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Mario Party

System: Nintendo 64


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 8, 1999

Warning! You're about to enter a high cheese zone in the form of Mario Party for Nintendo 64. Cute levels are toxic and screeching sound effects may damage hearing. Now that the caveats are out of the way, here's the scoop on Nintendo's latest kiddy fest: It is a total, 100-percent hit for players of all ages.

What has made Nintendo games so great is their variety of play and their knack for seducing players for long stints. Mario Party is no different, offering up a board-game-style experience with all the N64 glitter the Big-N can add.

The game may seem simple at first. Take control of one of six popular characters such as Mario, Donkey Kong or Yoshi, and hop from space to space collecting coins and stars. Oh, if it were only that easy.

Mario Party involves diabolical strategies that will drive players crazy and have them thirsting for more. Take this example of how quick the tables can turn on a player: You are leading by two stars, have an admirable 40 coins and are one space from Toad, who sells stars. Then the other players go. One passes a ghost who agrees to steal one of your stars for 50 coins. Another player lands on a "chance"' space, and the results of a slots-type game have you exchanging stars with someone who has none. Finally the other player lands on a "happenings'" space, switching Toad with Bowser (Mario's archenemy), who you then confront on your next turn, which results in you trading 30 coins for a bogus prize.

If you can't see how much fun this game is by now, that is because you don't know about all the mini-games. After every player moves and the turn is over, players are thrown into one of 39 different 1-on-3, 2-on-2 and free-for-all events. They range from skipping a flaming jump rope to diving for treasure. From Hot Bob-omb (a la hot potato) to Mario Bandstand and Shy Guy Says.

In all, there are six initial game boards with seven types of spaces; a mini-game board, where you must win all the mini-games; a shop where you can buy items to help your chances; and a game house where you can buy the right to play a mini-game as much as you want. My synopsis? This much fun should be illegal.

Grade: A

System: Nintendo 64

Suggested price: $49.99

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