo.
The original N64 trilogy will always stand to me as the best titles in the series. MP8 though, is leaps and bounds ahead of its Gamecube brethrens and still upholds the reason this series has been around almost every year since 1999. It's party fun, and gets quite insane at points. If you have no friends though, do yourself a favor and buy Metroid instead.
Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 09/04/07
Game Release: Mario Party 8 (US, 05/29/07)