Mario Party 4
Nintendo were the first to provide a console that enabled 4 players to participate in a game in the shape of the Nintendo 64. Of course having a console that enabled 4 people to play simultaneously created the need for a game that really delivered a fun and exciting experience. Mario Party was to be the game that delivered the goods and showed gamers that 4 player gaming could be hugely enjoyable. Since then of course there were two more sequels on the Nintendo 64 and a whole heap of imitations that just couldn't create the multiplayer magic of Mario Party. Of course the Nintendo 64 is now history and this latest title in the series finds itself on the Nintendo GameCube.
For those few out there that haven't played a Mario Party game before a brief explanation is called for. The game is basically a board game. The objective is to collect coins and stars. At the end of each round a mini-game is played and extra coins can be earned. The winner of the game is the one who has accrued the most stars. Of course it isn't this straight forward. The nature of the board spaces and items that can be bought or acquired, change the nature of the game.
Like any board game the space you land on often triggers an event. Land on a blue space and you'll earn 3 coins where as a red space will take 3 coins off your total. A happening space (denoted by a question mark) will trigger a board event. There is even a fortune space and landing on this will result in playing a round of Reversal of Fortune which is a kind of pinball game where you could end up losing what you have or gaining what you don't. There are also spaces to trigger Battle mini-games, Bowser spaces that can either take coins off you or trigger a Bowser mini-game and Mushroom spaces that can earn you a mega or mini mushroom.
To add extra variation to the gameplay there are also various items that can be bought from shops or acquired from certain board spaces. Mini mushrooms allow you to shrink to crawl through spaces, Mega mushrooms give you two dice blocks (you have to hit a dice block on your turn to determine how many spaces you will move and the numbers range from 1-10) and increase your size. If you encounter any events whilst using a Mega mushroom they will be ignored but if you pass another character you will take 10 coins away from them. There are super variations of both the Mini and Mega mushrooms as well as Warp Pipes, Swap Cards, Sparky Stickers, Gaddlight and a host of other items that can rapidly change the nature of the game. In fact it's fair to say that it's the variation that these items add that prevents the gameplay from becoming repetitive and also means that even a player who is far behind always has a chance of victory.
There are various parts to Mario Party 4. The Party mode is the heart of the game. Here 4 players take part in a board game in a race for stars and coins. If four human players are not at hand then an AI opponent/s will make the numbers upto four. This is the mode where Mario Party is at it's best. You just can't beat Mario Party 4 for the thrill of playing against three human rivals on any console. Story Mode is for single players and sees you trying to win on each of the five boards in order to become the Party Star and acquire a present from each of the five characters who have their own board. There are eight controllable characters in the game and winning the games with different characters will result in different prizes. There is also a special bonus for those who manage to win all the games with each character. It's also possible to play the mini-games in isolation. Initially there will be no mini-games that are unlocked but as you encounter them in either Party mode or Story mode they will appear in the mini-mode section. You can even setup your own Battle mode games and Tic-Tac-Toe games. If this isn't enough you can always enter the Extra Room to play in Thwomp's Backroom Ball or Whomp's Basement Brouhaha. The options are seemingly endless.
Having played a lot of party games recently there is one key difference between Mario Party 4 and virtually all the others, variety. The different kinds of games that are on offer are either 4-player mini-games, 2 Vs.2, 1 Vs. 3 and Battle mini-games. It's quite easy to label party games as simply button bashing, and in most cases this is true. In Mario Party 4 however this is not so and although there are some mini-games where button bashing is required there are also plenty of games where this is not necessary. Games such as Mr. Blizzard's Brigade simply require you to dodge the snowballs and movement of the control stick is all that's required. Of course Mario Party 4's variety does not end there. With there being over 50 mini-games on offer it's easy to suppose that a few games are very similar. It's to the developers credit that all the games not only look different but also feel different. From the brilliant simplicity of Trace Race (where each of the characters have a giant crayon and have to trace the line in front of them as accurately as possible to earn points) to the tricky Right Oar Left, the mini-games will never cease to impress you.
Mario Party 4 is without a doubt one of the best games on the GameCube and it is wonderful to see that it's great for deaf gamers too. All the information in the game is given in text. Before the start of a mini-game you are given the instructions for the game. The text is static and can be read in your own time. You also have the option to practise the game before playing it for real. I found this an invaluable addition, especially when playing the single player story mode. The only verbal information that is not shown in text is the occasional trademark comments from the characters as they move around the board. This doesn't detract from the enjoyment at all and these comments are only usually 2-3 words.
The game features force feedback. In fact some games such as Cliffhangers and Rumble fishing depend on force feedback. If like me you've got used to the rather splendid Wavebird controller then there is no need to worry. You can turn off force feedback in the game options if you want to. In games where force feedback is an essential part of the game an exclamation mark is shown over your character's head to visually depict the force feedback. I didn't turn off the force feedback option and to my amazement the game still showed the exclamation mark when I used the Wavebird controller. When I used the standard controller the exclamation mark was gone and the force feedback returned, very impressive.
Graphically Mario Party 4 represents a huge improvement for the series. The characters in the game are Mario, Luigi, Peach, Daisy, Waluigi, Wario, Donkey Kong and Yoshi. Each of the characters look very good indeed. The texture detail is not as good as what is on offer is Super Smash Bros. Melee but nevertheless the characters look impressive. The mini-games also look very good. It is worth mentioning that the water in games such as Cheep Cheep Sweep looks magnificent and completely lifelike. There are five different main game boards in the game, Toad's Midway Madness, Goomba's Greedy Gala, Shy Guy's Jungle Jam, Boo's Haunted Bash and Koopa's Seaside Soiree. The boards look good although they are not as graphically detailed as they could be.
Mario Party 4 is indeed very impressive. As a multiplayer experience it's as close to perfection as you're going to get. You can even create a custom list of your favourite games and use only these in your Party game. This is especially useful when playing the game with your children as they know they are going to play the mini-games that they love instead of having to play the ones they may dislike. As a single player title the game doesn't equal the multiplayer experience but it is still very enjoyable and the desire to unlock all the mini-games and complete the Story mode will keep you busy for ages.
Game Rating: 9.1/10