Looking back to its humble roots on the Nintendo 64, one would be hard pressed to expect a series like Mario Party to make it all the way to eight editions. But here we are: a new console and a new Mario Party game. Who could have imagined it would have the staying power to have come so far? Well, many gamers would question if indeed it does, and instead accuse Mario and his Parties of having overstayed their welcome. What is unquestionable is that the Mario Party series has continually declined in average review scores as the series has progressed.
But amidst this reasonable skepticism was a current of anticipation leading up to Mario Party 8. The innovative Wii controls and the openness of the Wii experience seemed to carry a lot of potential for revitalizing the series. The Wii has already seen more than its fair share of games that revel in the minigame experience, a vernacular the original Mario Party helped establish. Mario Party 8 then could be seen as the heir to the throne in a certain respect.
The actual experience of Mario Party 8 is thus a conflicting one. It is without a doubt an extremely solid rendition of the tried and true format, but it is not ambitious or daring as you might have expected it would be. This perhaps was an unreasonable expectation as few series can claim the sort of conservative stick-to-your guns approach of Mario Party. But the Wii is a vibrant and radical new way to game, and it is mildly lamentable that Mario Party 8 is so very similar to the previous games in the series.
To be sure, the new motion-activated minigames are a welcome addition, but it is a bit surprising how many minigames avoid motion controls and instead serve as retreads and rehashes of the same sort of games we’ve seen before. Sure, some of the boards feature dramatic game-changing effects, but winning is still just as much luck as it is skill. And, just like all the games before it, Mario Party 8 still features a boring, unforgettable, and best avoided single-player experience. When you look on the game as a whole you are overwhelmed with an impression that they have played it extremely safe with Mario Party 8 and some will undoubtedly find that disappointing.
Some will also feel there is a conspicuous omission in the multiplayer features due to a total lack of online play. Of course this is unsurprising for Nintendo who have been timid, perhaps overly so, in exploring online play. But while some would criticize, the decision has an undercurrent of wisdom. While online play is often refreshing and invigorating, the experience of Mario Party is one that would be sold short without 4 players in the same room. Disembodied internet presences would be disheartening and only marginally more interesting than the single-player game.
So while modest in its ambitions, Mario Party 8 is exactly what you’d expect of it, and if you’ve played any other version of it you already know what you’ll find here. There is a new Wii spin on it, and it works well, but Mario Party 8 faces a competitive field its predecessors mostly didn’t. Your own purchase of Mario Party 8 is a decision based on how much you want another group-friendly minigame title. While you might have already exhausted your interest in the genre, Mario Party 8 is a solid entry in the series that should, even if skeptically, considered.