It’s time for a roadtrip.
Before videogames, there were board games. Then someone decided to make videogame board games, which is all well and good. They can be a fun way to spend an afternoon or evening with a group of friends. But let’s face it, they do drag on a little. There can be a lot of downtime between turns which will give the player the chance to get bored. I’ll be honest, it is very rare that I actually finish a game, quiting before the end and playing the included mini-games instead.
It is perhaps this issue that Nintendo have tried to address in the latest installment of their flagship video/board game, Mario Party 9. In previous games, the players would take it in turns to roll the dice and move around a board, one at a time, resulting in players going in different directions, usually racing to get to the same place and ending each turn in a mini-game. This time around though, all of the players stay together in a vehicle.
Be it a car, mine kart, or some other vehicle, all of the players jump in and then take it in turns at being the “captain”. As captain, the player rolls the dice and then moves the vehicle the resulting number of spaces, gaining the benefits or hazards of the final space they land on. Then the captaincy moves to the next player in the playing order. This method moves the gameplay on much quicker and in a more linear fashion, which works really well.
It also means that the playing boards are now point to point, rather than circuits, and as such have very definitive endings. Although there are alternative routes to take, as chosen by whoever happens to be the captain at the time, the game will still result in the player reaching a boss and then the game ending. It feels much more neat and compacted, and allows for the average game to be around 45 minutes long.
Players move around the board collecting mini-stars, with the winner being the player with the most at the end. These are found on different spaces around the board and are picked up by whoever is captain when the vehicle lands on them. Players can also gain mini-stars from the mini-games or other random events that occur throughout any given board. There are also Ztars on the board which basically take away the mini-stars of the player that lands on them.
Mini-games are also assigned to spaces on the board, rather than forced onto the players at the end of each round, meaning that they are much less frequent. Whereas before the mini-games were the sole focus of the game, and moving around the board more of an unwelcome distraction, this time around the mini-games actually complement the board game, making it a much more well-rounded experience.
Of the mini-games themselves, they are your standard collection. There are 80 in total and they are all short and simple in keeping with the new feel of this game. Before starting a mini0-game, the player will be able to see the simple instructions, most of which use the WiiMote on its side, and get to grips before leaping into the game and competing with the other players.
Other events on the board, such as the occasional luck-based mini-game which can result in bonus mini-stars, or the random mini-games in which the player may be forced to gamble their mini-stars, all help towards keeping the game moving and preventing the player from getting bored.
Through playing the game, either single player or with friends, the player will unlock goodies such as new boards and vehicles which will keep them coming back for more. A lack of online play seems like an oversight and possibly the only negative to be found in this new take on a fairly established genre.
Just when you think you know what to expect, Nintendo go and change it up, creating something new. Mario Party 9 has taken the video/board game and evolved it into something much more like a traditional videogame, whilst still maintaining a party game feel. It is quick and easy to play, and can be enjoyed by almost any age group, making it the ideal family game. Mario Party 9 still caters primarily to the casual gaming market, but the changes that have been made mean that it will appeal to the broadest audience yet. An unexpectedly brilliant game.