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January 26, 2015

Mario Party DS (Part 2)

In Part 1, we saw the plot, this time we look at the other options in the game! What else can I say, now that I'm done talking about the stuff that is most interesting to hear about, I've still got to discuss the rest. There are many options in Mario Party DS, enough to keep you busy for a long while. Just from the main menu, after Story Mode you've got Party Mode, Minigame Mode, Puzzle Mode, Multiplayer and Gallery. Let me guide you through these options. I'll show you around!

But before that, I need to explain something. This game works with some kind of “Experience points”, called MP Points (for “Mario Party”, in case it wasn't obvious). You earn them by playing on boards, completing minigames, etc. Usually, those aren't “very” important, but you'll see much later why they're there. Once you've reached 50,000, you can consider having beaten the game. Or being very close to.

Let's start with Party Mode. In it, you can play any of the first 4 boards (Wiggler's Garden, Toadette's Music Room, DK's Stone Statue, Kamek's Library) from the start, and if you've completed Story Mode once, you can also play in Bowser's Pinball Machine. When you start a new party in that mode, first you select the type of party: Battle Royale (4 players, no teams, No Items, Fox Only, Final Dest-Er... wrong game), Tag Battle (2 teams of two – by the way, depending on which characters you picked for both teams, you get a different team name, for up to 28 different team names!) or Duel Battle (1 player versus another, with only minigames that can be played one-on-one). There's also a How To Play Mode on a special practice board that would be really cool to play outside of tutorials, but sadly you can't. Afterwards, you select your character (Mario, Luigi, Princesses Daisy or Peach, Wario, Waluigi, Yoshi or Toad), then you pick 3 CPU opponents, and then you can change the settings for this party.
-Turns: 10, 15, 20, 25, 30. Keep in mind that 10 turns is about 30 minutes, so get ready to play for a good while if you pick 30 turns. Well, at least it stops at 30, unlike, say, Mario Party 2, which goes all the way to 50 turns... 50 TURNS! That's two and a half hours!
-Minigame Set: All, Simple (if, say, you're playing with people who aren't too good with video games) or No Mic (if your microphone blows, or if you blow at these games).
-Bonus Stars: On or Off. These can save you... or make you lose...
COM Difficulty: Pick between Easy, Normal or Hard for all three computer opponents. After you complete Story Mode for the first time, you unlock the Expert COM Difficulty. You want a tough match? Set all the opponents on Expert. Your chances of victory are slim.
-Handicap: You or anyone else can start with more than 0 Stars. It can spice up a match and add some difficulty.

Beyond those settings, the game plays as usual.

Now that this has been covered, let's take a look at the modes in Minigame Mode!

-Free Play: Pick between a 2- or 4-player match (not all minigames are available in 2-player mode), then pick a character, then pick one or three COM players and set their difficulty, and then you can pick among all the minigames. How many minigames are there in Mario Party DS? 67! Yep, that many!
C'm'on, Step It Up!
-Step It Up: After you've picked the four characters and the COM difficulty, you pick a number of minigames that must be won (3, 5, 7) for one of the players to win the match and the type of minigames (4-Player, 1VS3, 2VS2, all of the above). Now you're ready! It's simple, really: Each time you win, your character goes up one step. More than one character can go up a step at a time depending on the minigame. The one who reaches the final step wins!
-Battle Cup: Pick 5 minigames. You compete against three opponents, and whoever wins the most minigames is declared the winner. Simple.
-Score Scuffle: You and three other characters fight to get the highest score. You play 10 minigames, and the performance of each player in each minigame is given a score (up to 1,000). Sometimes, those points are calculated on your score in the minigame, or by how long you lasted if it was a timed minigame. Obviously, a better performance means more points. It is possible to reach 1,000 on each minigame, but for most of them it's very hard. ...Right now, I feel like I'm describing the first Raving Rabbids game... The minigames aren't picked at random; it's always the same selection, in the same order. After the tenth minigame, whoever has the most points wins. My favorite mode.
Let's see if you can beat
 them faster than before!
-Boss Bash: Unlocked after you've completed Story Mode once. Play the Boss minigames in the order they're played in Story Mode (Piranha Plant, Hammer Bro, Dry Bones, Magikoopa and Bowser). Lose one and you must start all over again. You must try to beat all five minigames in as little time as possible. Can you beat the record?
-Rocket Rascals: My second favorite mode. The four players are standing on the corners of a 5X5 grid. The center square of the grid is a rocket. Every turn, a piece is put as prize for the minigame that will be played. Whoever wins that minigame earns the piece and can place it anywhere on the board. The goal? Your character must reach the rocket by building a path between it and your corner. It's tricky, but there are strategies. Block an opponent by putting a piece you don't want at a place that will put them at a disadvantage. Or lose a minigame on purpose if you don't want the piece. It's a very fun mode that adds something more to the game.

Will you be lucky and get the pieces you need
to reach the center?

