I recently picked up a copy of Mario Party 8 for my friends and I to enjoy. I realize that this game is somewhat dated now as it was released close to the Wii’s release window. I had always heard that this game could have been better, but since I believe games are an art form I figured I would take it upon myself to figure out why this game was rated the way it was.
Please note that I’m only reviewing what I’ve played, which are 5 of the 6 game boards and most of the minigames. Since there are so many minigames, don’t expect me to know them by name, simply by actions/description. Lastly, I have only played Mario Party 1-4 so I have no idea what’s changed after 4.
One of the disappointing things about this game is that the game itself is presented in 4:3 instead of 16:9 widescreen. Sure, the two shots above suggest otherwise, but once you’re in a game it’s all 4:3. I find it odd that they couldn’t do this. It would help on some boards.
Also: a single-player mode? Who wants to play that to unlock things in a game in which the primary enjoyment is to have fun with others? The single player mode, to me, feels tacked on to flesh the game out more.
Game Boards & Creativity
In terms of creativity, Goomba’s Booty Boardwalk is the least creative: the game board is simply a straight line. The star does not move around so it’s simply a race to the end. Sure you can pay some dolphins for a ride to get a bit closer, but there’s not much else.
Shy Guy’s Perplex Express is basically a big circle and the star is at the front of the train. This may sound boring, but you’re traveling through the train: from the caboose to the front then you work your way towards the back again via the roof. There are many things to trip you up on your way to and from the star. The front of the train can change from Shy Guy, (normal, pay 20 coins for a star) to DK, (get a free star) to Bowser. (hope for low numbers as you’ll lose a star if you meet him) Since this changes the train for everyone, player strategies must change.
There’s even a mystery if you land on a certain green ? space. This was a nice surprise but it’s more of a guessing game as most players won’t be paying attention to characters in the train cars.
King Boo’s Haunted Hideaway is a fun idea: make a mansion where rooms move around once a star is given to a player. I noticed that when playing this board that characters move very fast throughout the mansion compared to other boards, which doesn’t help the fact that it’s hard enough to tell where you or other players are on the onscreen minimap. It’s just hard to get your bearings. You also have no idea what’s coming: each room is blacked out until a player goes into it. It would be more fun if I knew where a star was instead of going in a room blindly at a breakneck pace.
Koopa’s Tycoon Town is one of the most creative boards. I’m sure you’ve heard of Hotel Mario, well…this place has 7 Koopa Hotels! I wonder if Hudson actually planned this out…. Anyway, this board is pretty close to Monopoly in the fact that you invest in property. The issue is that it’s not that straightforward so it may be confusing to new players. Hotels can be upgraded to 2 and 3-star hotels after the total investment (from all players) reaches 20 and 50 coins respectfully. You become the owner of the hotel (and thus the owner of the hotel’s stars) if you’re the top investor in a hotel.
This leads to a coin shortage when playing on this board but things can get heated when you’re juggling 3 star hotels. It gets even more interesting when playing in Tag Mode. (Team Mode, 2 vs 2) “Hey, how much should we invest?”
This board is very focused as the hotels turn into battlegrounds. So fun. However, I noticed that my friends and I were constantly asking each other, “Who owns this hotel?” It’s something that could have easily been rectified by zooming the camera out a bit more so we could see the emblem from the map. If this wasn’t possible for some reason, a simple notification via text would have been nice.
DK’s Treetop Temple gives players a lot of choice as to where to go. It’s a mix between Donkey Kong Country in characters and background and the original Donkey Kong in terms of level layout. The star moves around which keeps things interesting. Shy Guys throughout the board keep things fresh by (forcefully) having you sell your candy to them to manning slides. DK even shows up to pop you in barrel cannons if you wish. Lots of choices, lots of fun.
Minigames & Creativity
The minigames in Mario Party 8 are hit and miss. There are some which are a lot of fun, like a Ghostbusters-esque one. There’s a lot of polish and setup to it which helps make it more than a simple point-and-shoot race. On the opposite end, I’ve played a minigame in which you need to cut wires to avoid catapulting to your doom. I figured this would have the right music accompanying it, one that would highlight the tension involved. Sadly, it doesn’t have this.
I’ve found that most of the minigames are simply races to see who can do X the fastest. There is little skill involved. I have a feeling the reason why this is is because of the control scheme. Hudson opted to only focus on the Wii Remote for ease of use, however they could have done so much more if they used the Nunchuk, or even just the Wii Remote speaker. I’ve yet to play any minigames that take advantage of the speaker.
The Camera & Finding your way
A camera in a game is supposed to help you. The camera in Mario Party 8 is very close to your character when viewing the game board before hitting a dice block or using an item. This makes you to constantly ask the question “OK, where am I and what should I do next?” Hudson didn’t think ahead. If only they zoomed the camera out a bit more by default you wouldn’t be reading this.
I’d like to end this with a thought on font consistency. Take a look at the 3 screenshots I’ve provided. Try and count the number of different fonts used. Something as simple as choosing two fonts and just sticking with them would help make this game feel less rushed for the Wii launch.
Special thanks to Jeff, Nora and David for playing with me.