What's-a matta you?!
Dear Gaming Buddies, Hey! It's-a me - Maaaaaarrrrrio! You remember the last-a party I threw? Dat was some-a fun, eh? Remember what happened to Luigi? I'm-a not gonna let him drink that much-a wine ever again... Anyway, dat last-a party was such a success that I decided to throw another one! And guess-a what? You're Invited! So come-a one, come-a all to the biggest bash since we took away Al Capone's baseball bat. We got da drinks, you bring-a da dice. Just-a make sure not to tell Yoshi. Dat sunuvabitch messed up-a my carpets last-a time. Sincerely, Don Mario
In retrospect, I should have just thrown the invitation away. I mean really, after the last party, I should have known better. I didn't have much fun at all. And that stupid Donkey Kong kept talking and talking.... ach... like a backyard gossip, that monkey. On the other hand, I couldn't show disrespect to Don Mario. I've heard that simply not RSVPing can lead to various "ailments" caused by mysterious "accidents" involving hired "goons." What was I to do? I hoped for the best, of course. I hoped that Mario would have read my review of his last party. I hoped that he would have taken to heart some of my gripes. I hoped he would have corrected some of his mistakes... and I ain't just talking about more plastic cups and different flavored potato chips.
But like the heads of all those who dare oppose him, my hopes were dashed to the rocks and thrown into the sea. Mario Party 2 makes only slight improvements over the original, and in the end suffers from many of the same issues that crashed his first shindig.
First, the basics. You play as one of 6 familiar Nintendo mascots in what is essentially a board game. You roll dice and move around a game board collecting coins, with the ultimate goal of acquiring stars. You frequently engage in a wide assortment of mini-games that help boost your coin total. At the end of a pre-determined number of rounds, a winner is declared. Aside from a few other bells and whistles, that's all there is to it.
The crux of the game lies in the mini-games, and Mario Party 2 ups the ante with 44 new ones and 20 updated ones for a total of 64. For the most part, the new games are actually pretty fun and well designed. I have some issues with the control in a few of them, but these are minor. Overall, the mini-games offer a wide variety of amusing diversions.
Another addition is the use of items during your game. These can either be bought at certain spaces on the board or won in single-player mini-games. The items can help you in a variety of ways, from the Mushrooms that allow you to roll several times at once to the Magic Lamp that takes you directly to the next star.
The big problem with Mario Party 2 is the same one that plagued the original. This is a game of luck, not skill. The roll of the dice determines most of what happens, which is (obviously) random. Even if you kick ass in the mini-games, you can easily lose the game by virtue of crappy luck with the dice. Likewise, you can be losing by a ton and suddenly race from behind to win in a heartbeat just by landing on the right square at the right time.
Part of the reason for this is the somewhat poorly balanced game board spaces. One in particular, Boo, allows you to steal coins or stars from your opponents. This can turn a game around in a matter of seconds, to the dismay of the sudden loser and the unearned joy of the winner.
Some may argue that this is primarily a kid's game, and the fact that the game relies on luck over skill will appeal to children. These people are collectively on crack. I played Mario Party 2 more times than I care to admit, and let me assure you that there is nothing more irritating than dominating a game for 19 turns only to lose in the final round because someone happened to roll a 9. I'm a well-adjusted twenty-something, yet I came one broken blood vessel away from throwing a pre-pubescent tantrum. I can't IMAGINE what that would be like for an 8 year-old seething on the brink of a sugar rush gone awry.
To make matters worse (they can get worse?), you still cannot start a game with fewer than four players. If you try to play by yourself or with a friend, the computer will take charge of the other two/three players. This means you'll find yourself staring blankly at the screen as the computer takes its turn.
This can be a long staring session, particularly when the computer lands on a single-player mini-game space. It will commence playing the game by itself.... and there's absolutely no way to skip it. You'll first press Start, to no avail. You'll then press A and B, but nothing will happen. You'll finally throw the controller at the screen. Oh yes, you will. Now imagine playing this game by yourself and having to sit through three computer-controlled players every single turn, each of which could conceivably land on a single-player mini-game. I swear, it's like one long bathroom break.
Thankfully, you can always scoot over to Mini-Game Land to partake in the mini-games without having to deal with the board game. But the mini-games just aren't much fun when taken out of the context of the main game. Only the most hardcore patry-goers will have the patience to open up new modes and features.
As a party game, Mario Party 2 does offer some fun, provided you have four real-life people to play with. However, the luck factor is guaranteed to drive at least one of you ballistic. The new mini-games are nifty, but fail to truly liven up the party. Now can someone give me a ride home? Mario made me drink too much Campari.