Mario Party 8 (Wii) – Review

Mario Party 8 - CoverWith the controls of the Wii at its disposal, Mario Party 8 seemed to be an excellent title to help further demonstrate the controls of the Wii along with the improved graphical output from the system. Unfortunately, it seems like the developer, Hudson Soft, took a lot of shortcuts with this, borrowing heavily from Mario Party 7 in the graphics department, to churn out just Yet Another Mario Party instead of something that could have been more inspired. Outside of using the Wii remote in ways that, by now, we’re very used to from games like WarioWare: Smooth Moves, there’s really nothing new in Mario Party 8 to make a “buy” unless you are the type commonly playing with friends and need another game for additional variety.

Mario Party 8 - Board game shot

Gameplay: C+

Mario Party 8 plays with little difference from its previous incarnations. The main game is designed for 4 players moving about 6 different game boards inspired by the Marioverse; if you lack enough players, the CPU will step in to fill the rest. Each player picks a character from the standard Mario set, but beyond appearance and the like, this makes no difference in game play. The game is divided into a number of turns; each turn, each player rolls a dice and moves so many spaces, collecting coins and candy along the way, along with many shortcuts and other goodies available. The goal is to reach spaces that offer Stars to the player, usually at the cost of some coins, but may have other affects as well. After each player has made their move, there is a mini-game that rewards more coins. Candy can be used at the start of a turn for several purposes: gaining an extra roll to move farther, or abilities to take coins and candy from players you pass, or even to face off against those players in a one-on-one battle to try to get coins or a star from them. At the end of the set number of turns, there’s additional stars awarded for randomly selected “bests”, such as by using the most candy or moving the farthest. At the end of this, the player with the most Stars is declared the winner. While there’s some strategy mostly in planning for late game star-stealing moves, the board game is pretty much random, which can both where the fun lies (particularly with younger kids or if you’re hanging with friends) and where the downfall lies (if you’re trying to play this game seriously), but that’s been the situation for Mario Party games in the past as well.

Mario Party 8 - Minigame

Mini-games are divided into four types: 1-vs-1 minigames for 2 players, and then individual competition, 2 vs 2 competition, and 3 vs 1 competition. End-of-round minigames are randomly picked from the last three, but other conditions may force a specific type of minigame. In all, there’s about 50+ minigames that can be played. All of them use the Wii remote in some fashion or another, with a screen prior to the game explaining the rules and what motions to perform. Most of these, however, appear to be variations on games already seen from previous versions of the series, only updated to use the Wii control. Compared to other mini-game games for the Wii (Rayman Raving Rabbids or WarioWare: Smooth Moves) these really don’t have the same touch and feel particularly when it comes to games that rely on motion sensing. Computer opponents are generally easy to defeat and provide little challenge in the games. Outside of the board game, you can play any mini-game you’ve unlocked directly, again with friends or against the computer.

Besides the party mode and mini-game mode, there’s a single player campaign mode that plays across the 6 boards (and necessary to play through once to open up the final board). In this mode, you are only pitted against one computer opponent, and there is an objective to clear each board instead of a number of turns, typically getting a number of stars before the other player. The problem with this mode, as previously noted, is that there’s just too much random luck involves to be able to play this mode seriously. Maybe only the last two boards provide any sort of place where strategy can be applied. The 5th board uses the idea of hotels that you can own if you put the most money into them, and are upgraded to offer more stars to the owner’s benefit when the total amount of money added to them exceeds a given amount; one can quickly swing a hotel not only into one’s ownership but also gaining the extra star in the upgrade. The 6th board requires you to win by stealing all the stars from the other player using special Bowser and Bullet candy, but also includes the possible reversal of direction of the board, which can leave the now-leading player in a precarious position. But still, random luck play a huge factor in how far you move, how many coins you get, and so forth, so unless you’re lucky, you’ll likely need to play a board a couple of times to win it.

Each game will earn you cards that you can then spend to unlock some additional characters, collectible items, new minigames, and a few additional features within the game. There’s really not much more to the game, and as a result, simply feels like Mario Party 7 with Wii games.

Value/Replayability: B

The way the basic game plays allows for near infinite variations and thus no game will likely be the same as others. But, the actual value of the game will likely depend on how you expect to play it. If you’re the type that common has a friend or two over to play video games, you’ll probably enjoy the title as a good group enjoyment. But if you’re the single player looking for some challenge, you probably will want to look elsewhere, as the large amount of luck needed to win a board may make it a difficult challenge to actually complete the single player quest.

Graphics: C-

The graphics aren’t painfully bad, but there are notable problems with them. First, while the Wii is not the most powerful console out there, it’s very easy to tell the difference between what is Gamecube-quality graphics and Wii-quality, and Mario Party 8 definitely has every look of a Gamecube-style game. The 3D models are ok, but I can the game is running at lower than expected refresh rates, and some non-characters parts just feel blocky. But looking beyond this issue is the fact that the game fails to support widescreen for no apparent reason. Those uses with widescreen TVs will find two colored vertical bars running down the sides of the screen forcing the picture to 4:3 when actually playing the game (the menus do not have this limitation). This make the game feel even more like an updated Gamecube title, and really looks bad for what is normally a premiere title for Nintendo.

Audio: B

There’s nothing wrong with the audio – it uses all the standard Mario sounds and the music’s ok, but there’s nothing much to brag about either. The announcer voice (despite being a single nonsense word) does tend to get annoying.

Overall: B-

Despite being one of the bigger Wii titles to be expected and outpacing sales of other Mario Party games, Mario Party 8 really fails to make a punch, and feels like it was a quick port of existing Gamecube material with Wii-enabled controls. Questionable choices about graphics and the lack of widescreen support make this feel like it was a rush job. The game itself is still one that is hard to take seriously if you’re looking for a challenge, but is fine if you expect to be playing with friends; just don’t expect much of anything new for either the series or for Wii remote usage from the game.

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