Review: Mario Party 7 (Nintendo Gamecube)

Review: Mario Party 7 (GC)
Developer: Hudson Soft
Distributor: Nintendo
Genre: Party/Puzzle
Release Date: 11/7/05

Mario Party is quickly becoming Nintendo’s version of Madden. Every year, right before Christmas, we end up with a new Mario Party hitting store shelves just begging for us to spend another $50 on it.

Now I enjoy Mario Party as much as the next guy. Many a fond hour was spent in college huddled around the Nintendo with my roommates playing the game into the wee hours of the morning while imbibing massive quantities of alcohol. Not that I’m encouraging that kind of behavior, but you know how college is. Anyway, if you’ve ever played any of the previous Mario Party games, you know that it can be amazingly addictive and a ton of fun, provided you have enough players to take the controllers.

But seriously now, do we really need 7 of these games? At $50 a piece, no less? I could see releasing a new one every year for $20 or $30… but $50? Personally I don’t think it’s worth it. After 6 previous titles there’s not enough new here to justify that much money.

However, I know people will still go out in droves to purchase it for themselves or for their children, so we might as well take a look at how the game measures up this time around.


1. STORY/MODES

Mario Party 7 has a very loose story based around Mario and friends going on a cruise. Except they forgot to invite Bowser, which makes the giant green guy angry. So while Mario and his buddies are out to have a good time, Bowser is constantly working to make their vacation miserable. It’s just a cutesy little storyline to kick the game off, and doesn’t add or take away from the game in any real noticeable fashion.

Which leaves us with the game modes. As per usual, Mario Party 7 comes packed with plenty of ways to play it. There’s your basic Party Mode with four players moving around the game boards together. Then there’s Solo Mode where you can challenge a computer or player to a one-on-one game. There’s also a Deluxe Mode where you can use one GameCube and four controllers to allow eight people to play at once, and finally a Mini-Game Mode where you can play any of the mini-games that you have all ready unlocked.

For the most part there are a good number of options and offerings here. However, every mode still boils down to the same thing… playing mini-games, whether that means diving right in and challenging a friend to a few rounds, or getting together the neighborhood and going at the Deluxe Mode. In the end, the different modes are nice and give you plenty of options for play, but there are not enough differences between them to really stand out.

Story/Modes Score: 6/10


2. GRAPHICS

If you’ve played any of the latter Mario Party titles, then you know exactly what to expect here. Almost pixel for pixel in some instances.

As with pretty much all Mario games, the graphics and colors are bright and vibrant with smoothed out edges and a cartoon like appearance that will definitely appeal to younger audiences. As always, there is a certain amount of charm in the game’s style, so even though the graphics aren’t the most realistic or complex in the world, they still do their job admirably.

While playing on the game boards you will see plenty of animations and other characters moving around and bringing life to the surroundings. The colors are all bright and the contrasts are high, so you will have no problem at all making out the different objects and characters. Occasional graphical effects such as smoke clouds or bursts of flame or falling waterfalls all look great and add a sense of life to the playing areas.

However, while the game board’s graphics look pretty good, the mini-game graphics sometimes leave a lot to be desired. Certain games, such as one where you race around a figure-8 track, or try to find your way through a darkened haunted house, seem a little rough around the edges. Perhaps it’s the perspective, or the way the characters move, but they just don’t seem to have the same polish as other games. Other mini-games look perfectly fine, so it’s a bit of a toss up as to what you will end up seeing more.

Overall, the graphics in Mario Party 7 are what we’ve all come to expect from the numerous Mario party titles out there; bright, colorful, and full of distinctive shapes, but not the pinnacle of what the GameCube can produce. And I can’t help but feel that some of the mini-games were overlooked when it came to their graphics.

Graphics Score: 7/10


3. SOUND

Once again, the sound is about what you would expect from previous Mario Party games, or from other Mario based games in general. You have your traditional midi based music with plenty of little sound effects and voices for the characters.

To start with, the game’s music is quite good, and fairly catchy. Each game board has its own distinctive tune which matches its appearance, and they are all quite good. This is fortunate, as the majority of the music you hear in the game will be the game board music. Mini-games also have their own sets of theme, although some of these repeat quite often depending on what games you end up playing. None of these are offensive to the ears, although most of them are fairly forgettable.

Sound effects are equally well done, although much more repetitive than the music. During the course of any one game you’ll find that an individual character’s voices and sounds are often repeated. Depending on your personality, this is either perfectly acceptable or will drive you nuts. I know I can only take hearing Yoshi’s strange squealing for so long before it begins to aggravate me.

Other sound effects in the game are heard more or less often depending on the game. The sound of jingling coins is probably the most often repeated sound, but it doesn’t bother me as long as it means I’m the one getting the coins. Various boards also have their share of sound effects, from the mild roar of a waterfall to the gentle turning of a windmill. These all add a sense of life to the boards, and are nice little additions.

