[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/marioparty6/cover.jpg[/floatleft]Party games are very popular these days, especially with the frequency at which video games are pulled out at parties and large gatherings. Typical shooters or platformers limit gameplay to one to four players and are largely not very fun to watch. Party games, on the other hand, are a blast to play and equally as fun to watch. The fast-paced action and large variety of games can keep large crowds entertained for quite some time.
[i]Mario Party 6[/i] is the newest in the wildly popular party game series from Nintendo, and despite owning every Nintendo system and my love for the Nintendo characters, I have somehow managed to never play a single [i]Mario Party[/i] game until this weekend. I will admit that my initial reaction to the game was not a very positive one. You see, Dots and I started out playing Party Mode. Party Mode has 20 rounds-where each player has 20 turns-and with a mini-game in between each round of turns, it can get very long. We started close to midnight, and the game ended right before 2 am. This didn’t help matters. Even worse, the Party Mode plays just like [i]Pac-Man Fever[/i], which Dots and I hate with a fiery passion. Needless to say, we almost prematurely gave up on it. But after playing the rest of the game modes, I started to have some fun with it.
[floatright]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/marioparty6/ss07_thumb.jpg[/floatright][i]Mario Party 6[/i] sports a variety of game modes, including Solo Mode, Party Mode, Mini-Game Mode, and even a Mic Mode. Party Mode can be played with up to four players in two vs. two or a free-for-all style. It takes place on a very large board filled with obstacles and orbs. The goal of Party Mode is to get to the location of the Star on the board. The location of the star changes after someone reaches the star and purchases it. Party Mode consists of 20 rounds, with a round comprising of a turn for each player, and with a mini-game after everyone has rolled and moved their player. The ultimate goal of Party Mode is to collect the most stars, which you can use at the Star Bank to purchase some neat secrets, such as a few extra levels and a hidden character. Solo Mode features a much shorter board, strips out the other players, and has you playing to unlock mini-games and collecting stars based on your overall performance, instead of chasing the star around the board. Mini-Game Mode will allow you to play any of the mini-games freely that you have unlocked while playing Solo and Party Modes. Finally, Mic Mode allows you to play a small variety of mini-games that make use of the microphone.
The included microphone plugs into one of the two available memory card slots on the GameCube and features a single button you hold down when you want to speak into it. The cord on the mic was somewhat short and will create a cramped area with four people crowded around the console.
The game boards in Solo and Party Modes are riddled with different types of spaces you can land on. Blue spaces reward you with three coins, while Red spaces deduct three coins. Orb spaces reward you with one of the many special orbs. Orbs can be used for a myriad of different things, from slowing down the dice to give you a better roll to the orbs you cast on a space that prevent an opposing player from continuing on. Then there are Bowser Spaces and Duel Spaces that begin a Bowser mini-game, allowing you to duel an opposing player for high-stakes rewards. Any number of orbs will transform ordinary spaces into dangerous places to land. Coins are important since you have to purchase the Star for 20 coins when you reach it. Purchasing Orbs at the Orb shop along the way can ensure your speedy and safe arrival but can be risky should you hover too close to the 20-coin mark.
[floatleft]http://www.snackbar-games.com/images/reviews/marioparty6/ss03_thumb.jpg[/floatleft]The real meat and potatoes of the game are the mini-games. The quality of mini-games in [i]Mario Party 6[/i] is really quite dynamic, with most of them being very original and well thought out. Other games are purely luck of the draw and barely qualify as games, in my book. After unlocking a ton of the mini-games, I found most of my time was spent replaying those in Mini-Game Mode and not in Solo or Party Mode. The Party Mode was far too time consuming, and the boards in Solo Mode are awfully short with one board having only 15 spaces. 15 spaces ended up being two to four well-planned turns, and quite frankly I would rather just play the mini-games.
Dots and I also spent a fair amount of time playing Mic Mode, and I have to say that it is a very interesting concept. The mini-games using the mic range from a Jeopardy-style trivia challenge to a handful of games that use voice commands to move your character around as opposed to a controller. As a whole, the voice recognition was very good, and the implementation and planning-regarding a microphone as a peripheral-was very good. The mic did seem a little gimmicky in the beginning but ended up being highly entertaining.
While I can’t compare this release to previous [i]Mario Party[/i] games, I can say that in the end I had fun with the mini-games. I doubt [i]Mario Party[/i] will get as much play as the other games in my library due to the nature of the game, but I will be thankful I have it when company comes over. Fans of the [i]Mario Party[/i] series will enjoy the 75 new mini-games and overall experience that this release brings to the table. If you aren’t a fan of party games in general, then I doubt that [i]Mario Party 6[/i] will sway your opinion of the genre. While not the best party game I have ever played (an honor that belongs to [i]Kung Fu Chaos[/i]), [i]Mario Party 6[/i] definitely has a place in my library. For the game renters out there, renting the game will give you a partial experience: I highly suggest checking out the Mic Mode, but I doubt the microphone will come included in the rental. I suggest finding a friend with a copy and checking it out that way.