There are many ways we could have started this review - telling you about some of the parties we've been to, comparing Mario's latest mini-game outing to cheese and pineapple on a stick and so on. But then, that'd be a complete waste of words when, in truth, what we're actually thinking can be summed up in just 12 words: Mario Party 8 - it's not nearly as good as it should be.
Are we sad about those 12 words then? Considering we had high hopes that have now been dashed on the rocks of mediocrity, we'd have to say yes. But exactly what's bad about it? After all, the game ticks all the right boxes for what you should expect from a Mario Party title but then, that's probably half the problem right there.
Mario Party on the Wii was meant to be fresh and exciting, squeezing all the innovation of the console into a game that yelled "Look what the Wii can do!" from the rooftops. It was meant to... but it doesn't. In fact, it barely even looks up as it quietly shuffles past, doing almost exactly what it's done for the last nine years and that, dear friends, is a massive missed opportunity for Nintendo.
Of course, being a Mario Party game, we'd be fools to not have expected Mario Party 8 to have at least some things in common with its predecessors, specifically, the board game concept, a large number of mini-games and a huge array of familiar Mario characters.
We don't have a problem with any of these things because, as concepts go, they're pretty solid. What we do raise issue with, however, is how they're handled now that something as unique as the Wii is here and sadly, that's where things start to get real old, real fast.
Take, for example, the six game boards that Mario Party 8 offers. Only one of them, Koopa's Tycoon Town, made us think, "Wow, that's actually a pretty great idea." Instead of simply collecting Stars, players have to 'buy' hotels which then reward them with Stars. The catch? Other players passing the hotels can outbid you and effectively steal your Stars, which not only then increases how much it'll cost you to buy them back but also upgrades the hotel, increasing the number of Stars available. Pure genius, compared
to the other generic 'find Star space, pay coins, get Star' boards.
However, the lack of variety in the game boards is negligible compared to the biggest problem Mario Party 8 faces - the mini-games that make up the bulk of the gameplay. The issue isn't so much the number of games on offer, because there are certainly plenty to go round. What is concerning is how stale many of the games are. Sure, there's a smattering that make proper use of the Wii Remote, like using a lasso to rope barrels or shaking a can
as fast as you can to make it explode, but those are the exception to the rule... or,
at least, the exceptions that work.
Time To Go Home
Other attempts to utilise the controls, mainly in games that require the steering of vehicles or lightgun-style shooting, seem like a good idea but have such spongy and unresponsive controls, they wind up being annoying instead of fun. Sadly, even these are dwarfed by the number of games that make little to no use of the Wii Remote's capabilities, which make up the majority.
What's worse is that there are tons of other things wrong with the game that fill up the 'annoying niggle' category. Problems like the pace of the game being far too slow (particularly when the computer is involved) and the AI being rubbish are all things that have existed throughout the Mario Party series and yet still haven't been fixed... surely Hudson should have done something about them by now? It's like it hasn't listened to a single piece of criticism over the years. Perhaps the biggest disappointment of all though is the total lack of online play which, if we're honest, is unacceptable now the Wii is moving into online gaming. Fast-paced football in the form of Mario Strikers Charged Football gets it, but not a turn-based game with an emphasis on multiplayer action? We just don't get it...
But then, that's probably a good way of defining what's wrong with Mario Party
8. Hudson Soft has been given a massive opportunity to do something new with the series, but it clearly didn't 'get it' and decided to go with what it knew best instead. Why Nintendo allowed this to happen, we don't know, but when the end result is as uninspired as this... well, if it's mini-games we're after, we'll stick with those raving rabbids, thanks very much.