The sound in Mario Party 7 can be very repetitive at times, but most of it is well done, and many of the tunes are quite catchy. Fortunately the sounds that are the most prominent are the best. Well, with the exception of a few voices here and there.

Sound Score: 8/10


4. CONTROL AND GAMEPLAY

Once again, the controls and gameplay are nearly identical to previous Mario Party titles. And if you’ve ever played any of those, then you know that it would be impossible to talk about all the different controls since they change from mini-game to mini-game. And I am not going to sit here and give you a run down of all 80 plus mini-games and how they work.

Suffice it to say that before playing any of the mini-games you will be given a brief set of instructions on what the controls are and how the game works, along with a chance to practice playing that game. For the most part these games are fairly simple, and involve moving the control stick around, matching the buttons that appear on screen, or hitting the A button to jump or fire. The real challenge comes with the stipulations for winning each mini-game, as certain games can be quite difficult depending on the computer settings, or how adept your friends might be.

While on the game board, the controls are also very simple and effective. Hitting the A buttons will allow you to roll the dice to see how far you move, and using the other buttons on the controller will allow you to see the map, cancel a command, or choose to use an ability sphere. These spheres can grant you any number of abilities, from allowing you to roll extra dice, to setting up a trap on the board for other players, to moving you to a different space on the board. Often times the player who makes the best use of his or her spheres will end up with a hefty lead. Although luck still comes quite heavily into play.

Depending on what spot you land on a different event will occur. A blue space will grant you three coins while a red space will take away three coins. Green spaces produce different effects depending on the icon on them. These include duel mini-games, Donkey Kong mini-games, microphone mini-games, and Koopa Kid effects. If you don’t have a microphone (the game comes with one, unless you rent it), you can choose to turn these games off in the options, and landing on these spaces will have no effect. Certain maps also have their share of special spaces that produce different effects which can be either a benefit or a hindrance.

While in Party Mode, after each mini-game a Bowser gauge will slowly fill. Once it does Bowser will make an appearance and do something to attempt to mess with the players. This can include destroying bridges for a turn, throwing out Bowser or Koopa Kid tiles, to setting up a special shop that forces you to buy pointless trinkets.

In general, games can last anywhere from 10 to 50 turns based on the settings you choose. A 10 turn game can take upwards of an hour depending on who you have playing with you and how many times you practice the mini-games, and a 50 turn game could take several hours. Fortunately the game automatically saves after each mini-game, and you can always quit and come back to it later.

In order to win the game, you need to collect the most stars. Stars can be purchased on the map for coins, and sometimes they can be won or stolen from other players. Additionally, depending on the game settings, bonus stars will be awarded at the end of the game for three out of six possible categories, including most spaces moved, most coins won in mini-games, and most green spaces landed on. The player with the most stars wins, and in the case of a tie, the player with the most coins wins. If you decide to play with the bonus stars turned on, you can almost be guaranteed not to know who the winner will be until the end of the game, as the bonus awards can take a player in last place to first place in a matter of seconds.

Once you complete a game, you will be awards a certain number of mileage points. These can be traded in at the Shop for additional characters to play, new computer difficulty levels, or bonus mini-games and game boards.

My biggest complaint with the game stems from the fact that you really do need multiple players to enjoy it. Half of the fun is back-stabbing your fellow players while laughing and joking around with each other. But with any less than that you are guaranteed to have at least one or two computer controlled opponents (unless you are playing a one-on-one game), and these can be incredibly frustrating to play with. And while the difficulty level for these opponents can be changed, it still takes away some of the fun from the game. It’s just not a party without some friends around.

There is certainly a lot going for Mario Party 7. It has incredibly simple controls and easy gameplay that can also manage to be complex at times. Luck plays a big role in the game, but strategy does as well. With four players, you can expect a great time. Unfortunately with any less than four you could end up being frustrated because of your computer controlled opponents.

Control and Gameplay Score: 8/10


5. REPLAYABILITY

Mario Party 7 sports over 80 mini-games, 6 new game boards, 4 different gameplay modes, and a dozen playable characters. So yes, there is quite a bit of replayability here. However much of that is dependant once again on how many friends you have around.

With three or more friends to play with, this game is a blast. The mini-games are all well designed and it’s very difficult to master all of them, ensuring that no one player has a big advantage over another. Toss in all the unlockable content and the amount of time it will take to obtain it, and you could be playing this game for quite some time in order to get everything there is to have.

However, the games replayability in general is affected by how many friends you have that can come over and play with you. For a family with multiple children, this game has almost infinite replayability. But if you are going to be pretty much the only person playing the game, then it is going to get old quite quick.

