Mario Party DS
Developer Nintendo Publisher Nintendo Genre Party Platform Nintendo DS Release Out Now
Mario Party has been one of those titles which... You either love or loathe. For me, I definitely loathe the series and hate more or less every aspect of the silly thing. However, being told I was missing out by a bunch of friends, we sat down together, sang happy songs about world peace and flowers, then whipped out our hippie DS' which run on sunflower oil and played some portable Mario Party action.
Pencil pushing got a new definition
This isn't the first time Nintendo has made a portable Mario Party game. Mario Party on the Gameboy Advance was a terrible, terrible game. It was far too confusing, the mini-games were hard to control and if you understood how to play half of them you were lucky. The board you went around seemed like some sort of Monopoly board that was suddenly hit very hard with a hammer and the rule book shredded and replaced by a demonic scripture. Thankfully, two recent Mario Party games I've played recently, Mario Party 8 on the Wii and this here Mario Party DS seem a bit more earth-bound, with easier to understand minigames, controls and some sense of flow to turns.
If you've never played Mario Party before, here's the basic rules. You choose a character to be, 3 other friends or 3 CPU controlled evil beings choose characters, you then pick a map. Different maps have different gimmicks and different layouts with different rules. You get a quick over-view of the map you're about to play and then play a lovely board-game. The idea of the game is to acquire stars. The more stars you get, the better your chances of winning are. When the game starts, you hit a 'dice block' (imagine a Mario Bros "?" block but with randomly changing numbers on it) to see who goes in what order. Person with the highest number goes first, person with the lowest number goes last. Easy. You're then given X amount of coins or sometimes stars and told to go forth, complete tasks on the board to acquire more stars. To move around the board, that same 'dice block' comes back and you hit that to get a number, that number is how many spaces you move around the board. At the end of all 4 players turns, you get a mini-game.
Reminds me, how much is a pint in the Mushroom Kingdom?
On the board you have special spaces. Blue spaces means you get +3 coins, red spaces mean you get 3 coins taken away from you. Landing on Bowser spaces means impending doom for your coins or stars. However, if you have none, Bowser seems lenient and gives you coins. Star spaces are where you get stars, however it's not as simple as "land on this space, get star", if you pass by the star space you can acquire the star, however may have to have a certain amount of coins to be able to get it. You can pick up tokens which lay traps for other players on the board while circling the board.
Minigames can consist of anything. In the DS version they mainly revolve around using the DS' main features of the touch screen and microphone, there are also games which use the DS' d-pad and buttons. There are different categories of Minigames as well. Randomly, players are separated for 3 vs 1 minigames, put into teams for 2 v 2 mini games, all 4 players play against each other in 4 way battles and on the rare occasion there's Battle minigames which you play for coins from the other players.
Coming Soon: Mario's psychotic murder rampage
You can probably guess how the rest of the game goes. Unlike other Mario Party games, Mario Party DS has one CPU setting... Silly-Stupid-Bloody-Easy is what I like to call it. The CPU controlled players manage to get the maximum dice-block number more often than you ever will, which is 10, they don't put up much of a fight in minigames and they always pick the 1st player when battle minigames come around. Luckily I had not experienced this terrible CPU mechanic when I first started playing and had some friends to play it with. Socially, it was a good game. A few niggling issues with it which we all screamed at our DS' for and the game just seemed to drag on forever. We were all pretty confused what to do in minigames and people who did find out how to do the minigames were too busy gloating and winning to tell us what to do.
Visuals and music were as good as I would expect a 1st party title to be and the game ran smoothly, no slow down experienced at all. Even when we decided to split-up, head in different directions to see how the game would play on 1-bar WiFi reception.
However, this doesn't excuse this game's utter annoying rules. When you think you're near a star, someone will land on a green "?" space to do something to the star, to all players or just you to somehow make getting that star much more difficult. Could be taking away all your stars, moving the star space, moving the player from his/her space. Anything. This alone makes the game unbearable sometimes. The game drags on too long sometimes and looses it's 'fun' after 10 minutes. Everyone gets fed up of each other getting better luck than each other and you always have one player who is extremely lucky and nabs all the stars before you even have a chance.
So, overall this game is disjointed, has terrible rules, confusing minigames and an uncanny bias towards the CPU. However, it a good social experience, can waste a lot of time very quickly and most of all CAN be fun... For under 10 minutes. The score this game received is representational to how much fun I had compared to how much screaming I did at the DS. It's not for those with short attention spans nor for anyone who likes fast-paced, strategical board games. Get or not to get? I'll leave this one up to you, it's not a bad game, but it's not a good game either. Stuck somewhere in the middle.