Mario Party 9
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Game Reviewed: Mario Party 9
Category: Board/Party Game
ESRB Rating: E
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Back in the days of the Nintendo 64, Mario Party was added to the ever-growing list of Mario games. It was a novel idea; a combination of a board game and a video game, all wrapped into a package that could be appreciated by gamers and non-gamers alike. It took many simple, but engaging, elements from both types of games, and the result was very enjoyable. As with any successful Mario game (and even some unsuccessful ones; how the Mario and Sonic Olympic series is still around is beyond me), it spawned endless sequels.
As the title suggests, this is the ninth. And if you think the formula may be getting old by this point, you would absolutely be right. Some fresh air was breathed into the franchise in the 8th installment due to the Wii’s novel control scheme, but it would seem that, this time around, Nintendo decided to simplify things for more casual players. Unfortunately, they went about it in entirely the wrong way, making this installment noticeably different from previous ones, but in all the wrong ways.
The players will start on one of a few maps, each of which is a series of spaces like a board game. Players start at the beginning and progress through the game based on dice rolls. The goal is to get to the end of the board with the most mini stars, which are earned by finding them on the board and competing in various mini-games. But rather than taking turns and progressing separately, as is common for this type of game, all the players are on a vehicle that moves all of them at once. The players take turns as the “captain,” who rolls the dice and dictates how far everyone will move. This captain takes the consequences, whether good or bad, of whatever spaces are landed on. Occasionally, there will be mini-games; small, simple games played by the players to compete for stars. Eventually, the players all get to the end of the board, bonus stars are awarded, and whoever collected the most stars is crowned champion of the game.
So is this new Mario game appropriate for your children? Well… duh. It’s Mario. But whatever, let’s do this.
What Parents Need to Know
Some of the mini-games include cartoony violence, with characters falling into lava, getting hit by large boulders and flying through the air, and getting squashed by giant bricks. This is all very silly and cartoony, and no more graphic or disturbing than your average cartoon. It might even be less so.
The day Mario uses mature language, my faith in humanity dies alongside my childhood. Thankfully, this is not that day.
Can you even comprehend any sort of sexuality in a Mario game? Neither can I.
The typical playful, simple magic of the Mario games is present in here. One game board is Boo’s haunted mansion, in which those silly fluffy ghosts will sometimes come out of portraits to chase the players. That’s all I can even think of. I’m sure there are other examples, but it all is the same; silly magic with no explanation or arcane affiliation.
A Child’s Perspective
When my nephew Logan (7 years old) and my niece Danielle (4 years old) came over one day, we played a game of Mario Party 9. Danielle could not quite grasp the use of the controller and had no clue what to do in the mini-games, and actually used the word “frustrating” when explaining it to me (which I thought was adorable and impressive for her age). Logan, on the other hand, loved it, declaring it his favorite game (which will no doubt change next time he plays a new game). He enjoyed the mini-games and liked how all his favorite Mario characters were in it.
Unlike my nephew, my experience with Mario Party 9 was not enjoyable. This game has been simplified to the point where it takes about as much skill as Candy Land, which is a little more than, say, a slot machine. Most of the events in the game are decided by the roll of a die. Many of the mini-games are based on the same, entirely chance-based principles. The coin collection from previous games has been entirely omitted, meaning players can’t buy items to help them win, thus further eliminating any skillful play. Most of the items themselves have been removed as well in favor of a few different types of dice that offer different number ranges (such as 1-3, 1-10, 0-1, etc.), so the only items that can be used increase chances, and nothing more. What aspects of the game do involve skill (essentially regulated to a few of the mini-games and the slight strategy behind dice use) are entirely invalidated by the sheer number of random events that can happen on the board to negate them at any time. Never once throughout the course of my play did I feel like I had actually accomplished anything, because my skill meant nothing in comparison to the completely random results of the dice.
There is nothing in this game that will offend your children, and it’s easy enough to play that as long as they can handle a controller, they should be able to understand it. Unfortunately, your children will have a far better time than you if you are used to games (video, board, card, or what have you) that actually base your victory on your ability. You may as well just roll dice and declare victory to whoever has the highest number. So if your kids really want it… get a previous one. Mario Party 8, or 4 (on the Gamecube) if you want to go old school. For your own sake.