ario Party DS begins with Bowser inviting everyone over for a barbeque, and, of course, they’re all stupid enough to show up. Mario and company are promptly trapped and shrunk down so they can run across piano keys and the tops of toppling books in the game’s five new boards.
The 70-plus new minigames offer plenty of variety in both content and control style. Players will be mashing buttons to extend a mechanical pencil, outrunning a vacuum cleaner with the d-pad, blowing over thwomps with the microphone, and circling goombas with the stylus for points. The game does a great job of cycling in new minigames and the majority of them are suitably amusing.
Unfortunately, luck is still a key gameplay mechanic and can really screw you over no matter how well you play. There’s nothing like amassing a stash of stars and having them all taken away by Bowser during the final turn. If you do manage to win, however, a fun boss battle awaits at the end of each board.
With every victory, players can amass points to unlock badges, character profiles, and random trinkets from the boards (think flower pots and vines from the garden stage). Even though the collection aspect is mildly amusing, it sucks that you only get points for playing by yourself. Mario Party has always been about playing with others and for Hudson to force players into solitude to make any real progress is just lame.
From a value perspective, it’s great that you only need one cart to play with others, but some players will be frustrated that the lack of multicart play means that only one host will get to unlock new minigames. The included puzzle mode mostly consists of games from previous entries in the franchise, but they do provide welcome respite from minigame overload.
Overall, Mario Party DS does a better job at retreading the core concept, however tired it may be, than last summer’s Mario Party 8. Barring a complete shakeup of the series, this seems to be the most we can hope for at this point.