Bogus minigames aside, the biggest problem with Mario Party 8 is how chance-driven the game can be, which, unfortunately, is also one of the franchise's defining characteristics. Roll an unfortunate number and land on a bad space, and you could find yourself going from first to last, losing most of your coins, or even one of your stars. There are six uniquely themed boards to play on here, and most of them come packing a different gameplay gimmick as well. The Donkey Kong- and Super Mario Sunshine-themed boards are traditional Mario Party game boards, with several paths that loop back onto each other, though they get more inventive from there. The haunted mansion level's layout is a mystery when you start, requiring you to explore its rooms and corridors as you hunt for stars. One board takes place on a moving train that you must run through, as well as on top of, as you collect coins to impress a movie star who's onboard. One of the cleverer boards looks an awful lot like the Earthbound level from Super Smash Bros. Melee, where winning involves you investing your coins in various hotels. The rules specific to these different boards could've injected some much-needed strategy to the action, if the game just would've let them, but fortunes still reverse so severely and so easily that any planning seems futile.
Not even some good waggle controls can make up for Mario Party's luck-of-the-draw nature.
Perhaps even more disappointing than the same-old structure of Mario Party 8 is its lackluster presentation. The Mario Party games have never looked particularly amazing, and have relied on the strength of its cast of characters and a real air-horn level of enthusiasm to make up the difference. Mario Party 8 is certainly loud in multiple senses, with a garish color palette and a stomping, blaring marching-band soundtrack, but the visual fidelity hasn't been improved at all in the move from the GameCube; in some ways, it actually looks worse now. The aliasing is a real problem, and save for the menus, the game is either incapable or unwilling to fill a widescreen display. Instead, the game soaks up the extra real estate with gaudy borders. It's awkward, and it's borderline embarassing that a Nintendo-published Wii game doesn't have full widescreen support.
Mario Party had been the only persistent minigame franchise for years, and Hudson got a little too comfortable because of it. The fact that there are more interesting minigame collections out there now, like Rayman Raving Rabbids, puts that laziness in stark relief and makes it more difficult to tolerate. If you've got the patience to dig past the skill-free board game portions of Mario Party 8, there are some genuinely inventive minigames to be played. The point, though, is that you shouldn't have to dig at all.