I have something of a soft spot for the Mario Party games. Ever since getting Mario Party 4 on the Gamecube many, many years ago, there's been something about their addictive mix of board game fun, with mini game madness that struck a chord with me, and led it to become one of my personal favourites. So, when Mario Party 2 was released on the Virtual Console, it was with great anticipation that I booted up the Wii, and set the game to download, roping in three friends for some Mario minigaming.
Mario Party 2 follows a similar premise to the other Mario Party games - in fact, other than the Wii's Mario Party 8, they all did. After choosing one of six boards to play on, everyone takes turns in rolling a dice, and moving around a board. Landing on a blue square nets you three gold coins, while landing on a red square loses you three. At a particular point on the board, there'll be a star space, and if you land there, and have 20 coins in your pocket, you can by a star. Sounds easy enough, right? If only!
The boards on Mario Party 2 are nicely varied, with each one having a different theme. From a Western land, which sees Toad sporting his own cowboy hat and guitar, to a space themed sci-fi board, there's lots going on on each board, as each comes with its own set of action spaces. These spaces, usually coloured in green on the map, activate something in the land. In the case of the Western land, landing on a green square by a station would activate a train, which chased anyone in its path until it got to the next station. Landing on the green space outside a saloon in the top left of the board, on the other hand, gives you the option of throwing a party for a small fee - which calls all the other players to the same square as you. Handy, if they're about to beat you to the star.
There a loads of little ways you can trick, or otherwise con your friends out of getting to the star, and they all add a lot of strategy to the game, almost in a chess-like way, as you try to second guess your opponent's moves, and do your all to make sure they don't have enough coins to pull off that dirty trick you know they're pulling. Few, however, are more annoying than the "Chance Time" space, which we seemed to be on the losing end of every single time we played. Essentially the game's way of trolling the other players, the chance time spaces let you choose to take something from someone and give to someone else. These can range from the nearly unnoticeable (giving ten coins to Mario), to the game changing (switch all coins and stars with the person in last place) - which, more often than not, is what happened to me. Going from having three stars, and being two stars ahead of everyone else, to ending up with nothing, while the person in last place takes three of your stars with four turns to go is not in any way, shape or form fair, and could easily cause some arguments.
Thankfully, most of the tricks require some from of investment from the player, and, with the going rate for stars being 20 coins, most players aren't exactly rolling in cash. The easiest way of boosting your earnings, however, is to win at some minigames - and that's where the competition really starts to hot up.
After each player's rolled the dice, the round will come to an end, and the game will choose a minigame for you to take part in. The minigames, which pit either every man for themselves, 2 vs 2, or 3 on 1, reward the winner (or winning team) with ten coins - or, in real terms, around half a star. Knowing that your opponent's two spaces away from a star, and needs the extra coins if they want to collect (if they don't have enough coins, they're forced to simply walk straight past, and trudge around the entire board again), can certainly offer you an extra incentive to do well in the minigames - or, at the very least, prevent your opponent from doing well.
The minigames themselves offer a good variety of skill-based games that are still, somehow, pretty easy to pick up and play. While the controls are often poorly explained, you'll soon get the hang of what you need to do as soon as you start each minigame - and if you're really unsure, you can always choose to have a practice before you play for real, helping keep any arguments to a minimum. While there are still too many minigames that are based entirely around chance (the game where you have to push a plunger in front of Bowser, praying you've picked the one that doesn't detonate it, is entirely down to luck), the majority of games are easy for players of all ages to get into - which makes them a lot more competitive, and a lot more fun because of it. You won't often find someone being counted out a few seconds into the game, as often, it's a neck and neck race - at least, until half way through.
They say time flies when you're having fun, and with Mario Party 2, that's certainly true, but it's also one of the problems. When you start each game, you can select a number of turns to play, but even the smallest number means a game takes upwards of 40 minutes to complete. With no way to save half way through (and the Virtual Console, for some reason, not saving your state when you quit), it's disappointing to say the least, and means you'll need to have a substantial chunk of time available when you start playing if you want to see it through to the end.
When we reviewed Wii Party, we lamented the lack of Mario characters, and a proper board game feel. Playing Mario Party 2 has just confirmed that we were right. We don't want another Wii Party - Nintendo, it's time to bring Mario Party back!
Format Reviewed: Nintendo Wii