What else adds more to the game? Puzzle Mode. In this mode, you can access 5 additional minigames that can't be played anywhere else. There are 5 such puzzle games, and then there's also the one you unlock after you complete Story Mode once: Triangle Twisters! A game so fun that even Bowser will stop feuding with Mario and Co. if that means he can play it too! I'll take a look at the 5 puzzle games and then I'll talk about the rather intriguing Triangle Twisters. Oh, by the way, I found out that these five puzzle games were part of previous installments of the Mario Party series. Neat.
Classify, crush and collect!
-Mario's Puzzle Party: And once again, Mario is given the spotlight, at the detriment of all the other playable characters! ...Nah, it's just the game's name. In Mario's Block Party, 1X2 vertical blocks fall from the top of the screen. They have two different colors. Make the blocks fall to the bottom and match two or more blocks of the same color by having them touch horizontally or vertically. Sounds simple? After a while, wooden blocks will fall on top of the ones in the playing field, and those can only be removed by clearing colored blocks right next to them. Thankfully, sometimes a Thwomp will fall; when it hits blocks, it slowly crushes them, making them half their original size. If you have a lot of blocks on the field, this can greatly help you. You can rack up huge combos this way. Can you beat the high score? Also, as is the case for all 5 of these games, after you've earned an amount of points you'll go up a “level” (in the RPG sense of the word, as points function sort of like Experience, so you level up when you reach a certain amount of points). You get more points depending on which level you are, but keep in mind that the higher level you are, the faster the blocks fall!
Break them bombs!
-Bob-Omb Breakers: Blocks of two items fall down. You can spin them and stack them on top of each other. Items hanging in the air will fall to the bottom. Match three identical items and they disappear. Sometimes, a Bob-Omb will fall as one of the items... If you surround it with blocks, it will blow up, awarding you a lot of points! However, there's a time limit, so if you don't level up before that time, your playing space becomes smaller, and if you run out of time or you hit the top of the screen, you lose.
-Piece Out: Colored pieces pass by on a conveyor belt. Your task is to fill a grid on the touch screen with those blocks. You get more points if you fill the grid with more pieces of the same color. As with the others, you go up a level after you've gained enough points. But remember: You only get points once the entire grid is filled, AND you're still under a time limit!
...Block Star?
-Block Star: There are blocks at the bottom of the screen, some of which have a star on them. You can select any blocks (or pack of adjacent colored blocks) to move them to the top of the pile. You can make blocks disappear at any moment, but only the connected colored blocks that contain a star will be counted int your progression. On each level, you must make a certain number of star blocks disappear. Oh, did I mention that unlike the others, the star blocks CANNOT be moved? At all?
-Stick & Spin: Colored balls fall towards a wheel in the middle of the screen. The goal is to spin the wheel so that 5 or more balls of the same color are connected, which makes them disappear. No big deal? The balls only connect when they stop moving; as long as they can fall, they will. However, if the balls around the wheel reach too far from the wheel, you lose.

That's all? ...Okay, it's fun for a bit, but
after that... meh.
And now... TRIANGLE TWISTERS! …It has two modes, Frenzy or Focus. How does it work? You must spin equilateral triangles around, by selecting a triangle in the grid. The three triangles connected to that triangle's sides will spin. Think of them as an endless load of multicolored Triforces. Unless that's blasphemy to you... Oh whatever. The point of Frenzy Mode is to connect up to 4 triangles of the same color together to make them disappear. There's a lot of strategy in this game and it takes a while to get used to the mechanics. In Focus Mode, you are given a shape on the top screen, and you have to re-create it on the bottom screen by twisting triangles. You must still be careful, however, as if you match 4 triangles together in a shape different from the one on top, they'll disappear and you'll have to retry... with less time to complete the puzzle! Yeah, Triangle Twisters is fun, I can't deny that... but in the end I just feel like it wasn't such a big deal like the heroes make it to be... Yeah, Triangle Twisters is overrated.

In this game, you can play with other people who own a Nintendo DS thanks to the Multiplayer option! You can play a whole Party game, or you can play most of the minigame modes. And the best part is that the other players don't even need to own Mario Party DS! Isn't that great? There are 2 extra 2-player modes that you can try: Pen Pals (in which you and a friend must cooperate to try and trap two COM characters between lines you draw, and the number of lines is determined by your die rolls), and Desert Duel (On a 5X5 grid, each player moves by a number of squares depending on a die roll; they get points for each square they claim this way. If the players wind up on the same square, they must duke it out on a minigame to see who gets that square. There are three Stars hidden in the grid, and each awards its finder 5 additional points. There are also dice hidden in the grid, so if a player finds one s/he can roll again and claim more squares). Those two are fun. I got to try them a few times. Heck, Mario Party DS gets three or four thumbs up just because the other players don't need to own the cartridge. That's probably the best thing about Multiplayer Mode in this game.

There's only one final part to the game: The Gallery. Or Trophy Room. Or List of Achievements. Or whatever you want to call it. It's separated in many parts: Collection (more about this later), View Story (to see all the cutscenes), View Records (what you achieved in the game, your best scores, etc.), Play Sound (a Sound Test! How wonderfully retro), and Minigame Set (view a list of all the minigames you've found).

