Developer: Nd Cube / Publisher: Nintendo / Played on: Wii / Price: $49.99 / ESRB: Everyone (Mild Cartoon Violence)
What a guy! Nintendo’s portly plumber has saved the Mushroom Kingdom dozens of times, rescued Princess Peach whenever she was in peril, and even let his brother share the limelight every once in awhile, and now he’s throwing yet another massive party for all to attend!
Mario Party 9 is the first game in the series to come out in over five years and mixes up the formula quite a bit, without sacrificing the core Mario Party feel. If you’re looking for a reason to turn on your Wii, this is the best excuse since Skyward Sword.
Like the other games in the series, Mario Party 9 places you and up to three other players on a board game-like map competing to collect the most stars through a variety of minigames. The approach this time around is slightly different than past iterations. Instead of each player moving individually across the board, they all hop in a single vehicle and travel together. The goal of each stage is to defeat Bowser and his minions, instead of simply gathering the most stars or winning the most minigames.
A different minion of Bowser guards the halfway point and end of each stage, and these bosses require all players to work together to advance. After successfully completing a level, the player with the most Mini Stars gathered throughout the stage is crowned the “Superstar” and winner of the game. It certainly is nice to see change injected into an otherwise generic series, but not everything is made for the better.
Unlike prior games which made you play a minigames after everyone rolled, in Mario Party 9 you only play minigames by landing on minigames spaces on the board, or by randomly finding a minigames in a gift box (however that works). So you can go for minutes at a time without doing anything more than simply hitting the A button to move. The game still relies far, far too heavily on luck. Entire games can be decided on one move, and some minigames are dependent only on your guesswork rather than actual skill. While this does allow for gamers of all skill levels to achieve victory, it can create infuriating situations for many.
The meat of Mario Party 9 is the minigames. There are over 70 brand new minigames to be played this time around, and they are a mixed bag in terms of challenge and fun factor. Billistics puts all four players on top of a tower trying to dodge a barrage of Bullet Bills; Skyjinks has all the players moving across spinning and rotating platforms in a Super Mario Galaxy-inspired level; and in Pizza Me, Mario turns you all into pizza chefs attempting to add all their toppings to a pizza first.
These games are all creative, fun to play, and easy to understand for older and younger gamers alike. But other games are either too easy, rely too much on luck, or just plain no fun. Tackle Takedown is a football game in which you must stop one player from reaching the end zone; Zoom Room has each player trying to navigate a maze and catch Bowser Jr.; and Logger Heads makes each player a lumberjack trying to chop a piece of wood first. These games aren’t as fun as other ones and slow down the already casual nature of the game to a grueling pace.
Fortunately you are given a choice of three games to play before beginning the minigames, and you’ll quickly develop your favorites that you’ll come back to again and again. Playing the game with friends is definitely the way to go.Solo play is possible, but the game loses all of its appeal when you are only playing against the computer. Having three friends with Wii remotes to play with is the preferred, if not required, way to get the most out of this game.
Mario Party 9 offers up a huge variety of modes to play through that greatly extend the life of the game. Party Mode is the main offering, allowing up to four players, humans or computers, to pick a game board and play through the game. Solo Mode is a single player only affair and acts as a story mode for the game. In this mode we discover a thin plot for the game about Bowser stealing the stars out of the night sky and using them for some dastardly plan, but it’s entirely superfluous.
Each stage in Solo Mode has you going again at least one of Bowser’s minions, and if they end the game with the most Mini Stars you’ll have to play the entire level again in order to move on. You must complete Solo Mode to unlock two hidden characters and one hidden game board, but this is easier said than done with the game’s fluctuating luck. Minigame Mode allows you to play any minigames you’ve already come across in Party Mode so you can hone your skills or just enjoy a select few games with friends.
Extra Mode gives special minigames for you to play not found in the main game. A Goomba Bowling variant can be found here that mimics bowling on Wii Sports but with a Mario Twist. Also of note in this mode is a full-fledged puzzle game that has players facing off against one another trying to create lines or shapes of similarly colored orbs like you’d see in Puyo Pop or Bust-A-Move. This puzzle game is incredibly fun and can be a great distraction from the main game if you’re looking for something new.
Rounding out the modes is the Museum. In the Museum you can spend Party Points you earn from playing any of the other modes to unlock goodies like an extra Donkey Kong themed stage, different vehicles to ride while on each game board, and Mario inspired constellations to gaze upon at your leisure. With tons of stuff to unlock, an easy way to play just the games you want, and bonus games that are actually worth it, I was impressed with Mario Party 9’s options. In short, there is plenty to do here to keep you entertained.
Have you played a Mario game in the last five years? If yes, then you know exactly what to expect when looking at Mario Party 9. The game has the same visual presentation as other games in the Mario universe; bright colors, charming, familiar characters, and an overall cheery look. Each stage is highly detailed and different from the last. Bob-omb Factory has conveyor belts moving and changing the game board, Toad Road is a lush, green landscape with plenty of trees, rivers, and pipes, and even the final level Bowser Station looks fun, taking place in space with a cosmic atmosphere to it.
Character models appear to mimic those found in Super Mario Galaxy, showing that the Wii can put out graphics that aren’t as powerful as the other consoles but just as effective at creating the perfect mood. All in all, Mario Party 9’s presentation is on par with the main games in the Mario series.
Mario Party 9 takes baby steps towards a new direction for the series. The core gameplay remains the same: move along the game board, play some minigames, and be the one with the most stars in the end. But more of a focus on playing for a common goal and each stage actually having an ending are welcome changes to the series.
An over reliance on luck can quickly turn the tides of a game, for better or for worse. Though some of the minigames can be boring and uninspired, others can be a hoot while playing with friends. Mario Party 9 is a worthy addition to the party game series and is sure to entertain anyone looking for multiplayer centric game for their Wii.