This was the first big hit title for the Wii in our household. Wii Sports is always fun to pick up and play. SSX Blur is a bit too complex for a five year old. Wii Play lacks depth while Zelda is way too deep for anything done in front of the television.
But Mario Party 8, like that third bowl of porridge, is just right.
We have had MP8 for a while now. There was a streak of time in June and July where my daughter wanted to play MP8 with me every day. Saturday morning she would get up and run into our bedroom to wake me up so I could come and play MP8 with her.
The main part of MP8 is a board game. Actually, several flavors of board games, all with the same goal. collect stars. You set the number of turns you will play, the players, and off you go. There are always four players, but you pick how many are controlled by the game and if they are teamed up or not. My daughter and I almost always play as a team. You get to pick which characters from the pantheon of Mario you want to represent you. There is Mario, Luigi, Wario, Waluigi, Toad, Toadette, Yoshi, Princess Peach, Princess Daisy, and a few others.
My daughter always plays as Princess Peach. I waver between Yoshi and Waluigi.
When you play on a team, you get a team name. Each pairing of characters has a set team name. Peach and Yoshi are team “True Hearts,” while Peach and Waluigi are team “Sweet and Sour.”
The board games all have some things in common. You roll dice to move. You have candy you can pick up or buy which give you special extras. For example, if you eat the “thrice candy” you get to roll three dice instead of one, while other candy allows you to do things like steal gold or candy from the opposing team.
While the basic goal for each of the board is collect stars, how you do so varies by game.
There is a seaside board where you just race to the end of the board to earn a star and fly back to the start.
There is a Donkey Kong jungle board where the a star appears on the board and you have to be the first one to it.
There is a train based board where you make your way from the caboose to the engineer where you are able to buy a star, but you then have to travel back to the caboose before you start towards the engineer again.
There is a haunted house where you must find a special room where you can buy a star. But once somebody gets a star, everybody is sent back outside the house and it rearranges itself.
There is a city board where you earn stars by investing in hotels. The more invested in a hotel, the more stars it is worth, but those stars go only to the team with the most invested in the hotel, so they can change hands throughout the game.
And there is a special Bowser board that you have to unlock to play. On that board, each team starts with stars, and to win you have to steal all of the other team’s stars using powers from special Bowser candy.
So each turn you roll your dice, move, and take action when required. Then, between turns, you play a mini-game. These are short little action games that you play to earn gold to spend in the game.
Which brings me to Nintendo and the cult of the unlock.
You can play the mini-games separately in the arcade as well, but only after they have been unlocked by playing them during one of the board games.
The special Bowser board requires you to win a challenge game before you can access it freely.
And then there is the Mario Bazaar where you can unlock even more things.
Every time you play one of the games, you get some Mario points which you can spend at the Bazaar. You can unlock special games for the arcade and more features in the game. My favorite feature is the jeering option where, when it is somebody else’s turn, you can shake your controller and the voice of your character comes out taunting them. Wario and Waluigi are the best, though Princess Peach does have a good “neener-neener” tone to her voice.
You can also use your points to buy little models that represent different aspects of the game that you can view in a parade in a special theater. They all do things when you click on them.
After weeks and weeks of play, my daughter and I unlocked everything in the game. We would sometimes bicker about what to unlock next. I came home from work more than once to find that the points we were saving up for some feature had been squandered (in my opinion at least) on some more models for the parade.
About the time we got everything unlocked my daughter started to tire of the game. We still played it once in a while, but we had a couple of other games from GameFly to play with, including Sonic and the Secret Rings which has a similar mini-game format, even though their controller usage leaves a lot to be desired in my opinion. My daughter likes the mini-games, so she played a lot of that.
Last weekend though, my daughter suddenly wanted to play MP8 again. I was fine with it. I enjoy the game.
And then we logged in. The character that we had been using as *the* account for the game was gone. My daughter had deleted it because she wanted another character in that spot.
But everything you have unlocked is associated with that character and account.
All of our unlocked content was now locked again.
We were back at square one.
Just part of the hazard of having a five year old.
(And more evidence for me to produce in the “why we’re not allowed to use daddy’s computer” saga.)