The minigame masters at Hudson have long since proven they know how to produce gameplay that's bite-size and easy to digest. Mario Party, the video game franchise that eats like a board game, has now arrived on the Nintendo Wii for the first time with Mario Party 8, and it brims with plenty of pick-up-and-play action. The move to the Wii could've been a great time to revamp the series, and while many of the minigames make sound use of the Wii's unique controls, it's ultimately just more of the same Mario Party.
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This year, Mario Party goes to the Star Carnival, which is run by the symbiotic duo of MC Ballyhoo and his talking top hat, Big Top. The carnival theme doesn't really penetrate past the menus, though, and once you're in a game, it's pretty much the same old Mario Party that Hudson's been churning out for the past eight years now. The primary mode still plays like a board game, with four players smacking the dice block to move across spaces, collecting as many coins and stars as they can before they finish a set number of turns, and of course, playing minigames at the end of each round.
Mario Party 8 doesn't have as many minigames as Mario Party 7, nor does it support eight players or include a goofy microphone peripheral. It does, however, make generally solid use of the Wii Remote, and the number of palette-swap minigames seems lower. A good number of minigames will have you holding the remote sideways in standard gamepad fashion, but you'll also swing at baseballs, furiously shake a can of soda, do some tightrope walking, use a paddle to help row a boat, and more, all by gesticulating with the remote. There are also some good references to past Nintendo games couched in these minigames, such as a first-person ghost-hunting minigame that appears to take place in Luigi's mansion.
While many of the minigames are four-player free-for-alls, there are plenty of one-on-one, two-on-two, or one-on-three games to mix things up, but what really helps keep the minigames fresh is the varied focus of the minigames. The minigames never get terribly complicated, though there's always a practice option if you're having trouble grasping one of the high-concept games. This simplicity makes it easy to jump into Mario Party 8 with casual players, but it also cripples the lasting value of the game. There are a number of minigames that, after the first time, you'll probably never want to play again.