"Mario Party 8" is one game that's much more fun if you have a lot of players.
By contributor
updated 6/22/2007 8:13:58 PM ET 2007-06-23T00:13:58

What does Nintendo have in common with New Year’s Eve? There’s a party every year — even if there’s nothing special to celebrate. That’s not saying Nintendo’s new “Mario Party 8” isn’t special, it’s just that it feels a little like we’ve crashed this party before.

But if you’ve never played a “Mario Party” game (which retails for $49.99), you’ll find it to be a lot of fun — especially if you’ve been looking for a way to update Family Games night. Much like a traditional board game, “Mario Party 8” is all about interaction between players, so the more folks you can get to join in, the more fun you’ll have. And this E-rated game for the Nintendo Wii is something the whole family can enjoy — especially if you have more than one controller.

To start, pick a character out of the stable of “Mario” characters available, including Mario (of course), Luigi, Yoshi, Princess Peach and others. Once you’ve made this choice, “roll the dice” by flicking the controller upwards, breaking a numbered cube above your character’s head. Then move forward the designated number of squares.

Your goal is to be the first one to make it around the board to the square that holds the star, which you’ll purchase with the coins you’ve picked up along the way. Land on it without enough coins and the game just continues on. Some boards offer multiple routes for you to choose from, while others will give you a more direct path.

But no matter what board you’re playing, “Mario Party 8”  is never linear. For instance, landing on one square can result in Donkey Kong shooting you out of his cannon, while landing on another results in a dolphin giving you a watery ride on his back. Sometimes the game simply moves the star to another square just to mix things up a bit.

Special candies, sprinkled throughout the game, play a major factor in how your character moves. Eating one kind of candy will let you roll the dice three times during one move, while eating a different kind allows you to steal coins from every character you pass.

Don’t worry too much losing coins because they’re handed out fairly liberally. Landing on most squares awards you a few coins and conversely, landing on a few squares costs you. But the best way to raise your coin count is through the many mini-games found in “Mario Party.”

For the most part, these fun and quick games make good use of the Wii’s motion-sensor controllers: To shake up a soda can you shake the controller; to balance on a tightrope you’ll need to balance it. Unfortunately, some of the mini-games don’t utilize the motion-sensor at all, and it’s disappointing to be shaking and waving the controller only to realize that you just needed to press a button. 

The coins you’re awarded after winning a mini-game usually comes directly out of the loser’s pocket. And nothing in this game is as frustrating as having your friend beat you in a mini-game, take a large chunk of coin off you, then winning the whole game by purchasing a star with ‘your” coins.

Almost as frustrating though, is the game’s slow pace. So much dialogue is written out onscreen, and no matter how quickly or often you press the A-button, the words don’t speed up.

“Mario Party 8” has some other drawbacks too; the big one being that the game isn’t playable online. That is a real shame, because this is one party that shouldn’t be limited to your living room. Another drawback has to do with the graphics, or more specifically, what’s around the graphics. There’s an argyle border on each side of the screen, effectively reducing into a square instead of the modern-style letterbox format. So much of the screen is wasted that it’s kind of like playing with one eye closed.

But even with its drawbacks and that “been here before” feel, “Mario Party 8” is still worth checking out. Hey, we may know that we’re going to wear funny hats and twirl our noisemakers every New Year’s Eve, but we still have fun.

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