Mario Party 5 review
What, Is This A Slumber Party?


Mario, one of the most well known video game icons, is also known for trying his hand at many different genres and producing various spinoff series. Mario Party is the multiplayer focused variant that brings the world of board games to the video game and provides that unique Mario twist. The fourth game proved to be enjoyable but having some issues. Making the necessary tweaks seemed so simple, but somewhere along the way something went wrong. Mario Party 5 simply is not the game I wanted it to be.

I should start off on a positive note. Mario games always tend to gravitate towards bright and colourful styles in keeping with the light hearted themes of them, and MP5 is no different. There's certainly no denying the vibrancy of everything as the dream world boards and the cast selection have been crafted in such a manner. The characters designs are now quite familiar to fans of the series so there are no real surprises there. The opponents in the main story mode do feel a little lazy though, as they are really just palette swaps of the mini bowser, but nothing worth brooding on.

The boards cover a variety of dream themes and there is definitely a nice feeling as you dash around a large birthday cake, exploring a futuristic world or even discovering all the dangers of Bowser's nightmare board. The available spaces to move along are kept very clear while still having very detailed designs scattered around.

Animation wise there is a hit and a miss. The quality certainly isn't anything to complain about. All characters launch into victory or defeat poses as the situation requires and generally possess fluid movement animations for when they are dashing along spaces, jumping, punching etc. The boards are filled with nice little touches and event animations too. Seeing the board spaces light up as you dash over them is cool and seeing things like a hammer bro descend and throw hammers has its appeal. Many of these animations do tend to overstay their welcome though by being too long for their own good and unskippable.

Musically the tracks are typical Mario styled to give it that proper feel, but realistically I would not be able to tell you off hand what they are like without going back into the game. Suffice to say that none of them stick in the mind and some are not particularly good. The sound effects, including all the voice clips of the characters, work to do their jobs but not so much as to be outstanding or anything like that.

The core mechanics haven't changed a whole lot, but just in case this is your first taste of the series here is the deal. Four characters from the Mario universe take part, with the computer filling in spots not taken by human players. By hitting the dice block they move around the board, just like a regular board game. Various events are triggered depending on where they land and what they pass. The ultimate goal is to chase down the star spaces and buy stars from them, with the winner being the one to hold the most stars at the end of the turn allocation.

Most of the space effects from the last game are carried over. Blue spaces give coins, red spaces take them away, bowser spaces summon the king of koopas to perform some event that's usually bad for all. The obvious star space is unchanged too, appearing in a random location and changing to a new spot when a star is purchased. I'm pleased to note that the awful fortune space has been removed too. This all gives some sense of familiarity and the effects involved are good, as they were before.

Extra space effects have been added for this game. Donkey Kong is no longer a playable character but instead has his own space and provides a beneficial event, which usually involves a special minigame where all players have the chance to earn coins. Then there is the capsule dispenser. The shops of the last game are gone and replaced by capsule machines. Capsules are now free to obtain, but disappointingly it is now completely random what you get. These capsules can be used during a player's turn either by using it on themselves, which costs coins, or throwing it onto a space for free. This is an element that differs from MP4 too, as effects can now be triggered by landing on spaces. All boards also have some capsule effects already placed down, making for a more eventful layout. I appreciate the way items are used but I cannot fathom why they would implement a much inferior method of acquiring them.

Unfortunately, things aren't getting much better. The board designs feel a bit worse than before, and they had problems in 4 to begin with. The same issues of where the boards are huge and getting around them is a bit of a pain is still here but feels a little worse. When a star appears right on the other side of the board and you have to take such a long route around, or even when part of the board blocks you off even when you're so close to it, is irritating. Each board once again carries unique elements, such as changing bridges or teleporters, but these do not improve the situation a great deal.

The playing speed also finds itself in a rut again. Let's face it - waiting for four players to take individual turns is going to stack up to a fair amount of time. However, MP5 really makes it horrendous. Lengthy animations are in abundance for everything, for example. Sure, seeing the chain chomp smash into opponents is cool the first few times, but soon enough the novelty wears off, and when you consider that the majority of the board spaces has an event like this then you can understand that it can take even longer than before to complete a set of turns. It would also help if we could skip or speed up computer player turns, but the closest we get is only in the story mode where the computer players take their turns at the same time. It's a start but hardly enough.

Minigames are often thrown in, with some appearing during a single player's turn but you also get one at the end of every set of turns. These games will either be free for all, 2 vs 2 or 3 vs 1, depending on the colour of the space each player landed on, which is a neat way to decide teams. The mini-games have always been the most important element, and in this I find myself fairly disappointed. Some minigames can be cool, such as one that is like a sci-fi shooter or one that has you navigating a maze of whomps that aren't visible unless you're near them. However, I found that these are in the minority this time, and many of the games on offer are either fairly boring, such as a cowboy themed shoot out that is literally over in seconds or down to nothing but pure luck, including one game that has you pick a rope to pull and openly admits that the result is random. Seriously? I have enough of the pure luck stuff in the board play and I expect it there but I don't like seeing it in the minigames too. That is the one place in the series that I expect actual skill to matter.

Aside from the main party mode there is a new story mode previously alluded to. The story is predictably weak, as you challenge Bowser as he tries to take over various dreams. Here you take on several boards where you fight against three mini bowsers. Unlike party mode the goal here is not stars but to force your opponents to lose all their coins without losing all of yours before the turn limit hits. Other differences include the boards being seriously cut down versions which makes it easier to chase down the mini bowsers, bowser spaces taken out and replaced by duel spaces, no minigames at the end of each set of turns and a duel minigame kicking off when a player and a minibowser pass each other on the board, which is the primary means of making them lose coins.

Some of the changes are definitely welcome but for a single player mode I still think the developers have somewhat missed the point. For all the changes, far too much still comes down to pure luck. This kind of thing might pass for casual multiplayer gaming done for laughs, but the idea of success in a single player game being a product of luck is just silly. The game even has the bizarre idea of ranking you on how fast you clear the maps, despite the fact that you have very little control over that.

Outside of the main modes there are a few other game modes on offer. Volleyball has made it over from MP4 and is largely the same except without the tournament style offering. Controls are simple as you bash the ball between two teams and also throws in a couple of special balls, like one that explodes after several hits. Ice hockey has also been thrown in and has the simple easy to get into gameplay as volleyball does. Neither are particularly complex or addictive but they serve as nice extras. The card party one isn't quite so interesting. The idea is to navigate the paths and reach the stars, but massive luck factors in here and it feels more like an even more drawn out board game without much in the way of skill or enjoyment.

Like before, I feel the need to state the sheer luck factor of the game. As a party game a lot of the game comes down to luck, like the roll of the dice block or what events will trigger. Anyone hoping to rely on skill to get through will certainly be put off by the concept here.

In the end though, Mario Party 5 just isn't that much fun. Earlier games had the luck factor too, but their minigames selection was generally well designed. Here I can't find a whole lot of them enjoyable, and when the other problems haven't been addressed then it comes back to be a mediocre product. If you must have a party title try one of the others and give number 5 a miss.

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