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by Marty Demarest & r & & r & Mario Party 8 & r & & r & Rated Everyone; Wii & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & T & lt;/span & here was a time when Mario Party was such an addictive videogame that Nintendo was required by law to issue special gloves to anyone in America who owned the original Mario Party and claimed to have gotten sore hands from playing it. I personally became a fan of the series around Mario Party 4, when the board game/mini game mixture was tempered into a handicapped Marioesque title for all ages. By Mario Party 6, Nintendo was struggling for ideas, and the incorporation of a cumbersome voice microphone made the game feel like a forgettable B-side. I skipped Mario Party 7.

But I expected the series to bounce back with Mario Party 8 largely because the game was designed for the Wii, the greatest videogame gimmick of all time. I've begun to doubt the Wii's serious long-term videogame potential, but I think it's a resounding success as far as quick and simple mini games are concerned. Since the Mario Party series was founded on mini games, I had every reason to think the mixture would work.

The Wii's first problem in getting the party started, however, is the Wii Remote. The tether attaching it to my wrist (kept fastened by perpetual reminders from the game) made it nearly impossible to grab a drink with my Wii Remote-wielding hand. Whether you're 6 years old and eating birthday cake and sipping milk or you're in college doing shots, how many parties make it hard for you to drink?

Beverage logistics aside, Mario Party 8 has forgotten its mini game roots and gone off in the direction of becoming a digital board game. During one single-player session, I played a mere 16 mini games during a two-and-a-half-hour block of time. That's a slow rate for quick entertainment. Between mini games, the time is taken up with moving around one of the game's six game boards. There are several different courses, each of them an interesting strategic playground. One had me buying hotels a la Monopoly in order to acquire game-winning stars. Another simply had me stealing stars from other players in a space-warping environment.

As enthrallingly conceived as these game boards are, they make Mario Party 8 a videogame about players vs. game boards instead of players vs. players, which is what usually works best for a party. Mario Party 8 has a section of the game just for mini games, but the only games available to play in it are the ones that have been previously unlocked in the game's dull multiplayer mode or even duller single-player campaign.

THE GOOD: A game this boring needs to allow people a means of leaving. In Mario Party 8, it's possible to tell the computer to take over your turns, then slip the Wii Remote's strap off your wrist and safely escape -- hopefully to find a better party.

THE BAD: Mario Party 8 has the worst-looking Mario characters in years. No necks, long legs, torsos and arms doing separate antsy dances. And despite the game's broad selection of Mario mascots, there is no difference when choosing to play as one or another character. They're all equally uninteresting.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Mario Party 8 brings neither Mario nor a party to the Wii.??

1/5 Stars

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