So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Nintendo Australia Mario Party 8
- Multiplayer gaming at its finest, Wii remote used in a variety of fun ways.
- Graphics are nothing special, some mini-games are a bit 'iffy'.
If you're a social gamer, you owe it to yourself to buy this. Still the best party game on the block.
Price$ 99.95 (AUD)
We all knew when the Wii launched that it would be a strong first-party system. The third-party stuff, while interesting, hasn't exactly set the world on fire and Wii owners have been waiting patiently--or not so patiently--for Nintendo to throw open their front doors, Willy Wonka-style, and introduce us to the next magical first-party game.
While it won't arrive with the fanboy hype of Metroid Prime 3 or Super Mario Galaxy, there's no denying that Mario Party 8 is more than capable of filling this void, and in some ways, it will probably be a bigger success for Nintendo than those other two hotly anticipated titles.
The More The Merrier
That's because the game fits perfectly in with the Wii's image as a party-friendly console. As with all parties, the more people you get involved, the better Mario Party 8 becomes, and if you can find three friends who are willing and able to buy into the games simplistic and charming gameplay, you're almost guaranteed to have a good time. Take a look at Nintendo's current marketing plan and you'll see that this is exactly the image they want to promote, that of the Wii as a system that people will gather around to enjoy together.
Played alone, against the computer, the game is barely worth popping out of its case. But, having even one other human opponent ups the fun exponentially--you just can't get the same satisfaction out of trash talking against a faceless computerized enemy.
There's also a definite sense of refinement to the franchise formula here, a given considering that this is the eighth installment in the series. In case you've never played a Mario Party game before, the basics are pretty easy to grasp. In the main game mode, you and three other contestants run around a board collecting coins, competing in various mini-games and collecting Stars, which ultimately decides the game's outcome.
The biggest change from previous versions, obviously, lies in the use of the Wii Remote, and depending on the game, you'll either use it as a pointer to shoot onscreen objects, turn it sideways and use it as a simple joypad, or move it around to take advantage of the motion sensing capabilities. The mini-games themselves are varied and have different objectives--collect the most coins, survive until the timer runs out--but it's nothing that we haven't seen before, which isn't a bad thing at all.
We wish, though, that Nintendo had addressed certain issues to keep the game flowing better. For one, the games can move along at a snail's pace sometimes, and there is a lot of down-time between turns. We would have loved to have been able to mess with another player while they were planning their next move. The ability to distract them while they were trying to hit their dice block (which dictates the number of spaces you move per turn) or the ability to somehow impede their progress would have gone a long way towards making the game more enjoyable. It would also have instilled a greater sense of competition into the mix. There are power-ups, in the form of candy, that can rob your opponents of coins or send them flying back to the start of the level but we kept wishing for a more immediate way to jerk our opponents around.
Also, we were less than enthralled with the way the outcomes were decided. You can get ahead by strategically maneuvering through the levels but more often than not, the outcome was decided by pure and simple luck; either that or some last minute quirk would swing the outcome in one player's favor. The game definitely doesn't do enough to reward hard work and planning, which has been a nagging issue throughout the franchise's history. There's nothing wrong with last minute changes to the leaderboards, as it makes for compelling gameplay, and having the ability to pull off a come from behind victory is nice but to lose a lead in the waning moments due to some outrageous twist of fate really sucks.
Longevity is yet another issue: after you've played the game a few times, it starts to take on a "same old, same old" feel. The only incentive to keep playing once the initial magic has worn off--it will take a while, but it will eventually happen--is to unlock all the mini-games: after you've done that, there's really no reason to play except to revisit your favorites. Of course, half the fun of a game like Mario Party 8 lies in introducing new friends to the game and the joy that they experience can be infectious, so if you're ever feeling jaded with the title, just invite a non-gamer friend over for an afternoon.
Party On, Garth
The bottom line on Mario Party 8 goes like this: it's not a perfect game but it is a perfect Wii game, and it's definitely what Nintendo needed at this stage of the console's life cycle: a title that encapsulates the Wii's friendly, energetic vibe while leveraging the powerhouse Mario brand.
The fact that it'll probably cause yet another drought of extra Wii Remote units and get people salivating for other "party" fare like Mario Strikers Charged is just another feather in the company's already colorful cap. Hardcore gamers who spend their time running around online in Gears of War probably won't be impressed, but Wii owners, especially the younger set, should get their hands on this one.
And memo to Nintendo: for Mario Party 9, put in online play or the party's over. Seriously.
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