Gamecube Review: Mario Party 7

For its family friendly exterior, Mario Party 7 deals with some complex issues. In this entry to the far-too long running series, Mario and crew take a vacation on a cruise ship. Along with him are archenemies Wario and Waluigi, yet Mario gives Bowser the cold shoulder. There are some deep problems here, including racism (bad Italian stereotypes make it while the dragon is rejected based on the color of his shell), friendship (Bowser and Mario have had their moments), forgetfulness (whatever happened to Wart?) and sharing (after six versions, why is Mario being greedy this time out?).

None of that really matters though if you've played any rendition of this game dating back to the mid-life cycle of the N64. You've already seen everything here. While not entirely true (the mini-games are all new like they always are), the concept, challenges, and cheap board game aesthetics don't do anything to advance the game to make a yearly $50 release necessary. The additions include a new 8-player mode and the cruise ship setting.

The storyline is completely useless, and it does nothing to enhance the game. These boards could be on the moon and it would still be the same Mario Party title. It doesn't add to the fun or the atmosphere as it should.

Mini-games contain some real gems, but those still waiting for a 2-D platform Mario title will only be infuriated by the brief segments of classic styled gameplay. Most of the challenges rely on dumb luck and little skill, destroying quite a bit of fun in the process. It's understandable to make them accessible to a large audience. That can still be done and make them require a little gaming dexterity. That doesn't happen here.

The microphone comes bundled inside an exterior cardboard box. It's a thin, light piece of plastic (which eerily feels like a roll of Mentos) that connects to the memory card slot. It's not a high-quality piece of electronics. However, it's the best console microphone ever released as far as accuracy as concerned. It will pick up the words it's looking for even if you jokingly disguise your voice. Sadly, the games that use it are far from the height of interactive entertainment, and naming fruit from flash cards feels like you're stuck in a never-ending Sesame Street episode.

Extras are abound, giving a little purpose to the single player game. Earning points necessary to purchase various items isn't original, though it offers a little incentive to keep playing when friends leave. Items are rarely worthwhile (two new characters, a few extra mini-games, and lots of junk), and not worth the time requirement.

The new eight player games mix four groups of two people so they share controllers. If you thought you had enough room to house any size gaming session, that line of thinking will be put to the test. Games are simple, requiring a single button from one person and the analog stick skills of another. It would make far more sense to pass controllers off for some multi-round play.

Much like Madden or Mega Man, what we have here is a franchise that's not going anywhere. It's stale, it's been copied, and much of the action stretches the concept of "fun," but if you've enjoyed yourself at the first six parties, it's hard to imagine what would keep you away this time. Until it goes online, it's doubtful any new Mario Party will be easy to recommend. If you're still contemplating a class action lawsuit over the hand blisters you received from the original few games, Mario Party 7 won't bring you back.

(** out of *****)

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