Mario Party 6 (GameCube) Review
EA are masters of it; releasing the same game with a few minor changes and a new year added at the end of the title. It must be a developers dream to be able to create an entirely “new” piece of software with minimal ease. Mario Party comes to us each year in a very similar manner. Sure, there are some minor changes and new (read: thinly disguised duplicates) mini games, but underneath all the so-called changes is the same game. Well, that is not entirely true – we got a microphone this time. The Mario Party (MP) franchise has reached its sixth installment now and a seventh one is on its way soon. One way of measuring a games success is by counting the number of sequels it has. In this case, we would be pretty accurate in saying MP has become a pretty successful series for Nintendo. In all honesty, I believe MP6 is probably one of the best of the series but then again, with so much practice, you would expect Hudson to be getting it right by now. MP6 is much of the same and if you have played any of its predecessors, then you know what you’re in for.
I cannot understand why developers try to write storylines into games that do not need them. MP is an example of a game that does not require a story to hold it all together. In fact, the only thing the storyline is good for in MP is a laugh. In any case, the story involves a bitter feud between Brighton and Twila – a moon and sun character that I hope we never hear of again. They are fighting over who is better and they decide to throw a Mario Party to find out. I can’t actually understand how having a party will reveal who is better and after playing the game substantially, I decided that both characters are in fact douche bags – but that’s just my opinion. The important point is, Mario and co. now have a reason to throw a party and that is good news for us.
The inclusion of Brighton and Twila also means a day/night theme has been adopted for the game. After each set of three turns, it will turn from day to night and vice versa. During the night time, the boards will not only look different but you will have access to certain events such as Boo or a side game that are only available during night. The mini games also look different depending on whether it is night or day. I wouldn’t say that the day/night theme is the saving grace for the MP franchise. It’s a welcome addition but it does not save the game from being another carbon copy of its predecessors.
MP6 has all the expected modes such as party mode, single player mode, and mini game mode. The one new game mode offered is Mic mode, which obviously utilized the Microphone that comes with the game. The single player mode is much better then in previous versions due to the fact that you do not have to endure the painstaking task of completing the game boards by yourself. Instead, there are three small courses that you can play. These courses are different in that they do not go around and round but instead have a start and end point. The only reason to play single player mode is to open up some rare mini games accomplished by landing on the very last space. It is also a quick and easy way to rack up your collection of Stars, which in turn can be used to purchase items such a new character or board. It is a good choice on Hudsons part to put little focus on the single player element and instead concentrate on what the game is all about – the multiplayer shenanigans.
The multiplayer mode is much the same as previous installments. Up to four players (human and/or computer opponents) take turns hitting a dice block and making their way around the board. After each person has one turn, a mini game is played which allows the players to win coins. I will not dwell on the ins and outs of how MP6 is played because you will all know how it works. The board design is much better in MP6 as you will be able to navigate the board with more ease and spending 5 or 6 turns in one area is not going to happen in MP6. This was a problematic occurrence pertinent to Mario Party 4. Buying stars has usually been a case of getting to the right spot on the board and buying a star for 20 coins. The same premise is used again in MP6 except there are some differences. For example, one board has each character start with 5 stars and instead of buying stars; the objective is to steal them from your opponent. Another board has the price of stars change at nighttime from as low as 5 coins to as high as 40. Each board looks and plays a bit differently then the others, which ultimately injects some freshness and originality into the game. The boards offered in the game are some of the best yet although I felt that another board or two would have been beneficial to the game.
MP6 claims to include over 80 new mini-games for your enjoyment. In essence, the games are all new although it’s a no brainer that many of the games are thinly disguised replicas of previous games. This is not a criticism but rather a reality that comes to light when the (essentially) same game is remade for a 6th time. The games are still fun and, most importantly, they are simple allowing inexperienced gamers to be just as competitive as the most seasoned of gamers. There are only a few games that utilized the Microphone which it a little disappointing because they are good for a laugh. Mic games are only available for 1 vs. 3 player games where the lone player gets to use the Mic. The Mic generally works pretty well as long as you speak clearly and do not bombard the Mic with instructions. One game has the single player in a sort of flying tank using commands such as ‘missiles’ and ‘laser’ to destroy the other three opponents. It is quite funny having someone yell at a game – makes them look a bit loopy. Ultimately, the Mic is a gimmicky extra that may have shifted a few extra copies of MP6 but is by no means a revolution in gameplay terms.
Aside from the single player and party mode, MP6 offers a Mic Mode and a mini game mode. The mini game allows up to 4 players to play any mini game they have opened in a number of different fashions. You can just pick a game and play it or you can spice things up a little and play Bingo (winner of mini game chooses a number) or even a Decathlon of mini games. You can also play the rare mini games here if you have opened them by playing single player mode. The Mic mode allows you to play the 1 vs. 3 player Mic mini games as well as two other special games. One game requires you to navigate a course by instructing your character to run, jump, avoid obstacles and so forth. Though the Mic is responsive enough, the game is just plain boring. There are three courses though, and it gives you a chance to practice Mic skills so not all is lost. The other Mic game is a quiz game that resembles Jeopardy. There are several different topics (e.g. memory quiz) spanning different difficulties. The harder the difficulty, the more points you can win. Each player takes it in turn of picking a topic and trying to answer correctly. Once again, the Mic is pretty impressive here although it is not uncommon for an answer to be declared wrong because it did not understand what you said. I was being a smart arse and answered ‘free’ rather then ‘three’. The game interpreted my answer as ‘5’ and consequently, I did not receive any points. The quiz game is a fun addition to the game that is fun with a few extra friends around.
Steering away from gameplay mechanics, I must conclude that MP6 is pretty mediocre in terms of graphics and sound. Both graphics and sound have hardly been improved since Mario Party 4 and this is a bit disappointing. Character models are nothing special and even the soundtrack is forgettable. Average is a perfectly suitable adjective to describe the graphics and sound. It will not make you eyes and ears bleed but it won’t win any awards either. Nothing stands out in how MP6 looks or sounds and very few improvements have been made since the franchise has graced the Gamecube. It is starting to look and sound a little out-dated to be perfectly honest.
If you have a few other people to play MP6 with then the game can be a blast. MP6 is no worse then a sports title that is re-released every year under a different name. In fact, the inclusion of the Microphone, although gimmicky at best, is testament to Hudson’s desire to take the series in some new directions. If you are a lone player or have played most of MP6’s predecessors then a rent is recommended. Otherwise, the series is beginning to ware thin and simply does not have the same magic as the earlier games, particularly the first installment. I would suggest putting the series to rest for good but I have two reasons for not doing so. Firstly, they are already making Mario Party 7 so it will be a futile suggestion. Secondly, I believe the Mario Party franchise can be totally reinvented and reinvigorated with the upcoming Nintendo Revolution. The game also sells especially well in Japan and no developer is going to stop making a game that sells well.
Give the game a rent when you’re in need of a Mario Party fix. It is one of the best in the series and if you have never had a Mario Party, then this is the perfect time to start. I mean, it’s the only game in the series where you can use voice commands to heard a bunch of Goombas.