Critics of the Wii argue that it’s just a souped up version of Nintendo’s last console, the GameCube, that substitutes clunky motion sensing capabilities for real innovation. Supporters say that the Wii’s popularity proves that an inviting interface and a sense of fun are true innovations in an industry obsessed with making things bigger and better. Gamers in both camps will find plenty of evidence for their case in “Mario Party 8,” a new entry in the long-running franchise that doesn’t deliver anything fundamentally new, but proves the Wii is the perfect platform for a fun evening with friends.
“Mario Party” is, essentially, a board game on the TV screen featuring all the characters from the many “Super Mario” games, from Princess Toadstool to Koopa Troopa to the chubby red plumber himself. Players move around a board trying to collect stars and engage in minigames — one- or two-minute long competitions — to earn coins along the way.
“Mario Party 8” doesn’t change the “Mario” formula one iota. The new levels, which include a poorly lit haunted house, a train whose cars keep switching and a “Monopoly” like level where players try to buy up real estate, are all in line with “Mario Party’s” ethos of making every element adorable and easy to learn.
The only real change is that most minigames take advantage of the motion sensing controller, from flying a plane to sawing a log. Given the many different ways the “Wii-mote” can be shaken, tilted, and thrust, it’s a perfect match of form and substance. However, there have already been numerous minigame collections for the Wii, such as “Wii Sports,” “Wii Play” and “Cooking Mama.” For anyone who has played those titles, another $50 collection of minigames won’t be too exciting.
Only significant structural improvement is a new mode that lets two players compete against each other. This is a welcome change, given that previous incarnations forced players to include computer-controlled characters if they didn’t have four people in the room.
Graphics are a big improvement over “Mario Party 7,” but won’t impress anybody who has had a glimpse of a Playstation 3 or Xbox 360.
“Mario Party 8” is yet more proof that the Wii makes videogaming with friends and family, especially those who are gaming novices, fun in a way that the 360 and PS3 have yet to match. But it also demonstrates that developers have yet to use the Wii for much more than an hourlong good time.