The Collection section is split in four.
Waluigi Time!
-Character Figures: You unlock trophies of the game's characters. To get a playable character's trophy, you must beat Story Mode with that character (in other words, to get all of those, you need to beat Story Mode eight times). There are plenty of other character figures, but you will usually need to reach a certain amount of Mario Party points to get them.
-Board Features: Parts from any of the five boards. You could technically re-create them with LEGO and re-make most of the actual board. You'd need a crazy amount of dedication and bucketloads of pieces, but in theory it's possible. The requirement for each of those is different, and force you to play just about every mode and every board a couple of times. It's a lot of fun.
-Boss Trophies: Obtained when you beat a boss minigame. It's like Board Features, except that it's the boss minigame's features (like, say, Jagged Leaf, Balloon, Bomb Seed and Beaten Piranha Plant for the minigame where you defeat a Piranha Plant). Just beat each boss 4 to 6 times and you'll get them all. Easy peazy.
-Badges: Like Character Figures, you either get them by completing Story Mode with one character in particular, or by reaching a number of Mario Party points. The final Badge requires 50,000 points.

Everyone knows that the Bowser insignia
means trouble is coming.
Apparently, these 8 heroes didn't know.
OK, I guess that covers everything that could be covered here. Final thoughts? This game is good. It's certainly my favorite Mario Party game. Not like I've played many. If you like Mario Party because of the boards, you have five creative boards (that might be few, but remember that this is a DS game, and five boards is an alright number – most Mario Party games have about 6 or 7). If you like Mario Party because of the minigames, well, there's a huge selection of minigames here, and that's not counting the additional games and Triangle Twisters! If you play Mario Party for the minigame modes, that's a great, with so many modes to choose from! And if you play Mario Party for the plot... First, who the Hell does that? Second, you're lucky, because the plot in this one ain't half bad.

It's just a great idea that opens the door for many creative minigames: Mario and seven of his allies are shrunk by Bowser and have to retrieve their normal size, but they need to go back to Bowser's Castle in order to do so. They meet allies and enemies and collect Sky Crystals on the way. They only discover these objects' secret at the end: Bowser wanted them so he could rule the world  kick Mario's butt  regain the confidence of his army  retrieve some of his villain cred  pick up some babes play a magical puzzle minigame! ...Alright, that's silly, but it's a pretty great ending to see that the heroes forgave Bowser and let him play that puzzle game with them!

The boards are a lot of fun, even though each one of them has a few annoying bits. A few examples: In Wiggler's Garden, there are three spaces in a row that can get you attacked by the nasty Piranha Plant. In Toadette's Music Room, the Hammer Bro can send you anywhere on the board, and there are metronomes that change the current Star's position (and price) for another. On DK's Stone Statue, there are green ? Spaces that causes a barrel to roll down one of the paths, causing everyone on that path to lose 10 coins. Oh, and there are ropes that can either speed up your progress by bringing you closer to the Star, or slow it down by bringing you far from it (snake AND ladder all in one... I can hear myself swearing already). Kamek's Library is split in two, the only way (outside of items) to travel from one to the other is to use tricky magical portal books, and the magic jars can be deceiving. Last but not least, Bowser's Pinball Machine has plenty of spaces that require luck, and it also has the dreaded Bowser Zone, which if you land in it and wind up on any of its five spaces, you lose EVERYTHING. ALL YOUR STARS, ALL YOUR COINS. Holy crap. Still, outside of those defects, the boards are creative.


Same can be said for the minigames: They're fun and interesting, and there are plenty of great ideas.  Most of them are rather simple, so you can play them with casual gamers. I also like most of the minigame modes and the additional puzzle games. Also, kudos for the very small amount of minigames that actually require luck to win. Adding a Gallery was a good idea, and some of the board features can be pretty challenging to get. Heck, getting 50,000 Mario Party points is long and takes real dedication. To get the playable characters' trophies and badges, you need to beat Story Mode with each character, and since Story Mode takes approximately 2 ½ hours to complete, that means you'll need at least 20 hours to do everything. Heck, count 3 just to be sure, for a total of 24 hours. Hope you don't hate the boards, because you're gonna be playing them a LOT.

I also love the many options available for Party Mode: Being able to play in a Batle Royale, in two teams of two, or a 1-VS-1 match. Oh, and of course, I love the fact that you can play Mario Party DS with anyone who owns a Nintendo DS; the others don't have to own the cartridge! Now that's awesome. More games should be like that. Too few DS games were like that, and that's a crying shame.

Oh, and this time, Mario only gets the reward if you play as him! All eight characters can get to fight Bowser! Anyone can be a Superstar! Even Daisy. Even Wario. Even friggin' Toad. And you know what? They deserve it.

So, all in all, a great Mario Party game. Does it have flaws? Sure. The same flaws that you find in all Mario Party games. But in this one, those flaws feel toned down. They're there, they're annoying, but they're a lot less annoying than in other games in this series. It makes the game playable AND enjoyable. Seriously, look for it, give it a try. Something's gonna get you hooked.

Now, I know the review is “over”, but I feel like there's something more I could do... I know! This Friday, I'll make two lists: My Bottom 12 minigames in Mario Party DS, the ones I really dislike, and my Top 12 minigames, the ones I really like! Tune in Friday, as usual!