Review: I'd rather stay home than go to this party.
After six stops on the Nintendo 64 and GameCube, Mario brings himself and all of his friends to party on a portable handheld. Unfortunately, instead of turning out like the usual multi-player mayhem, this Mario Party is something you want to be no part of. Unless you enjoy partying by yourself?
The game starts out with a typical storyline. After creating your ?passport? and choosing your character (be it Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach or Yoshi), your player will meet up with Toad. Toad is giddy and glad to meet up with you, as it's time to play some mini-games. Just as you are about to start off the fun, Bowser Jr. and Bowser show up on the scene and ruin the fun by stealing each and every mini-game and ?gaddget?. It's up to you to save the day by recovering all of the stolen mini-games.
The majority of your time spent with Mario Party Advance will be spent in the Shroom City mode. The main premise of this mode is to control your character on a board, whilst trying to perform quests for various inhabitants of the town. You start off with five mushrooms, and each mushroom represents one roll of the dice. If you run out of dice rolls, then it is game over for you. Fortunately, by beating mini-games you can win more rolls, and a random mini-game sequence is initiated every three turns. The board is absolutely massive, so be prepared to play this mode many times for short periods.
As I mentioned, your goal is basically to complete quests. This is done by finding someone who requests you to find an item for him or her or perhaps get some information. If you are successful, you will be rewarded with a "gaddget", which are named after Professor E. Gadd. These gaddgets are like miniature mini-games, such as a virtual dog, an egg balancing thing and a couples compatibility test. Some of these are okay, while others were obviously thrown in simply to make the game longer.
The mini-games themselves are obviously the most important aspect of a party game. Mario Party Advance features a bit over 50 mini-games, which are unlocked in the main screen once you complete them in Shroom City mode. Some of these games are refreshing and interesting, although a large chunk are boring concepts like memorization or simple platform mini-games that I've seen hundreds of times. Each mini-game is fairly simple and the inclusion of characters from the Mario world definitely gives them an interesting edge. But they are definitely not as spontaneous as the ones found in the WarioWare games, which is a shame. You can head over to Challenge Land for some more single-player action, where you can compete for coins, which can be spent on purchasing ?gaddgets?.
The Mario Party series has existed solely due to its multi-player charm. It is so much fun competing head-to-head against three of your friends. Collecting stairs, stealing stars, having everyone compete in split-screen mini-games ? these are the foundation of the Mario Party series. By making the GBA version of the game more single-player oriented, they have changed the entire game. And honestly, I don't like the change.
Of course, it's true that Nintendo included a fair amount of multi-player modes in Mario Party Advance. The main problem is that most of them require you to play the game on a single GBA, where you pass the handheld around from person to person. The whole idea of Mario Party was to be playing games together, not waiting your turn while knowing beforehand what game awaits you. And the fact that you can't dive into the multi-player prior to devoting a large amount of time on the single-player adventure is ridiculous.
You may argue that Nintendo also included a few multi-player modes where more than one GBA can be used. But unfortunately, Mario Party Advance does not take advantage of the new Wireless Adapter. This means, that you need a bunch of link cables, 4 GBAs and 4 copies of the game for some intense Mario Party Advance action. It's just not gonna happen. And to make matters even worse, the multi-player mode doesn't actually have a full-board option like the single-player mode. Nintendo provides buyers of the game with a physical game board. I simply fail to see a group of kids crowding around a bunch of GBAs and a piece of paper necessary to play the game. The multi-player aspect, essentially, was a real disappointment.
Graphically, Mario Party Advance is nothing too special, either. It has all of the cheery graphics that can be expected of any Mario game, although the background textures aren't exactly Nintendo's best showing. The character sprites are without a doubt the highlight of the graphics, as their animations and expressions are lively. With the recent acquisition of a PSP, GBA graphics have become hard to swallow, although I still enjoy some GBA games here and there. The audio in Mario Party Advance is decent, consisting mostly of various tracks from past Mario Party games. The soundtrack fits in with the game, although the various effects are fairly primitive.