Since 1999, Nintendo’s Mario Party franchise has undergone a variety of changes, but always kept the same gameplay formula. Mario Party combined simple board games with reflex-based mini-game action, and the result was something we’d never seen before in the videogame world. Though winning was based too strongly on luck for some people’s tastes, there is no denying the fact that Mario Party exhibited appeal for both those who value their gaming skills and those who just want to pick up a game and play a round without spending hours researching how to play. Now we’ve got the sixth instalment in this annual series, and the most prominent observation is that it’s very similar to its predecessors. However, after listening to some of the complaints and suggestions of the Mario Party fans - there are some notable improvements over the previous titles. We also have the addition of the Nintendo GameCube Microphone, which is used to play a few of the games.
The main game still progresses in generally the same manner - players traverse a game board of their choice, playing mini-games at the end of each round, collecting coins and exchanging them for valuable power stars. Everything feels very familiar (perhaps, at times, too familiar) to the Mario Party veteran, so there will be little problem jumping right in and playing if you and your friends have enjoyed previous games in the series. However the game is quite a bit faster, and that’s something that I’ve always complained about with respect to the Mario Party series. Players hop around the board at a much quicker rate than in the older games, and just about everything, including most of the dialogue, instructions and cut scenes, can be skipped (thankfully).
The mini-games are also quite good, and there are over 80 to find in Mario Party 6. A good percentage of them are predominantly skill-based and complement the otherwise luck-based dice-rolling that governs the rest of the experience. You’ve still got your regular selection of “Tap A as quickly as possible” or “run and jump as fast as you can” games, but the way most of the mini-game formulas have been repackaged really actually makes them appealing all over again. There is some unavoidable sense of “been there, done that” throughout a lot of the experience, but some of the new mini-games are just too ingenious not to love. For example, in “What Goes Up...” players have to leap on top of paratroopers and clouds to reach mind-boggling heights. In “Lift Leapers”, you have to make your way through a series of several rooms with moving lifts like the ones found in the old 2D Mario games! “Ball Dozers” is another favourite - a giant pinball is trying to roll to the bottom of the screen, but you have to clear a path for it by hammering pegs in its way to get it there. The mini-games are lots of fun, and some of them, such as these three, require quite a lot of skill to win.
With the sheer number of minigames, six different game boards and an unique Day/Night system (games change according to what time of day it is), Mario Party 6 probably has more to offer than any other game in the series to date. Essentially, if you’ve hated Mario Party up to this point, you’ll probably hate this version, as well. On the other hand, if you’ve always loved the Mario Party games - this will be a great addition to your collection.