Mario Party Advance may disappoint fans of the console Mario Party games who are looking to find the same communal experience on the go. That's because while the Game Boy Advance game includes more than 120 different minigames, only about a dozen of them support true four-player simultaneous play. Overall, the GBA game's multiplayer features are fairly limited and poorly organized. Its single-player component, on the other hand, is very nicely organized and offers a great deal of variety.
The board game in the story mode is a good way to introduce the various minigames.
Mario Party Advance includes more than 120 minigames. Fifty of them are set up so that a single player has to accomplish whatever task is presented. When these games are played in one of the game's multiplayer modes, only one player can participate at a time. The other participants have to wait for their turns to come up and then try to beat the score or time that the earlier players set. Another 60 of the game's minigames are referred to as "gaddgets," which are useless tools and simple games that are entirely for fun and aren't included as part of the game's story or challenge modes. Gaddgets range from totally worthless, such as the love meter and the Morse code generator, to somewhat cool, like stand-alone darts and pinball games. Some gaddgets do support multiplayer play, but not in the way you'd expect. When you fire up a so-called multiplayer gaddget, each player is supposed to be in charge of a particular portion of a single GBA. One person controls the directional pad, one person controls the A and B buttons, one person controls the left shoulder button, and one person controls the right shoulder button. The remaining dozen or so minigames are of the true multiplayer variety that require a link cable and at least one other GBA. Some require only a single cartridge; others require each player to have a cartridge.
People often say that more isn't always better. That's true with regard to the minigames included in Mario Party Advance. While there are certainly a lot of them, the quality varies. Some are clever and involve such tasks as sneaking past Chain Chomps in a barrel or guiding Mario through one of Bowser's dungeons on a pogo stick. Some fall into the category of unoriginal yet tolerable, such as the various racing and platform-jumping minigames that duplicate tasks we've seen in countless action games and minigame collections in the past. A few are just downright terrible, like Bunny Belt, which forces you to input the same brief arrow pattern over and over again while Mario stands in front of a toy-making machine.
Most minigames and gaddgets must first be unlocked in the single-player story mode, which comes in the form of a dice-based board game. You roll dice and move your way across the game board to visit the various characters situated upon it. When you speak to characters, they'll challenge you to a minigame or send you to fetch something from another character on the board. If you beat their game or complete their errand, they'll give you one of E. Gadd's gaddgets, which is then unlocked on the main menu. You start out the story mode with a limited number of dice rolls, but additional dice rolls can be earned by successfully completing the minigames that come up every three turns or that are plainly indicated on the game board. Once you manage to complete a minigame in the story mode, it too becomes available as a stand-alone object from the main menu. There are times when the board game seems to drag on, especially when you're involved in a multipart fetch quest or get stuck on a particularly tough challenge, but the incorporation of the Mario characters along with the sheer variety of different games helps keep things fresh.
Once they're unlocked, each minigame and gaddget can be accessed from one of the options on the main menu. You can choose to tackle them individually in free-play or scored-based modes or in groups in one of the various challenge and attack modes.