2012-03-20

Mario Party 9 – Less Waggle, More Fun

by Yo Snyder

When Mario Party 8 debuted on the Nintendo Wii, it was part of
that initial wave of “waggle-ware”; games that used the Wii’s unique
motion controls in every way possible, even if it didn’t make a whole
lot of sense. Granted, some of the mini-games in that collection were
fun and innovative, but many of them boiled down to just shaking the
Wiimote in order to make stuff happen. Here, at the twilight of the
Wii’s existence, Mario Party returns with a much more reserved
outing. No unnecessary waggling, just simple, straight-forward,
decidedly old-school mini-gaming with a fresh coat of paint. There are a
few tweaks to the formula, not all of them for the best, but it’s still
a strong addition to the franchise that is much more conservative that
the previous edition, and yet, still remains delightful fun.

First, let me share a couple of my complaints. One, I don’t like the whole “travel as a group” thing with Mario Party 9.
That’s right, everyone moves at the same time across the game board.
This eliminates the tediousness of watching any CPU controlled
characters play-out their turn, but it also eliminates much of the
strategy inherent in the series when it comes navigating the board. Then
again, the sting of that disappointment is lessened by the fact that
although the settings for the board are kind of cool, the layouts for
each board are rather uninspiring. The other complaint is one that’s
been a part of the series for a long time; the large role random luck
plays in it all. Things just happen in this game which can take you from
the lead to the back of the pack in the blink of an eye. That’s a bit
frustrating when one excels at winning the mini-games and yet a lucky
role of the dice or some other random event can undo all of that work.
But as I said, this has been a part of the series for some time, so I’ve
come to accept it even while it still bugs me.

However, the strength of the series has always lay in how fun or not the mini-games are. Fortunately, Mario Party 9
has far more winners in this regard than losers. As I mentioned
earlier, there is a distinct lack of “waggling” this time out. A large
majority of the game simply have you hold the controller sideways for
some classic controls. There are a few games that have you tilt the
controller to steer, or use it to point at things on the screen, but
there’s no wild gesticulating this time out, and that’s a good thing.
There’s less focus on trying to get controls to do what they’re supposed
to and more focus on just having fun with things like Goomba Bowling or
riding Bullet Bills or playing a fast and furious game of Memory or
testing your reflexes and so on and so forth. Most of the mini-games are
short, simple and sweet fun; the core of any successful
mini-game…uh…game.

All of this is wrapped in a colorful
package of cute characters and bright, happy graphics. It’s easily the
best looking Mario Party game yet, with many of your favorite characters
and their quippy little one-liners on bright, happy display. Maybe it’s
just my faded memory, but this party seems to have more of a graphical
sheen, more polish on the details than past entries which just adds to
the overall cheery feel of the game. As usual, there isn’t much to say
on the audio side, other than the generic soundtrack with its
relentlessly chipper tune can begin to grate on one’s nerves fairly
quickly. 

There’s nothing really stellar about Mario Party 9,
but there’s nothing really terrible about it either. The good
mini-games more than out-weight the duds, there a few fun unlockables,
and a fairly nice variety to the game boards. It’s a solid entry to the
series that tries a few new things, some that work and some that don’t,
but otherwise plays it fairly safe and doesn’t mess too much with a
successful formula. Some of the new tweaks take away from that feeling
of playing an interactive board game, which I sorely miss, but it’s a
fun collection of mini-games, and the various settings for the game
boards are kind of fun if not particularly imaginative. As the swan song
for the Mario Party series on the Wii, it’s not a bad effort overall.
It’s fun, enjoyable, and a great way to pass an evening with the family;
that’s pretty much all I ask of any kind of board game like experience.

Score out of 7:

Graphics: 5 – Probably the best
looking game in the series so far. Everything from the characters to the
boards has a nice, detailed, colorful, bright sheen to it.

Sound:
4 – The relentless soundtrack can get annoying, but otherwise there’s
nothing egregious here, the characters quips all sound like they should,
gaming sound effects add to the fun atmosphere, but overall there’s
nothing all that spectacular here.

Controls: 5 – A lot less
waggling makes for a lot more fun. The controls rarely have you shaking
the wiimote, and for the most part keeps things fairly simple and
therefore more enjoyable. The few times there are motions for the
controls, the make sense, like for Goomba bowling which controls just
like bowling on Wii Sports (a nice call-back to the game that started it
all).

Gameplay: 5 – There a few tweaks to the formula, like
traveling as a group and the boss battle encounters, but for the most
part this is classic, mini-game partying at its best. The brutal
randomness can unbalance things for even the most skilled players.

Story: N/A

Content: 7 – A great time for the whole family, just beware of Boos.

Final: 5 – I’ve always loved the Mario Party series, and I thought it’d reach new heights on the Wii. It never really did, but Mario Party 9
shows that you don’t need a bunch of gimmicky motion controls to make
things fun. While I miss a few things from the older games, overall this
party is enough fun to make it worthwhile to invite the family to enjoy
on a regular basis.