Replayability Score: 8/10


6. BALANCE

For the most part Mario Party 7 is fairly well balanced. Every player is on pretty much even footing when it comes to the game board, and the mini games either have everyone playing the exact same way, or have one player with a slight advantage going against three other players, which tends to balance things out a bit. So from a player versus player standpoint, the balance is pretty much spot on.

However, when dealing with the computer, there is no real solid balance. Yes, it is possible to assign a difficulty level to your computer opponents, but even then their actions seem almost random. On the Weak difficulty, the computer is incredibly stupid, and will likely lose every mini-game you play against them. Normal doesn’t seem to provide much more of a challenge. The later two difficulty levels, Hard and Brutal (which you need to unlock) are completely insane. The computer makes almost no mistakes during the mini-games and the only factor that evens things up is how the dice land on the game board. Even then, I have a sneaking suspicion that their rolls aren’t quite as random as one might think.

In the end, the balance for human players is fantastic, and no one should have a huge advantage over anyone else. However, when playing against the computer things will almost always be one sided.

Balance Score: 6/10


7. ORIGINALITY

It’s Mario Party 7. Seven! As in there have been six previous games! Sure, you can take a look at Mario Party 7 and compare it to the original and see the leaps and bounds of progress that the game has made, but when you stack it up to Mario Party 6, the gameplay and controls and everything are almost identical.

But there are over 80 new mini-games, you might argue. True… but how many of them can you look at and compare to a game from a previous Mario Party? There are only so many variations on a maze or a track and field event or a shooting event that you can have before you begin to see that they are all the same. They just happen to have gotten face lifts.

The bottom line? There just isn’t enough new here. Same game, different appearance. If you’ve got Mario Party 6, you don’t need to bother spending another $50 on this one. Wait for it to come down to the $20-$30 range if you just have to have it.

Originality Score: 1/10


8. ADDICTIVENESS

I complain about the lack of originality in the game, but don’t get me wrong… this game is still plenty addictive. But remember how I mentioned that the games replayability is largely based on how many people you have to play with? Well, so is the addictiveness.

If you’ve got a group of friends to sit down and play with, you will all have a great time and find yourself playing for hours at a time. Especially if you toss a few bottles of cheap booze in there. Not endorsing it, just saying…

On the other hand, if all you have is yourself to play with (get your heads out of the gutter) against the computer, than you probably won’t find yourself playing for very long. It’s just not as much fun without a bunch of friends. And the computer makes the game either too easy or too hard. There’s really no nice middle ground.

Addictiveness Score: 6/10


9. APPEAL FACTOR

Mario Party has been, and will probably continue to be, one of Nintendo’s cash cows. Every year they can be guaranteed to release a new Mario Party before Christmas, and get a nice bump in their sales due to the holidays. And it doesn’t hurt that this game really is for everyone.

Whether you are a child or an adult, chances are you will thoroughly enjoy this game, especially if you have some friends to play with. Parents can be assured that the game is entirely kid friendly, and older audiences can be assured that there are plenty of opportunities for creative drinking games. But you didn’t hear that from me.

The only thing working against the appeal score is that the game is still $50. I am completely against any title that comes out on a yearly basis and still maintains a $50 price tag. I chalk it right up there with releasing the original Metroid or The Legend of Zelda for $20 on the GameBoy. Greedy bastards.

Appeal Factor Score: 8/10


10. MISCELLANEOUS

Chances are you all ready know whether or not you are going to buy Mario Party 7. If you are a fan of the series, then it is almost a given. And this close to Christmas time, I’m willing to bet that this game is going to make a lot of children’s lists.

And it is a good game. It’s another quality title from Nintendo that can be enjoyed by all ages. It and its predecessors are one of the best reasons to own a GameCube to begin with. And it is sure to provide hours of entertainment for you and your friends.

The graphics and sound are solid, there are quite a few modes of play, tons of mini-games, plenty of replayability, and fairly high addictiveness. There really is very little to complain about. Provided that you have some friends to play with. Because by itself, as a single player experience, Mario Party 7 is definitely lacking. But then it is hard to have a party by yourself.

I just can’t in good conscience suggest buying a game that comes out every year for a full $50. I know I have said it repeatedly throughout this review, but it’s something that I’m very adamant about. If you’re going to put out a game with only minimal improvements in terms of graphics, sound, and gameplay, then you should not be charging full price for it. And it just pisses me off to see Nintendo (and other companies, *cough*EA*cough*) doing this. Especially when you know that the price for the game will be $20 in less than six months anyway.

Miscellaneous Score: 5/10


THE SCORES

Story: 6
Graphics: 7
Sound: 8
Gameplay/Control: 8
Replayability: 8
Balance: 6
Originality: 1
Addictiveness: 6
Appeal Factor: 8
Miscellaneous: 5
Overall: 63
Final Score: 6.5 (Fair)