AMN’s Review Policy: Our reviews are written for you. Our goal is to write honest, to-the-point reviews that don’t waste your time. This is why we’ve split our reviews into four sections: What the Game’s About, What’s Hot, What’s Not and Final Word, so that you can easily find the information you want from our reviews.
What the Game’s About
By now everybody should be familiar with the Mario Party franchise. Born on the Nintendo 64, and continued on the GameCube, GBA, Wii, and now DS, Mario Party offers gameplay that resembles a standard board game, except that mini games break up the monotony of simple dice rolling and help to determine the outcome of the game. The series has always relied extremely heavily on your ability to round up friends to compete against, and Mario Party DS is no different in that regard. Sporting wireless multiplayer modes with single cartridge download play, Mario Party DS makes it easy to enjoy games with friends.
If you’ve played Mario Party in the past, on either the N64 or GameCube, then you should have a good idea of what you like and dislike about the series. We found the multiplayer play to be extremely addictive and competitive, despite the simplicity of many of the boards and mini-games. The single cartridge download play works flawlessly, and loading times are very minimal. It would have been nice to see Wi-Fi Connection support, but Mario Party is definitely more fun when you’re all in the same room.
The game is surprisingly nice graphically. It’s not jaw-dropping by any means, but it was nice to see fully 3D rendered characters and environments. While the DS is saddled with many limitations, Mario Party looks as good here as it ever did on the Nintendo 64.
It seems also that the pace of the game has been accelerated to accommodate for the handheld environment. This is definitely a good thing as we were able to play a full 15 turn game in just under 30 minutes. Mario Party has always taken a significant time commitment, but Mario Party DS helps remedy that somewhat.
In what seems to be a staple of the series, many of the mini-games are confusing, awkward, or boring. Some of the games force you to use the DS hardware more than they should, but at least they’re trying new things with the platform. You’ll respect the novelty of the mini-games, but once that wears off, you’ll be bored with them nearly half the time.
Another gripe that we had was with how small they made the game boards. The boards are so minuscule that you can literally come across multiple stars on a single turn. It makes for a lot of star collecting, but it kind of ruins the value of stars in the game. In the older Mario Party games it was a pretty big accomplishment to make it to the star first, now you’re pretty much assured that you’ll reach the star multiple times. The reason for this is most likely to allow people to trim down the number of turns needed to gain stars to accommodate for shorter games. It’s nice to have shorter games when playing on a handheld, but it’s a shame that it cuts down the size of the boards so drastically.
In the end, Mario Party DS is probably worth checking out if you can get four people together to play without a big effort on your part. Even with two players, the inept AI doesn’t provide much of a challenge, so you really need three or four people to keep games interesting. However, by now most Mario Party fans know that they really have the most fun with multiple players, so this is probably a given for those already interested in picking up the title. Releasing right in the middle of the holiday rush, Mario Party DS can be a good title for those family get-togethers, but it probably won’t have much legs to carry it deep into the New Year.