Title :Mario Party 2
Platforms :Nintendo 64
Publisher :Nintendo
Game Rating :9.0
Review by :Ken Gagne

With four controller ports, the Nintendo 64 established itself as the ultimate "fun machine." Four-player games have consistently topped the sales charts, such as Goldeneye, released three years ago. Gamers looking for something a bit less violent but just as much fun should try Mario Party, from Nintendo. 

Mario Party 2 is a board game, with players moving about various "adventure boards" and competing for coins in action-packed mini-games. Coins can be exchanged for stars from Toad, who moves about the board; after a set number of turns, whoever has the most stars, wins! Gamers can play as Mario, Luigi, Wario, Donkey Kong, Princess Peach, or Yoshi. 

As with all board games, Mario Party is designed to be played by crowds. There is a one-player mode which unlocks itself after awhile, and the board game (which requires four players) can be played with computer opponents, but merry times are had by many people sitting around the console. It's not whether you win or lose, it's how you play with — or against — the guy sitting next to you. 

There are five adventure boards to play on, with themes ranging from the Wild West to outer space. Each board has unique locations, and the characters dress appropriately for the setting (such as wearing archaeologists' outfits in the ruins of Mystery Land). The boards in the sequel are more complex than in the original, with more paths and choices. Getting to Toad's star can be complicated, but there's plenty to do along the way. 

There are sixty-four mini-games, some of which are updated favorites from the original Mario Party. Among the new games are battles and duels. Landing on battle spaces require all four players to pay an entrance fee to participate in a mini-game. The winner gets the coins, which can be a substantial sum. Duels, which vary in nature from board to board, happen when two or more players land on the same space, with one player deciding how many coins to wager. 

The other mini-games, which occur after every round, are simple, varied, and fun. Brief allegiances can form as players are pitted in one-on-one, two-on-two, or free-for-all events. Instructions are given before every mini-game, along with the opportunity to practice. Practicing may be useful for younger gamers who are easily frustrated, but other players will enjoy the spontaneity and variety of plunging into a new mini-game. 

Stakes are higher in the sequel, with coins granted gratuitously, services and power-ups for sale, and a "Free Parking"-type square which awards the lucky player with collected fees. But outside the game board, where previously, players could spend their hard-earned cash on game-enhancing merchandise, there is no item shop. Although the items themselves are still present in one form or another, this lack of reward and ability to customize the game is disappointing. 

Presentation has few flaws. Graphic quality is high, though the blurring common to Nintendo 64 games is present, and many images from previous Nintendo games are used. Except for the new board themes and costumes, not much has changed from the original Mario Party. The music fails to inspire, but it succeeds in providing a light backdrop to the game's non-violent atmosphere. Sound effects are also familiar from the first Mario Party. 

Mario Party 2 does not depart from the original in many innovative ways, but it does add many bells and whistles that aficionados will appreciate. If the original was enough to suite your tastes, you may be underwhelmed by the sequel; but if you're new to Mario Party, or loved the first one, then jump on in!

This article is copyright (c) 2000, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 31-Jan-00