The Mario Party series of games has been brilliant. The earliest one I can remember playing (and still have) is Mario Party 4 for the Game Cube. It was the perfect game for a night in with friends as it involved one big board and several mini-games, for up to four players to compete in. Each player moved their character around the board seperately (offering different paths) collecting coins, which could then be exchanged for stars - the person with the most stars at the end won. You could lay traps on the board for other players, so strategy was all important, as well as some skill to win the minigames (although a few just involved 'luck' rather than skill, which balanced it out for the non 'plugged-in' folk - so even my mum could play these!). All this, in a fun, cartoony kind of way, that meant losing was still fun.
We were very excited about Mario Party 9, given that MP 8 was rushed out for the Wii release and barely finished (you could tell), so was somewhat disappointing. Unfortuantely this latest game in the series has now taken ALL the fun out of it. All (up to four) characters now control the same board peice, taking it in turns to roll the dice and move (the same vehicle) - which means there is no strategy or thinking involved - just pure luck as to where you land. Dull, dull, dull.
The mini-games are also not really up to scratch. 90% of them also seem to be based on pure 'luck' which of course the CPU controls - so you will find that it 'equalises' the game (by giving whoever is in last place all the luck, whilst ruining the leader's game). A friend and I had a two player game that lasted for forty five minutes, and not one thing was in our control. It was all based on pure luck. I don't mind losing to someone who is clearly better than me, but when it all boils down to pure 'luck', I find it hard to take.
The single player game is OK, but there is nothing really to unlock, apart from a couple of additional characters, and some extra vehicles. Once finished you get a feeling of 'well that was a couple of hours of my life I'll never get back' rather than be keen to play a different board/level.
I feel sad - this game has ruined a decent series - a bit like the Wii game Super Paper Mario, they have taken the best elements of a game and removed them for a 'sequel'. Why do that when those very elements are the main reason it has been successful in the past?
I have a confession. As much as I'm a huge fan of classic videogaming (check out my other reviews and you'll see what I mean), I can't help but fall in love with this franchise. It gives immense amounts of pure unadulterated fun for people of all ages. No tricky controller combinations to master. No hiding around a corner waiting for DAYS with a sniper rifle to take out your enemy. Just instant fun fun fun!
With 11 delightfully entertaining and memorable characters to choose from, 7 stages to discover (Toad Road, Bob-omb Factory, Blooper Beach, Boo's Horror Castle, Magma Mine, Bowser Station, DK's Jungle Runis), and a truck load of minigames - there's something for everyone here whether you're 8 or 80 years old.
The concept of the game itself is simple. Each stage represents a game board, much like a classic board game, and each player takes it in turn to hit the dice block to determine where they will go next. You and up to 3 additional players can play together (in party mode) maximising the fun element. Your goal is to collect as many mini stars as you can on your adventure, and extra ones are always ready for the picking in the fantastic mini games that crop up during your game. Junctions in the road ensure that your game can be different every time you play. Get to the end of the stage and do battle with one of the numerous end-level bosses to progress to the next stage. Get to the end and each player will see their mini star tally, with the winner being announced as the 'superstar'.
My favourite part of the game is the free play mode. I'm able to play any of the mini games directly without having to go head first into the full party mode, which is great for a quick fun fix, or some extra practice ahead of the main event. It would be hard to pick out a particular favourite as they are all quirky and fun in their own right.