Mario Party Advance
It's a party as Modojo celebrates its first exclusive review along with the folks at GameDAILY! It's a party alright... a Mario Party.
The Mario Party titles just keep on a'comin, and with their most recent incarnation on the GBA with the aptly-named Mario Party Advance, Nintendo continues their recent and rather suggestive marketing campaign of late by implying that's sometimes it's better to just play with yourself. "Say what?!," you ask? "Mario Party? Playing alone? Surely you jest!" Well, with the translation of the Mario Party series to the portable frontier, the game has moved emphasis away from the traditional multiplayer aspects that made the earlier titles so popular and created a game that throws the Mario Party convention almost completely out the window.
Unlike other Mario Party games, Mario Party Advance is most likely going to cater primarily to those looking for a gratifying single player experience within the Mario Party mold, NOT those looking for a videogame-fueled social romp. In other words, to be completely satisfied with this title you're going to have to be cool partying with yourself.
The reason why is because most of the multiplayer modes in Mario Party Advance are rather inaccessible, as they require each player to have at least their own GBA and for some instances of play also their own copy of the game. This isn't plopping down in front of the TV with a GameCube and a few controllers; getting yourself and friends up and running in Mario Party Advance is like coordinating and configuring a mini LAN party. Additionally, the multiplayer options in Mario Party Advance are limited and rather disappointing.
So does that mean the game is a failure? Not at all, and that's why this was a hard review to write! Honestly, Mario Party Advance makes a pretty solid single player endeavor if you have the taste for the mini-game madness that the series has to offer. The game is chock-full of a great deal of unlockable, hidden and secret features that could definitely keep the Mario partier entertained for a few caffeine-riddled hours, and it's wrapped up in a portable and easy to swallow fashion. The tone of the game is the same as all the other Mario Party titles: it is lighthearted and fun and has appearances by most of the familiar Mushroom Kingdom characters, so veterans should know exactly what to expect.
The primary single-player mode has you rolling dice, moving spaces, and encountering weird characters and challenges much akin to the party mode in previous Mario Party games. Unlike other Mario Party board modes, though, you are not competing against computer controlled opponents but instead working with a fixed amount of dice rolls. More dice rolls can be obtained or lost depending on how you move about the board, and that is pretty much the only deciding factor as to how long you can go. There is only one game board, and it is quite large, so getting your character to every nook and cranny to play all the mini-games and unlock everything definitely poses a challenge for those it keeps interested.
As far as the mini games themselves go, it's a pretty even fifty-fifty split with the good and the bad. The mini games aren't always as innovative as they could be, but they are easy to figure out and there are enough of them to keep things relatively interesting. However, I must say that most lack the "OOMPH!" and sheer madcap insanity that's to be found in other Mario Party titles, but they offer a decent helping of simple fun for what they are worth.
Multiplayer gaming is not exclusive to only those with more than one GBA or Mario Party Advance cartridge; there are two game modes that allow one GBA to be passed from player to player. Personally, the kicks I got from Mario Party all come from the fact that most of the time everyone gets to play at once, so passing a GBA around isn't always going to be my idea of a good time. But, if you happen to dig up the people and resources to get a serious game going on, the multiplayer modes have a decent amount to offer.
Unfortunately, there is no classic Mario Party board game in the multiplayer mode, which was a huge letdown. The board game sort of wrapped the communal aspect of other Mario Party games into an easy-to swallow pill form, and it's absence in the GBA version just gives the impression that the multiplayer that is there is simply tacked on. The multiplayer games that are present did harvest some laughs and good times, but the variety is limited and replay value shrinks exponentially with prolonged sittings.
This was a difficult review to write. I think it was because the majority of the charm that made the Mario Party series so popular is that it allowed you and your friends to congregate and make total jackasses of yourselves. With Mario Party Advance, the "party" portion of the game has been brushed aside (or neglected altogether, depending on how you look at it), and that's where the conundrum lies: Mario Party Advance is a nice batch of cheap thrills for what it is, even though the core aspects that have made past versions so popular aren't as prominent.
If you're a fan of the dynamic and attention deficit-centric game play that the series has to offer and see yourself enjoying them all by your lonesome, then definitely give Mario Party Advance a look-see. But, if most of your fun with Mario Party has been had in the past by humiliating your friends and pointing in their face and you are looking for a literal translation of the game to handheld form, you'll probably want to sit this one out.
What's Hot: A better single player game than previous Mario Party titles.
What's Not: Multiplayer takes a backseat compared to console versions.