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Mario Party 7

Score: 80%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Hudson Soft
Media: GCD/1
Players: 1 - 8
Genre: Party/ Family/ Themed

Graphics & Sound:

I am going to start off with the facts. I have played every iteration of Mario Party since its inception on the Nintendo 64. My family has played this game since it came out in '99 before my daughter was born, and now she too plays along with us and enjoys the game. Mario Party 7 is another great addition to the ever popular Mario Party game series.

For those unfamiliar with the Mario Party franchise, Nintendo offers a great family-play title that is easy for anyone to pick up and play at any time. There is literally something for everyone. Mario Party is a top-down board game with mini-games strewn in along the way to keep you on your toes.

The graphics are the same crisp models and animations that you have come to expect from the characters, as well as the previous two Game Cube versions of the game, and are very clean and true to their gaming caricatures. The animations are simple and clearly defined.

The sound makes no great deviation from the original characters' sounds that we have come to expect with each of their games. The background music, though looping and repetitive, didn't distract from the gameplay, and complimented the mood quite well. There are enough animation sounds as people move around the board to distract from any repetition.


Gameplay:

Mario Party 7 has the same challenging and fun games that the series has always had. For those who may have never played a minigame on Mario Party, they are where the fun begins. A minigame can be anything from racing your friends in a go-cart around a track, to seeing if you can hit the many balls that are pitched to you at different speeds. You may even have to run from a giant, spiked Bowser ball as you stand on a wobbling platform that shifts with the weight of your character, causing you to slide off of one side if you don't stay in motion, running and jumping. Some are easy like the press of a single button to reel in a fish before your opponent, others are intricate button commands that can make a machine hop, drag, or crawl to the finish line. The mini-game may be 4 vs 4, it may be 2 vs 2, and it can even be 1 vs 3.

The mini-games this time around, however, rely too much on a player’s ability to use a controller. Previous Mario Party versions had several games that were not based on how well you could control your character, thusly evening out gameplay between generations of game players and their skill levels. The other versions also had more games that were observation-based and even reaction time-based. Players who are expecting a simple, entry-level kid's game might get frustrated with the fact that most of the mini-games use controllability, which can also make the intended family aspect of the game difficult as well. The gameplay of Mario Party 7 is intended for players who are more versed in the standard gameplay. If this is your first taste of this title, and you are not an avid game player, then I would highly recommend building up to this title by playing previous versions first. You will have fun playing all the other versions as well.

The orbs are back and better than ever. The “orbs” are tools that you collect and use along the way. Some are made to use on yourself while others you place along the way as booby-traps. They have taken the seeming randomness out of their abilities and reactions as well as making their descriptions on-screen more clear during gameplay.

The greatest gameplay has to come from directly competing against your friends and doing away with the games' computer players altogether. It is definitely a Kodak moment to see a group of adults on the edge of their seats like kids, licking their lips and shaking their controllers at the TV (you know it helps) with someone finally springing to their feet in victory - and it was only the third mini-game in a series of twenty.


Difficulty:

I know, deep down in my heart, that there is no such thing as the "catch up code" that allows the computer's character to magically get exactly what they need every time to stay in the game. Ok, I lied, the damn game cheats. Mario Party 7 will frustrate the hell out of you with its “MAGIC” computer-controlled players and their innate ability to get exactly what they need as the game draws closer to an end. You can lay down pretty good odds in Vegas that they will get exactly what they need to stay in the game or to get ahead, if they are behind. Their AI is supposed to range between “easy” and “brutal”, but that only affects them and their actions during mini-games. There is a lot that happens on the game board itself to determine the outcome of the game. Even with all of that said and done, it is so fun and addictive that it will plead with you to pick up the controller and go back at it again.

Game Mechanics:

Keeping with Nintendo’s tradition of innovation and dynamic gameplay, they have once again added the microphone into the gameplay mix. Making its first appearance into the sequence in Mario Party 6, the microphone adds an interesting and dynamic form of gameplay. It was surprisingly adaptive to different accents and speech patterns. This is a unique gameplay feature in itself. The problem with this version, however, is that it nearly demands you have the microphone in play at all times. There are specific spaces marked around the board for the microphone mini-games. Even with the microphone setting turned off they are still there, and even though it recognizes the missing microphone, it still goes through the motion and dialogue, instead of just removing the spaces from play.

What has to be the most fun and unique game mechanic in this title has to be the 8 player at one time playability. Now I know many of you out there just said “It only has four ports,” or “I am not buying another adapter!” NOT THE CASE! You play with four controllers. Imagine sitting with someone to your right. Now, you control the left thumb stick and trigger with your left hand, while they control the “C” and right trigger with their right hand. AWESOME! If you are a couple that needs to go to counseling as it is, this is probably not the game for you. You play many games where you are both trying to accomplish different things at the same time, which includes hitting buttons. The best I could compare it to is finger twister. So much fun.

They definitely need to allow users to skip or speed up NPC actions, games, and dialogues. Veteran players and anyone who plays the game with any consistency don't need the long, drawn-out animations that are actually quite cool the first several times you see them. But, after you play the game a few weeks, you feel you can skip most of these with great certainty and move on without affecting the game.

I liked Mario Party 7, but I wouldn't put it at the top of the list compared to the other versions. But, I still love to play and enjoy the game. There are tons of unlockables and extras available in the game; most are in the form of tips and hints that make the game easier to play, but add a continued game playability. Everyone in the family has their personal favorite Mario Party and we alternate often for variety. This version will definitely be in the mix as it is a solid title with dynamic gameplay. I would only remind readers that this may not be the best game to start with if you are just getting into gaming.


-WUMPUSJAGGER, GameVortex Communications
AKA Bryon Lloyd

Sony PlayStation 2 Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows Windows Star Chamber: The Harbinger Saga

 
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