If there is one thing Nintendo's massively popular Wii console is known for, for better or for worse, it is ubiquitous party and mini-game compilations. Its revolutionary motion-controller practically begs for new ways to play, so it is expected that mini-games are used to test what inputs work and which do not. However, it is surprising that the long-running franchise best known for strongly implementing quirky gaming inputs with its absurd, yet still high-quality mini-games, Mario Party, has taken this long to make another Wii appearance.
Mario Party 9 offers a bit of a divergence from previous entries. Rather than collecting as many stars as possible, making the one who has accumulated the most stars the winner, you must work together toward the shared goal of recollecting the Mini Stars stolen by Bowser. Instead of players individually moving along the virtual board game-styled locations (themed after recognizable Mario franchise essentials like Boo's Horror Castle), all four players ride in a car together, streamlining the action. Every pitfall and reward is doled out to the entire group. It is an intriguing blend of cooperative and competitive gameplay. Success in the mini-games determines the amount of reward and punishment.
Mini-games, as usual, are split up into different play types depending upon the four-player combinations of player-versus-player setup. Whether it is one-on-three (eg. one player attempts to electrocute / blow away / set on fire the other three in a limited amount of time) or free-for-all, mini-games are as varied and hysterical as ever.
Naturally, the four-player nature of the game just increases the madness when everyone is looking out for themselves. The free-for-all modes afford the greatest mini-game variety – bowling for Goombas along on a castle's walkway; platform-hopping and racing in an underground cavern or above the clouds; getting your timing correct in order to frantically avoid spiked Thwomps and speedy Bullet Bills; scaling a mountainous cliff by quickly mimicking the onscreen button inputs; catching as many hula-hoops as you can while wading in a pool. Mario Party 9 certainly knows how to put the Wii's controller to the test.
New gameplay additions include boss battles that task all four players with teaming together in order to take down a common enemy. Also, in response to today's pick-up-and-play mindset, the new mini-game mode allows you to handpick and play through the over 80 bite-sized events without the need to play through a lengthy party session. Playing repeatedly to hone your skills also promises the reward of Party Points that are used to spend on unlockable items and unspecified special features.
With the last console installment releasing nearly five years ago, Mario Party 9 looks to send out the Wii this year with a bang.
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