The Mario Party series could arguably be viewed as a precursor for a lot of the more âcasualâ games that have flooded the videogame market in the years that followed. The original title was released on the Nintendo 64 in 1998, and has been popular ever since. The beauty of this sort of game is of course that they are very easy to understand, and literally even your Granny could play it with the kids on Christmas Day after a sherry or two.
The easiest way to describe Mario Party would be to say: itâs a board game that you play on a videogame console. You have turns, you roll the dice to work out where to move to, and you navigate your way around a course - just like all the physical board games you enjoyed as a child. There are lucky and unlucky spots to land on, and you can collect objects as you move around.
So with five years since the last release, whatâs new in Mario Party 9?
For the first time, all the competitors move around in a car together. So when you roll the dice to make your move, everyone else comes with you too. If you land on an âunluckyâ spot, the bad thing happens to you alone, as you're the captain during that turn. And conversely with âluckyâ spots, you get to collect the mini stars you find on the board while youâre at the wheel.
The object is to collect those mini stars, and the winner at the end is the person with the most.
You can find them as you move around the course, earn them playing mini games, or get a whole lot at the end of each âlandâ, when you battle the boss. Naturally, things will happen to take mini stars away from you, too, including running over mini-ztars, which lay around the board. These take away mini stars from your total, so are best avoided, really.
Whilst most of the game is luck based (i.e. you land on something, or happen to be in the right place at the right time) you can be strategic and use different dice you pick up along the way, to try and influence the journey in your favour. So if there are mini ztars lurking two spaces ahead of you, you can always choose to roll your 0-1 dice, which will ensure you donât come anywhere near those nasty little purple suckers.
Minigames have always been a highlight of the Mario Party series, for the simple reason that they are short and sweet, which keeps things fun, fresh, and interesting. Some of the games are seriously funny: highlights include having to throw yourself in front of a huge bullet, wall climbing, bowling at gumbas, leaping around through hoops on a dolphin, or even wood chopping. And the real beauty of having 80 minigames... if you hit one you donât like, donât worry, because thereâll be another completely different game next turn that you might enjoy more.
There is also a greater emphasis on playing minigames together in Mario Party 9. You can play a series of new 2 vs. 1 type minigames against Bowser Jr, or against a combination of real or computer players. In previous titles, minigames happened every four turns or so; this time around, they happen when players land on certain spaces on the board. And unlike previous Mario Party games, where often only the winner earned stars/coins, generally here all minigames are ranked from first to last place and typically all players will at least get one Mini Star for their total. (Even if their only contribution was getting mown down by the other players two seconds in.)
In terms of variety and replayability, there is a lot of bang for the buck in this title. There are 5 modes in all:
At the end of each game, all the mini-stars collected are converted into Party Points, which can be used to buy new stages, constellations, vehicles, difficulties, and sounds.
Whilst the graphics are never going to set the world on fire, Nintendo knows how to play in this space... they invented it. The characters are cartoony and cute, and the lands are brightly coloured and well textured, with lots of fun. If youâve ever enjoyed a classic Nintendo game, youâll like this. And as usual, lands and characters draw heavily on those characters, such as Mario, Yoshi, Peach, etc. (Although the character of Birdo does look alarmingly like a gift wrapped vacuum cleaner, wearing a diaper. Also Shy guy sounds like Paul Ego in the Pak N Save ads.)
So in conclusion, Mario Party 9 is another worthy release in a successful series. Theyâve stuck to a tried and true formula: beloved characters, fun, variety and a fast pace, which is easy to play for the whole family.
Recommended as a great party game, but probably not as a thrilling solo challenge. But then, itâs hardly a party if youâre on your own with three computer simulated characters, right?