June 28, 2007

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Mario Party 8 (Wii)
Nintendo, 2007
By Glenn Given production@hippopress.com

Break out the shotglasses: everybody’s favorite mini-game showcase goes Wii.

For a company that relies so heavily on itsr franchises it’s a stroke of luck that Mario Party doesn’t falter as often as its extended family of in-house titles does (Star Fox Adventures anyone?). Nothing crazy has been attempted here and 8 plays much as 1-7 did. Up to four players (in teams or solo) board game it out to rack up coins and stars while competing head to head (to head to head) at the end of each turn in an ever-widening variety of 30-second mini-games. Old favorites like jump rope and kart racing show up, but the new morsels, the ones that really utilize the Wii-mote functionality, really work to mix it up.

The failing of the Mario Party series was often that domination of the mini-games was paramount. Skilled twitch gamers frequently “WTFpwned!” the very casual players that the Mario Party series was designed to reach out to. The result: that girl you’re trying to get into video gaming just got beaten in 15 different games and was then topped off by a confetti and spakles coronation screen proclaiming the Wario (you) is “teh awesome” and Peach (her) is “teh suxxors.” The Wii alleviates that a tad as different gamers will find that the various Wii-mote configurations level teh playing field among skill levels.

Still, the key to winning Mario Party is greed. By hook or crook get the most coins and you can power your way through the six boards faster than your foes. Your efforts may be stymied, though, by the power-up enabling candies that litter the board and help players steal or destroy each other’s wealth. Mario Party is best enjoyed by friends who can actually play fair and casually compete without the cutthroat attitudes that normally accompany multi-player gaming. Knowing your handicap (or knowing how many drinks will bring the average gamer in line with his/her analog compatriots) and honestly leveling the playing field turns a possible dissappointing slog into an hour and a half of rousing play. B+Glenn Given