We know. We understand if you're a bit sceptical. After all, we spent ages eagerly anticipating Mario Party 8 on the Wii and it turned out be a dull, uninventive game that we're convinced was originally meant to be a dodgy GameCube title but had Wii controls tacked on to make it seem fresh. They didn't fool us though. In issue 19 we gave the game a fairly unimpressive 69%.
Well, we don't know if it was the constant badgering by annoyed gamers like us or just the series' move to the DS that did it but it would appear that developer Hudson Soft has finally improved things. As a result, Mario Party DS is actually fun to play instead of the knuckle-gnawingly frustrating console experience it's been in recent years.
It's just much more player-friendly. It's as if Hudson has finally realised that no, we don't want to watch CPU-controller players umming and aahing over which direction to go, or buying items from a shop, or having duels with other CPU players. Now when they reach a crossroads, the direction has already been chosen, when they enter a shop they come right out again and you're told what they bought, and (most thankfully) when they get into a one-on-one duel mini-game with another computer-controlled player you're simply told who won instead of having to go through the rigmarole of watching a mini-game you've got no control over. It's Mario Party played at a brisker pace and the flow of the game benefits from it. No longer do you sit there stabbing at the A button thinking "come on, come on".
A Quiet Riot
The majority of the 60-plus all-new mini-games are also much more enjoyable than the offerings in the recent Wii version, since they were clearly designed with the DS's unique abilities in mind.
Since the game's Story Mode begins with Bowser shrinking the eight playable characters down to the size of ants, every mini-game stays with that theme, allowing for more imaginative set-ups. So whether you're sliding down a washing line on a coat hanger, dodging huge footballs being kicked at you by a Goomba or punching away at the top of a mechanical pencil to try and make your lead longer than anyone else's, each mini-game is pleasantly surreal because of the fact you're playing them from the perspective of tiny characters.
Of course, Mario Party's main selling point has always been its multiplayer support and the DS instalment could have fallen flat on its face had Nintendo decided to make multi-card play compulsory (in other words, had you needed to have four cartridges to have a four-player game). Thankfully, the whole multiplayer mode is single-cart only, meaning should four people wish to get involved in some Mario Party shenanigans they won't need to spend £120 on four cartridges.
If you bought Mario Party 8 and were disappointed by it (hey, we told you so after all), don't turn a blind eye to Mario Party DS because you expect it to be more of the same. The DS version is a great laugh, with some fun boards, excellent wireless multiplayer and some genuinely enjoyable mini-games. Mario Party 8 was the party equivalent of two people sitting at a table playing Risk; this is more like a barmy student bash with people lighting fireworks on the roof.