Mario Party (Nintendo 64) review
"Between the mini games, you must traverse a variety of locations that feel as if they were filched from Monopoly. Ovate spaces (primarily red and blue) litter environments that range from lush jungles to sultry islands and even a birthday cake and castle in the sky. Prior to any round of Mario Party, you get to choose your favorite and run with it. The boards aren’t just decorative, either."
Hello. My name is Jason, and I’m a Mario Party addict. Call me a poopy face, dismiss me as a veritable baboon’s posterior if you will, but the universe was tilting in the balance and I knew the only thing that could save it (aside from a Michael Moore documentary) was my willingness to weather such locutions and make my astonishing admission.
It occurs to me that it would behoove me to provide the basis for this staggering revelation, and so I present the following in an effort to stave off any further emasculation. It was the Spring of my freshman year in college, and the pine trees outside my dorm room quivered in a tranquil breeze. While I should have been clamoring to be the first outside to partake in Mother Nature’s finest, I was instead nestled in the Lilliputian space I called my home. For company, there were my future wife and another girl whose acquaintance I’d made over the course of two college terms. We were playing Mario Party.
The part you were to notice is that my companions in this venture were both females, and now the anecdote has exhausted its usefulness and should be forgotten (save for the moment later in this review when I reference it again for the sake of deferred continuity). It’s now high time I actually examined the source of my unpropitious condition itself, Mario Party.
Perhaps you’ve become cognizant of its existence and addictive nature previously. For those who are virgins to the whole enterprise, the pith of the matter is this: players arrogate the role of Mario and friends then compete for the dubious award of ‘Superstar.’ To do so, they must endure countless tests of skill, fortune, and a certain amount of fortitude on the part of the Nintendo 64 controller. As is self-evident, the title eschews anything one might deem esoteric, and instead focuses on the rudimentary.
You’ll triumph here not through infallible strategy, but rather your ability to mash buttons in a close approximation of the on-screen directions. The incessant clatter of buttons creaking in your controller is a warning bell to the persnickety console owner, but there’s really no choice in the matter: the game is fun and to win you must mash. Whether it’s constant rotation of the control stick or unending taps of the ‘A’ and ‘B’ buttons, there’s a never-ending circle of abuse for the hardware. Your wrists will also ache, and for what? So you can see your opponents devoured by piranha plants, so you can drive a slot car to victory, or so you can burst a balloon. There is a veritable treasure trove of differing diversions, in fact, 56 in the parcel. Even the most relaxed of the games demands quick, controller-abusing activity and often a keen eye. Take too long and the timer expires before you’ve stretched Mario’s face to shape or delineated a simple sketch of a bomb or a mushroom with a jackhammer serving as your writing utensil.
Though some might consider it perspicacious at this juncture to malign the game and its premise, I’d like to oppugn that notion by virtue of exhibit ‘b’: the boards.
Between the mini games, you must traverse a variety of locations that feel as if they were filched from Monopoly. Ovate spaces (primarily red and blue) litter environments that range from lush jungles to sultry islands and even a birthday cake and castle in the sky. Prior to any round of Mario Party, you get to choose your favorite and run with it. The boards aren’t just decorative, either. As a result, you’ll opt for your favorite based not only on visuals, but on any environmental hazards (such as a fish that swallows you on one side of the board and vomits you out on the other). The slightly active boards heighten an already active game. And there’s more.
As you may expect, reaching the almost liturgical ceremony at the game’s end with your character in good standing necessitates shrewd movement on the map. You spin a revolving cube and strike it for your allotment of spaces. Reach a juncture and you can look at a map before venturing down one after the appropriate deliberation. Toad and the golden stars you must purchase in order to win dance erratically about the board to keep things lively, so you’ll have to plan ahead if a player leads you by a margin and may reach the next shiny bounty before you do.
Now, Toad doesn’t hand out his shiny stars to just anyone. He demands currency in the form of golden coins procured from mini-game ascendancy (you knew there was another reason you bashed your controller into a triturated mass). Each time every character advances, a given ‘turn’ culminates with one of the afore-mentioned mini-games. From there, players are divided into teams or all-for-themselves competitions. Then it’s time to repeat this until the game concludes and victories are tallied.
Earlier in this review, I mentioned playing Mario Party with girls. For the average gamer guy, this can be its own reward. For the female-deprived, the friendless and the otiose, there’s unfortunately not a lot to like. Mario Party is simply not a lot of fun to play by yourself because it’s rather akin to conversing with a wall. Computer opponents range from asinine to cheap, depending on the difficulty mode you’ve selected, and watching their antics as they scamper around the board (often just ahead of you, snagging stars) quickly grows tiresome. Compounding this flaw is a system that sometimes pushes luck to the forefront. The game has a tendency to defecate all over your success if you start to savor its taste.
Despite those flaws, though, I’m typically willing to endure one additional round of Mario Party, then another and another. When Nintendo continued milking the franchise for its last remnants of enjoyment (an activity it engages in even presently, with a sixth iteration recently announced), I stayed along for the ride and procured each installment. It’s for this reason that I confess my obvious addiction. That and the whole ‘world in the balance’ thing.
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Staff review by Jason Venter (Date unavailable)
Jason Venter has been playing games for 30 years, since discovering the Apple IIe version of Mario Bros. in his elementary school days. Now he writes about them, here at HonestGamers and also at other sites that agree to pay him for his words.
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