Looks like someone bought new decorations!
|Dear Johnny-Boy, |
Its-a meee again! Maaaario! I gotta 'nother party, and im-a sparin' no expense. Okie dokie?
All-a my good buddies will be there. We gott-a that crazy Bobby Deniro (don't-a look at him funny!), Zombie Blue Eyes, and even ABE VIGODA! And I'm-a gonna have a whole messa Goombas to jump on! That Vigoda stomps one-a mean Goomba.
Just don't bring that no good stoolie Dr. Moo. He don't-a like my other parties...so mebbe I should-a bring a metal bat to his head. Hey, why amma telling you this?
So fuhgeddaboutit and just-a come to my party. We gonna have a whole buncha fun! And hey, don't tell Peach about-a the party...I got-a some lady friends comin' by who gonna dance for us special...you like?
Without warning, the massive Party Cube has inexplicably floated its way to Princess Peach's castle. Aboard the cube, Toad and his pack of party people arrive bearing gifts. It's somebody's birthday, and dammit, they're here to celebrate! That's the story of Mario Party 4. It ain't Shakespeare, folks.
But what did you expect? Mario's last three parties were weird too, and they weren't that much fun. Maybe he needs to invite some cooler guests...like Prince! Picture this: he's traveled back in time, circa 1999, and turned himself into a video game character. He's kidnapped Mario and friends, imprisoning them in his Purple 'Reign' Party Palace. In tears, Mario's crew is forced to party their brains out...for real, like with booze and stuff.
Hey, it's not any worse than what Nintendo comes up with.
At any rate, here's the scoop on the Italian Stallion's latest shindig. Like we've been over before, Mario Parties are essentially board games. You begin by selecting one of eight classic Mario characters, from the lovable Yoshi to the hateful Waluigi. Four players, no more, no less, compete against one another across one of six themed boards to have the most stars by the end of the game.
Each of the four players takes a turn, rolling a number between 1 and 10. After one cycle of turns, a mini-game ensues. The mini-games are either 2 on 2, 1 on 3, or everyone for themselves, dependent upon what color space each player lands on. Blue spaces reward a few coins and red spaces take some coins. Then there are the Bowser Spaces, Reversal of Fortune Spaces, and Bomb Spaces, which cause varying amounts of coins to be lost, traded, or won, causing the tables to quickly turn and fits of anger to boil over.
The accumulated coins can be spent at one of the various Store, Lottery, or Ghost Stops. The stores sell several useful items, such as Mushrooms, Pipes, and the Genie Lamp, while the Ghost Stop allows you to hire a villainous Boo for some dirty backstabbing. For the right price, Boo will steal away coins and even a star.
At the end of the game, three bonus awards are passed out. Stars are handed out to the player that wins the most mini-games, ends up with the most coins, and lands on the most Happening Spaces. This sort of evens out the random nature of Mario Party.
New to the series is the Mini-Mega system, which adds a bit of strategy. Mega Mushrooms allow the player to double in size and the chance to roll twice. If any of the other players is so unfortunate as to wind up in the way, then SQUASH! 10 of their coins are stamped away into your own pocketbook! While big, however, you won't be able to stop at the store or buy yourself a star.
Conversely, Mini-Mushrooms shrink your character and limit the dice to a smaller range of 1 to 5. Certain pipes on the board only allow the itsy-bitsy to pass through. Calculated usage of the Mini-Mushroom can be used to maximize travel across the board.
Obviously, the change to the Gamecube means the look has been updated.. While the visuals are a significant step up from the N64, they aren't representative of what the Gamecube can do. It's bright and colorful with nice water effects, but otherwise, textures aren't greatly detailed. The music and sounds all keep in line with the happy Mushroom Kingdom.
The make or break element with Mario Party games is the mini-games, and while there are a lot in Mario Party 4, none really stand out. Most are grounded in standard button mashing, timing exercises, deft control or some combination - the bare basics of any mini-game.
Nonetheless, my favorite mini game of Mario Party 4 is Booksquirm. The players are thrown into a gigantic book where the pages steadily turn faster and faster. There are small holes in each page that your player must stand under in order to avoid being crushed.
Another good one is Dungeon Duos, which works well with real players but only moderately against the computer. Teamed up with another player, you must traverse a narrow corridor helping each other out like in The Adventures of Cookie and Cream. In tandem with a real player, the game can be a hoot; versus the flawless computer, it's just a chore.
Winning in the blasé single player game nets you little items, which you can then place in each of the different character's rooms: TV, couch, fridge, etc. It's like Animal Crossing with zero interactivity - practically pointless besides the collecting angle, and little reason to keep playing by your lonesome.
Some smaller boards are included if you want to have a shorter match with alternate goals besides Star collecting. Also included are some single-player mini games to test your mettle against. But if they can come up with these single-player challenges, why can't they come up with some two-player and three-player versions so we aren't always locked into having four players?
Mario Party is a game built upon random events; the roll of the dice controls your fate, just like many board games. The problem is that this clashes with what most gamers value in video games - control. The random nature of how quickly the tables turn can be utterly frustrating. You could be winning handily, only to suddenly get wiped out by a series of unfortunate rolls or events. Things tend to work out as many times as things fall through the crapper, but when fate has your number, it's maddening.
On the flipside, the game can be a lot of fun to play with friends who don't usually play games. Treated like a board game and with the right willing mix of friends, Mario Party is lots of fun.
No envelopes are being pushed here, except the ones containing party invitations. The formula has already been set in stone, though the added Mega-Mini system does lend some more control. Still, the mini-games don't really impress. Mario Party is really meant for four players and is simply a game you either love or hate. So that's that until Mario Party 5, with or without Prince, gets the party started right.