Mario Party DS
Reviewed by Didi Cardoso
Review Date Platform Genre Rating Production
2007-12-03 Nintendo DS Mini-games E (Everyone) Nintendo / Hudson Soft

The party goes portable as Mario and friends bring the popular board game to the Nintendo DS. Mario Party DS follows the same board game and mini-games formula, but adds a few other things to the mix.

The single-player mode follows a silly story where Mario and friends are shrunk to mini-proportions. They must find and confront Bowser to return to normal, but to do this, they must go through the five worlds and defeat each boss. This means that you pick your character, play the board game in a given stage, move on the the boss and the next stage. However, you MUST win a board to be able to fight the boss. If any AI character wins, he/she won't make it and you will have to play the board all over again.

The stages have distinct looks and mini-games. As usual, you roll the dice and hop around the board collecting coins and trying to accumulate the most stars. There are a number of items you can purchase to help you (double and triple dice, teleporting pipes that take you directly to the star, swap spots) and others to hinder your opponents (coin and star hexes for example).

Every time a turn ends, everyone plays a mini-game, either 2 vs. 2, 3 vs. 1 or each man/toad/princess/dinosaur for themselves. There are over 70 mini-games in Mario Party DS, using all the capabilities of the system. The controls include the stylus, D-pad, buttons and microphone, and many games make great use of the dual-screen feature.

Since everyone is tiny, everyday objects become hazardous and they are what the games are based on. For example, in one of them you play air hockey by throwing casino chips from the touch screen to the top screen and try to hit everyone out of the play field. In other games, the mini-crew scrambles to push the lead out of mechanical pencils, stay on top of a rotating roast, run and dodge fast food on a conveyor belt, blow on the mic to freeze their opponents, rub your character to prevent it from freezing and many other crazy activities.

Though Mario Party has always been a party game best enjoyed with friends, the DS version caters more to solo play. Aside from Story Mode, there is a Minigame Mode where you can play six randomly-selected games that don't take place on the boards for a series of challenges: Free Play, Step It Up, Battle Cup, Score Scuffle, Boss Bash and Rocket Rascals.

A Puzzle Mode includes five puzzle games from pervious Mario Party games: Mario's Puzzle Party, Bob-omb Breakers, Piece Out, Block Star and Stick & Spin. The ??? option has a brand new game called Triangle Twisters, which you unlock by completing Story Mode. Puzzle Mode has a two-player option as well.

Every time you play a game you have the chance to win one of the 150 collectible prizes, such as board pieces, music, figures and cutscenes, which can all be found in the Gallery.

There is also a Party Mode where you can play against AI opponents or wirelessly with up to three friends with just one cartridge, in either a Battle Royale, Tag Battle or Duel Battle. A downloadable Extras Mode includes two other games for two players, Pen Pals and Desert Duel (respectively co-op and competitive). Unfortunately, there is no Wi-Fi play.

Graphically, the 3D look and animations on the board stages is great, but in some of the mini-games the graphics seem dumbed down into 2D backgrounds and very basic sprites.

I did enjoy my partying in short bursts, and that's where the convenient auto-save feature comes in, since during Story or solo Party Mode the game saves after each turn. However, some of the 2 on 2 mini-games were painfully frustrating with an AI partner.

But overall, Mario Party DS offers plenty of content to keep gamers-on-the-go busy with a wacky variety of modes, puzzles and mini-games. Party on!

Special thanks to Allison Guillen, Chris Olmstead, Eileen Tanner and Nintendo for providing a copy of this title.