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Mario Party 8

Iíll come right out and admit this; Mario Party 8 is the first Mario Party Iíve played since the end of my college days when Mario Party was just released. I do remember some good times with that title back in the day of unlimited booze and time; and with the change of the century and its third console itís an interesting experiment to see if the fun still exists in this title. Rather than the typical review of feature listings and other bullet points from the news release Iíll try to do something a little different and glance over the technical details and focus more on the reason Nintendo keeps dipping back into the well, the fun factor.

Yes there is a single player option in MP8 aside from playing a standard game against a variable number of CPU controlled opponents, but the only way to unlock all the game boards is to dive headfirst into the Star Battle Arena where a creepy man with a magical talking hat coerces you into battle with another opponent on various game boards until you face the big guy himself, Bowser.

Mario Party is definitely not a single player game. Itís boring, tedious and simple a strange game to play by oneís self. I mean have you ever tried playing a game of Monopoly or Risk on your own? Iíd imagine itís far beyond boring, and sadly thatís what the single player mode turned out to be in MP8. Yes, aside from the Star Battle mode I could play in a plethora of mini games that tested my skill against either myself or various computer opponents, but whereís the fun in that? When MP8 really kicked up into a blast to play was when a couple extra Wii-motes were attached to the unit and I sat down with some friends to play the game.

Once you get together with a group of friends and manage to put Wii Sports down, MP8 is a great way to spend some time catching up with each other, telling jokes, or even bonding with one another. As each game board is different, there shouldnít be a game that is identical; part of this random gameplay comes in the form of the forces minigames between each round of player movement. The game will choose a type of game to play, be it battle mode, 2 vs 2, or 3 vs 1 then from that narrowed down pool of game choose a minigame to play. Each and every mini-game I played involved use of the Wii controller in a unique manner Ė which makes the training option before each challenge a lifesaver. You get the option to view controls and test out each minigame before they actually mean something. Some games will have you shaking a can of pop until it bursts, others playing a sorting game where you tilt the controller to angle a board onscreen to ensure the right colored orbs end up in the correct slot.

None of the games particularly stood out to me as wow worthy, but each was a quick 10-30 second distraction from the dice rolling and coin collecting that takes place during each game. From what I can gather, the games are simply takes on the minigames from previous iterations, adapted to use the motion controls of the Wii. Even the graphics and audio donít stray too far from my recollections on the old N64 version, sure things are a little less blocky and more detailed Ė but keeping in line with entertainment value being more important that graphical shine, this game looks just fine. No real voice work exists, keeping par with other Nintendo releases. Each character has a couple phrases, words or in the case of non-speaking parts various grunts and squawks.

The big question still looms over the title however. Is this worth yet another version of Mario Party laying around the house. The short answer to this is Ė sure, assuming you know what youíre getting into. Itís not a game youíll throw in every night, that is unless you live in a house that includes multiple gamers who are always ready to throw down some controller shaking, or in a house with some younger gamers who can benefit from the very family friendly game that is Mario Party. For a gamer such as myself who tends to play either alone or online with people I know and who rarely has people over to the house with the intent of gaming, Mario Party 8 is something that would be best suited as a rental. But as the first of what seems to be many Mario Party games if history proves consistent, MP8 is an entertaining entry into the Wiiís already stacked lineup of minigame collections. The board game aspect of the title helps differentiate itself from other compilations; as well the cast of familiar characters is sure to allow new Wii gamers whoíve not been involved in the gaming world for a long time connect with people who are very involved. Recommended.