Welcome, Mario Party, to the Wii! No more spinning analog sticks until your hands have Nintendo Stigmata, this generation is all about pointing and swinging and wearing wrist-straps. Yep, the Wiimote is great, except when the repetitive gameplay starts to ring some extremely disturbing bells, I’m not trying to be juvenile here, but it’s simply impossible to play Mario Party 8 without everyone staring at each other awkwardly. Let’s watch that again.
It has already been an embarrassing decade of physical humiliations for gamers: we’ve waddled around DDR boards, emptied lungfulls of air into DS microphones, and ended up using the new Playstation hardware in public. Nothing, however, will prepare you, for the masturbation minigames in Mario Party 8.
Play a few minigames where you shake your long, girthy Wiimote up and down as quickly as you can, and you will immediately be sorry that you’re playing with other people. It’s more mortifying when you win. I don’t care if you’re shaking a can, or hoisting a flag, or stamping papers - some flags should simply not be hoisted in public. “I can pump my arm the best” is one of those contests you don’t want to be in.
Ok, so the party seems a little dirtier than it should, especially when you get beaten by a girl, but the real problem is that most of this party is about as much fun as the Oprah book club.
That’s because the first event in our party is reading! Mario Party 8’s interface interrupts you every step of the game - you haven’t seen this much summer reading since grade school. You’re following the system instructions! You’re getting badgered by the game MC! You’re reading the vague button descriptions to find the right game type!
Your friends may be starting to leave in frustration, however you finally get to select some characters.
And now you’re reading another menu! And now your character is too! Where the hell is the game?
When you actually break through all the menus, Mario Party 8 has some very good and very bad game boards. The Monopoly real estate board and the tic-tac-toe board are two examples of varied, interesting game types. Others, like the aimless haunted mansion or Straight-Line Beach, are totally broken. It’s impossible to tell what any of the boards are about until you play them, either with friends or in the abbreviated single-player mode.
However, it is hard to appreciate even the good boards when you have to read three to five screens to do anything in the game. We interrupt this game review to inform you that you can use your mouse wheel to scroll up and down. Sometimes you have to read instructions which are split across multiple pages, sometimes you’re sifting through meaningless fluff dialogue. Mario Party 8 gives you ten seconds of play time for every few minutes of waiting, and humans just don’t live long enough to sit there waiting for Mario Party to come around.
Here’s the real indicator: the GR staff stumbled back to the office after beers and barbecue one night; we fumbled around the office for something to play, and came across the newly arrived Mario Party 8 - party on! So we pop the disc into the Wii, and started the small-sized 15-turn board. We read and read and read and finally chose characters, we rolled dice, we drank some more.
Within five turns, we were already scraping around the office for the Wii Sports disc. The Wii is the ultimate party console, but Mario Party 8 is simply a party pooper. (Also, if you try any of Mario Party’s bonus sports minigames, Mario Party also loses at trying to be Wii Sports.)
Humiliating or not, the minigames in Mario Party 8 are raw, primitive passes at using the Wii remote. Most of them are very easy and highly exploitable. The endless menu screens add a noticeable amount of time and hassle to every game - it is a sluggish experience compared to Warioware Smooth Moves. In fact, I long for the humor and speed of Smooth Moves.
Young Mario fans might enjoy the bland cartoon hijinks of their heroes, though just starting a game or viewing your trophies is such a convoluted procedure they might never get there. When minigame time finally comes around, and everyone readies their Wiimote to shoot or row or whatever, you get the brief pleasure of playing the Wii with your friends. Since Wii Sports dropped at launch, that’s one kind of Wii experience that we’re know we love, too bad this party has so little of it.
Also, about the ultra-long credits that you can’t skip: please. It’s like watching the dirt get shoveled onto my open grave as I wait for the ordeal to end.
In the end, you'll be elated to find you can turn off the Wii from your controller. And really, that's the big shame, Mario Party 8 can actually bring down a perfectly good party.