Product Type: Nintendo Nintendo 64 games
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#We're having a party!!#
Mario Party 2 (N64)
Member Name: Johndonut
Mario Party 2 (N64)
Date: 29/10/00, updated on 29/10/00 (54 review reads)
Advantages: Terrific fun when played with company
Disadvantages: 'Empty' single-player experience
I wish Mario was holding an actual party - I would love to see the portly plumber juking and jiving on the dance floor while sampling some of Luigi's bolognaise dip and playing pin the tail on the Yoshi! As it is, I guess we'll just have to make do with Mario Party 2, the follow-up to last years multiplayer classic. Many people were sceptical before the original was released, saying that the idea of a video game based on a board game simply couldn't be fun, and that Nintendo were exploiting the Mario name. Well, we know now that this was not the case (unless of course you don't like Mario Party), and so we can rejoice as Nintendo and developers Hudson have teamed up once again to bring us new boards, more mini-games, and ultimately more multiplayer fun.
If you own or have played the original, you'll feel right at home with Mario Party 2, because Nintendo hasn't strayed a great deal from the innovative formula that brought the title success. Choosing from 6 Nintendo mascots (Mario, Luigi, Wario, Peach, Yoshi and DK), you and up to 3 other human or computer controlled players battle it out to conquer one of five new boards. As you'd expect from a game of this nature, players take turns to roll (or rather head-butt) a dice in order to determine the number of spaces they advance on the board. A bit like monopoly, there are many twists and turns as you progress through a game, with many different spaces allocated for certain features.
The basic aim behind each game is to accumulate the most number of stars at the end of the game. These can be obtained in various ways along the board, mostly in exchange for collected coins. For a fee of 20 coins, you can purchase a star from Toad, who pops up in a random space each time somebody buys from him. You can imagine how his appearance will often decide the general movement of a game, as players guide their mascots like sheep in the direction of the little fungus. There are also hidde
n spaces which, when stepped on, will reveal coins and stars to add to your collection. My favourite method of gaining stars has to be via that devious ghoul, the Boo. Be prepared to pay an extortionate sum of coins for his services, but once he's on your side you can send him out to steal a star from your chosen rival. This alone can often lead to schoolboy provocation and inevitably petty revenge, because, whereas a computer controlled character does not possess any emotions, stab your friend in the back and you can be sure they'll be looking for payback for the rest of the game.
Around the board, there are a host of additions to ensure that the play remains exciting and competitive. There are battle spaces, which take coins from all the players as a stake and pit everyone against each other in a mini-game, where the winner takes the pot. Elsewhere you will come across 'banks' which, when you pass them, you must hand over precious coins from your collection, and the lucky so-and-so who lands on that particular space walks away with all the money. Some sections on the board must be unlocked with skeleton keys which are obtained by completing games on item spaces. You can also gain power-ups such as mushrooms which reward you with up to 3 successive rolls of the dice, or decide to enter a dual with another player of your choice, which occurs naturally when 2 players land on the same square. The collection of coins and subsequent careful use of them adds plenty of strategy to the gameplay, and the overall blend of Mario Party 2 feels more refined than the original.
Of course, as before, the main focus of Mario Party 2, and the fundamental way of obtaining coins, lies in the fantastic mini-games, and this is where the fun really begins. At the end of each round of turns, a mini-game takes place involving all 4 of the players, where the type of the game might be an all out 4-player battle (most often), or a 2-on-2, or even a 3-on-1, de
pending on the position of the players. This time there are a total of 64 mini-games ranging from a submarine 'em-up to 'Simon says', of which about 20 have been taken from the first game and spruced up, culminating in around 45 all-new, inventive and for the most part very entertaining button-tappers. Perhaps more importantly, there are fewer 'bad' mini-games, and the few that are present don't tend to crop up as frequently, making for a more enjoyable title. Probably for the general conservation of Nintendo controllers (which appear to be somewhat of an endangered species in stores today), the games in Mario Party which required players to vigorously rotate the analogue stick do not make a return in the sequel. The mini-games are still very much divine in their simplicity, requiring basic movements and button tapping, but this time there is a slightly greater emphasis on strategy and timing in the approach. As with all great board games, Mario Party 2 manages to combine an essence of skill and practice with the all-important spot of fortune, whether it be good or bad.
The five boards on offer are all suitably varied and contain impressive level design with numerous shortcuts, crossroads and teleports. The boards go by the name of Horror, Mystery, Pirate, Space and Western, and each contain features unique to the particular theme, such as a train which circles Western Land and can knock you over. The characters also get in the mood with specific clothing for each board.
Unfortunately, as in its prequel, the main drawback to Mario Party 2 is the single-player experience. Playing against 3 computer controlled opponents simply isn't the same as when shared with friends and, as with Super Smash Brothers, the 1-player exercise is mainly useful to unlock extras such as mini-games, which enhance the multiplayer fun. There are some new features on offer however for the Billy-no-mates among us. The 'Mini-Game Coaster' is
a simpler form of the main game which is activated once you've purchased enough mini-games. Here you progress through 9 different worlds by successfully completing a variety of games. Also available is the 'Mini-Game Land' which simply allows you to compete in a mini-game of your choice as long as it has been bought. Even with these extras, I would not recommend buying this title unless you have family or friends to take part on a regular basis, as the multiplayer is where Mario Party 2 is intended to be played. Also, be prepared to spend around 45 minutes to complete a game - something which might frustrate impatient players who are looking for a quick result.
Mario Party 2 is not about flashy graphics and sound but it gets the job done very well in both departments. The visuals have slightly improved since last time, sporting a slightly sharper and cleaner look. The graphics are mostly a case of colourful pre-rendered backdrops with simple player models. It's certainly nothing special, but the overall effect is very suitable. The sound is similarly appropriate with characters contributing various phrases or squeaks depending on what's happening in the game. The music is predictably melodious and happy, which helps to calm your nerves after a tense mini-game and never becomes annoying.
In conclusion, Mario Party 2 is not cut out to be a game that will go down in gaming history. With superb new boards, innovative new mini-games and a better sense of balance and polish, it simply expands on the prequel and doesn't offer anything revolutionary to classify it as a 'new game'. But hey, with the foundations of pure multiplayer fun laid down by the original, Mario Party 2 takes the laugh-a-minute party approach to new heights, providing an even greater social experience, but at the same time providing a generally more accomplished title. It's the perfect game to come back to with a couple of coke-guzzling, biscuit-mun
ching, gannet-like friends after a tough day at work or school (this title is targeted at a younger audience). However, if you're after an engaging 1-player game, or indeed if you are not a fan of the original, look elsewhere because Mario Party 2 is simply more of the same multiplayer antics. Those who own and enjoy Mario Party are strongly recommended to buy the sequel, or at least rent it to check if you think the additions are worth a purchase or part-exchange. For anyone who's unfamiliar with the first title, it really boils down to whether you have friends or family to share the party atmosphere with. Still unsure? That's where your local rental store comes in. Overall, Mario Party is an excellent title that I think should at least be sampled by anyone who appreciates a good laugh, especially if you've got people to laugh along with you.