The Mario Party series has enjoyed a long and successful run, with the ninth instalment on shelves now. Nintendo could have played it safe with Mario Party 9, just adding in new boards and a few mini games and calling it a day, but instead they've taken a different route and injected the series with a refreshing boost we didn't even know it needed.
The Rules Have Changed
This time around Nintendo developed the game internally, using the very capable team behind Wii Sports and Wii Party games who have used their party-honed skills to freshen and remould the Mario Party formula - and it works brilliantly.
For starters, you now tackle the board as one unit - you still select your individual characters and take turns rolling the dice, but you now all move around the board together in a huge cart. When it's your turn to roll you become the captain and it is up to you to land rival players in trouble whilst on the way to the board's end goal.
That should really read boards' end goals - instead of making several circuits of the same game board, you now different boards with their own start point and end goal, complete with a boss to defeat. For example, Toad Road's layout is akin to a map screen from New Super Mario Bros Wii, with beautiful rolling hills, windmills and a tall mountain complete with a castle at the summit. Oh, and a beanstalk that stretches into the clouds leading to a sneaky secret bonus game!
Boards now have both a mid and end level boss, so you feel like you have a task to conquer to truly 'beat the board'. There are some interesting mini-game twists on the boss battles. When it comes to taking out Dry Bones, for example, you find him standing on a specific coloured and shaped platform. A deck of cards, which have coloured shapes displayed on them, will be revealed and hidden. You must then chose the corresponding card to the platform Dry Bones is standing on to chip away the bony brute's health bar, with things getting hectic as more coloured and shaped platforms get added into the mix. All in all, it's an interesting approach to boss battles, and these end goals helps freshen up the experience, rather than just feeling like you are endlessly circling the same board.
Maximum Mini Fun
The mini games are still very much part of Mario Party 9, although they now only occur when you land on special mini game spaces around the board. Again, each has its own theme and challenges, and some with unique gameplay. Here's a quick run-down of some of our favourites:
- Loggerheads - You must have lighting quick reactions if you want to bag all of the stars at the end. Holding your Wii remote horizontally (or if you have played WarioWare then you may know it better as 'The Umbrella Form'), you must swing it downwards in order to make your character chop a block of wood. It sounds easy, but with pieces of wood being placed in between all of your characters at random intervals, swing too early and you might just miss out on the chance to earn a point!
- Mobsled - This one plays a lot like the ChaseMii demo that has been shown on the Wii U, with up to three players controlling bulky bobsleds which can only move along pre marked tracks. The fourth player must then dodge in and out of the way to avoid being hit - it is a lot of frantic fun and players on the opposing team must coordinate to come out victorious!
- Billistics - We just love the pun in the name... Billistics shoves players on a small circular platform, as waves upon waves of Bullet Bills blast towards you from every angle! The last player standing wins all the juicy stars and the dodging action is addictively fun, as mini-games should be.
- Bowser Jr - One for the old school gamers out there, tasking two players to capture 'his growliness' Bowser Jr as he climbs along metal fencing. It's a retro throw-back to Super Mario World on the SNES - complete with spinning gates which move from one side of the fence to the other.
There are 80 mini games in total. And we haven't even mentioned the different dice blocks you can accumulate. Or the Captain Events that are available on each stage which give you a mid-level chance to boost you star count. And then there's Party Points which you earn each time you play the game, which unlock more features and content!
Mario Party 9 feels like it has risen from the fountain of youth refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to tackle a whole new generation of gamer for years to come. The improved pacing and frantic mini games makes this the perfect game to bust out when you have your friends over, with plenty of different skills required to keep the game varied and interesting. If you have never jumped on board (no pun intended) then make sure you RSVP 'yes' to Mario Party 9 and grab your copy today!
- Gameplay flows better so there's never a dull moment
- Large variety of FUN minigames
- Classic Nintendo polish and outstanding attention to detail
- Will make you turn on your friends.
- May take older Mario Party fans a bit of time to get used to new concepts.