Latest Game and Movie Reviews (Live Update)

* Game Ratings (/10), Movie Ratings (/5)

DS Tokyo Beat Down 7.1
Xbox 360 Fracture 8.0
MOVIE The Unborn 0
PC Left 4 Dead 8.7
Xbox 360 Mirror's Edge 8.5
MOVIE Dead Space Downfall 3.5
MOVIE The Day the Earth Stood Still 0.5
PSP Super Stardust Portable 9.7  CHOICE PICK
PSP Need for Speed Undercover 2.8
Browse more game reviews | Browse more movie reviews | Subscribe to articles


Friday, November 30, 2007

Game Review:Mario Party DS

The acme of party indulgence.

There isn’t a time when a Mario game disappointed me. There isn’t a time when I didn’t enjoy a Mario game tremendously. Previous Mario games that I have played before reflect these statements well – Mario Kart DS, Mario and Luigi: Partners in Time and New Super Mario Bros. Enter my fourth Mario game, Mario Party DS, which is another one of those archetypal Mario games. Inevitable venial faults aside, Mario Party DS is one brilliantly constructed game.

As it name suggests, Mario Party DS is a mini-game compilation. But to say that it is merely a mini-game compilation would be to undermine its overwhelming content. In fact, Mario Party DS is a triple catch – sure, it is a mini-game compilation, but it is also a virtual board game and a puzzle game! A mindless mish-mash package of sorts this isn’t for everything integrated so beautifully together. The first components of the game that you will probably encounter would be the virtual board game and mini-games since those are the crux of the story mode, which you have to go through first before other modes are unlocked.

The story mode starts off when Mario and his chums receive an invitation to Bowser’s castle for a feast. True to Bowser’s evil nature, Mario and his pals are caged up and shrunk by him upon arrival at his castle and our little heroes will now have to participate in a series of 5 board games in order to obtain all the star crystals and defeat Bowser. The board game tournaments take place in a variety of locales, from a music room to Kamek’s opulent library. I would relate the board games in Mario Party DS more to a traditional game of Snakes and Ladders, which means that it is a game of chance. Of course, the board games aren’t replicating Snakes and Ladders entirely as there are also additions of Mario-themed elements like coin and stars collection, not counting alternative paths which can be taken at specific points. The objective of the board games isn’t to a race to the finishing point, but to gather as many stars as possible. At every 4 turns (there are 40 turns in all, 10 for each player), you will have to play a mini-game, but more on the mini-games later. It’s a refreshing concept, but perhaps the more important thing is that this board game component is a blast to play. As mentioned, it is a game of chance, but that’s what makes this component so good. Given the vast number of permutations which the elements of a particular board game can be placed, you will never know what you will get in your next dice roll. The next hexagon that you land on may turn the favor in your odds, but if you’re unfortunate, you may land on one that produces inimical results. For example, if your opponent has 4 stars and you have only 2, and if you land on a duel hexagon, you can challenge that opponent to a mini-game battle and decide on the stakes. Let’s say the stakes decided are 2 stars. If you win, great – you will steal 2 stars from your opponent and are now in the running for a win. Power-ups like triple dice and warping abilities can also be obtained by chance or purchased with coins, adding to the overall enjoyment factor of the board game as a whole. However played, there seems to be sense of thrill that accompanies the board game component of Mario Party DS and I love every bit of it.

Completing the story mode fully with one character would unlock almost all the other modes and one of them is the mini-game mode. Let’s be ingenuous here: Most mini-game compilations on DS are wont to be comprised of 75% unimaginative and stupid mini-games. But for Mario Party DS, you can throw that mentioned statement out of your mind. I am quite surprised that 90% of the mini-games in the game are pretty good, and take this: Mario Party DS has 70 mini-games to select from, which would easily put other mini-game compilations to shame. These mini-games employ a solid variety of control mechanics, ranging from tradition d-pad and button control to tapping, sliding and tracing on the touch-screen to microphone-blowing. Diversity in the mini-games won’t go unnoticed as well: surfing on bars of soap while trying to oust your opponent from the sink, trying to take photographs of your opponents in a 3D maze, jumping over objects that come down from a conveyor belt, capturing goombas by circling them, just to name a few. Mini-games are categorized into various groups like 2 vs. 2, battle, 1 vs. 3 and duel, giving further variety to the games, which are in equal parts wacky and creative. On a sidenote, the developers have also thoughtfully included the option of omitting mini-games that require the usage of the microphone from the mini-game line-up should you feel the need to not make yourself look like a fool on that train ride.

The A.I. can be vaguely inconsistent, though. This is apparent in the 2 vs. 2 mini-games, where teamwork is required. For some mini-games, the A.I. could be helpful – say, the soil digging mini-game where both you and your teammate must dig through a length of soil as fast as possible and be the first to reach the finishing point. On the other hand, in another kart-racing mini-game where you take either side of the wheels and your teammate controls the other half, it is near impossible to win simply because the A.I. controlled teammate is a dumbass. An ideal way to ensure a better playing experience would to enjoy the game with other humans. Unfortunately, online play is mysteriously unsupported.

Get over those and what you will find beyond the story mode and mini-game mode are the party mode, which allows you to play on any of the 5 board games that have been unlocked in the story mode, step-it-up mode, which should be the preferable choice if you want some competitive mini-game progression system or the similar, battle cup, score scuffle, boss bash, rocket rascals (which I didn’t manage to unlock prior to writing this review), puzzle mode and a gallery where you can view all your unlockables. Speaking of unlockables, there are a ton of them like badges, boss trophies, board components to be had and some require you to replay the game more than once, which in a way, extends the replayability of the game. Puzzle mode consists of 5 puzzle games. One of them is a Mario take on Tetris, while another one resembles puzzle bobble. Ultimately, all of them are considerably fun - with unlockables to go with as well.

As expected of any Mario game, the graphics generally have that convivial feel to them, but it could use some improvements as some items still appear as big unsightly blobs of pixels. The sound is great, suiting every part of the game really well and I find the character voice samples especially nice.

Final Comments
A nondescript package at first glance, but a few minutes with Mario Party DS proves otherwise. Essentially a wholesome 3-in-1 game that consists of a virtual board game, mini-game compilation and puzzle game, it is guaranteed that the time with Mario Party DS would be well-spent. The board game component possesses fathomless charisma, and the mini-games exude creativity rarely seen in the similar elsewhere. Alternatively, partake in the puzzle games if you want a fun diversion. A handful of modes and heaps of unlockables wrap up the awesome game. The graphics and slightly inconsistent A.I. are questionable, though, and the lack of online multiplayer hurts.


The Good:
- A virtual board game, a mini-game compilation and a puzzle game in one!
- Thrilling board game component
- Healthy number of mini-games
- Most mini-games are great, with a ton of creativity and diversity in them
- Puzzles games are a fun diversion
- A buffet of unlockables!
- Sound is superb

The Bad:
- Questionable slightly inconsistent A.I.
- Graphics need some work
- Online multiplayer nowhere to be found


Post a Comment

<< Home

Powerplay Megabytes | Achievement Unlocked! | SUPER Rant | Game Reviews | Time Capsule | Movie Reviews | Previews | Hardware Guides | Features and News