This review was originally published in 2016 and we are updating and republishing it to celebrate the game’s introduction to the Switch N64 library via the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack.
Since 1998 Party Mario entertained gamers by mixing traditional board games with crazy mini-games. There have been a lot of recordings over the years, but this is one of the most warmly received and remembered. Nintendo and developer Hudson Soft, known for its blister-creating stick-spinning mini-games, have delivered an experience similar to the first game in this first sequel, only bigger and more impressive.
The gameplay in this virtual board game is simple: each of the four players takes turns pressing “Dice Block” to negotiate the board, collecting or losing coins depending on where they land. The goal is to collect as many stars (purchasable in exchange for coins) as possible before a pre-selected number of moves are completed.
If that were all, it would honestly be trash, so it’s a good thing Mario Party has a lot of minigames. After all four players have taken their turn, a mini-game begins in which players can compete for more coins. Some are open to all with four players, others break you into teams of two, and there are also one-on-three mini-games. There are 65 of them in total, and although they are controlled differently and have different rules, they are all simple enough to be quickly dealt with. When in doubt, you can check the rules/controls before playing and even practice a little.
There’s a lot of variety on offer here, with short bursts of fun including a tank battle, a bobsleigh race, archery, sliding tile jumps, and climbing to the top of a sinking ship’s mast. Some games are frenetic button crashes, like Skateboard Scamper where you race to the end (while also having to jump over elevated areas), but other games are slower. One highlight is “Sneak ‘n’ Snore”, where keg players carefully make their way to the door open button while Chain Chomp takes a nap; if the dream sphere wakes up, all players not hidden in their barrel will be destroyed. If you’re particularly fond of the mini-games, they can be “purchased” to play again at any time.
Considering its age, it’s not particularly surprising that Mario Party 2 looks distinctly blocky at times, and the characters may not fit convincingly against the pre-rendered backgrounds. However, the colorful style works well for the most part. There are six different boards in the game, each with a different theme (pirates, space, etc.), and as you’d expect, the music follows the theme. One of the nice visual touches is that the players’ clothes also change to match them. For example, on the “Mysterious Land” board, everyone is dressed as if they are ready for an archaeological dig. The sight of all the characters in costume adds an amazing vibe to each board.
The games are also affected by the use of items that can be bought in the store or collected if you land on the item mini-game field. These include Mushrooms and Golden Mushrooms for the second and third use of Block of Dice, as well as the ability to send Boo to steal coins (or even a Star) from an opponent. Clever use of items can help you succeed in the game, but you must be careful not to hold onto them for too long; if the opponent collects the “Loot Chest”, he can steal it from you.
With extra spots that get in the way of gameplay (Bowser takes coins, hidden stars), players’ fortunes change throughout the game and there can be a lot of excitement when someone who seemed destined to take fourth place gets a couple of stars in quick sequence. . Bonus stars awarded at the end of the game (for example, for the most coins collected in mini-games) can also change the results.
The game is definitely a lot of fun to play, but how you play affects how enjoyable it is. It’s best for four friends who chill out with snacks, joke around, and don’t take things too seriously. And if you’re playing on anything other than original hardware, modern wireless controllers prevent accidental choking if you trip while about to bring in more Pringles.
If three additional human players are not available, CPU-controlled characters take their places, and here the fun is, as expected, somewhat reduced. If you land one square less than a star, which a friend then collects on their next turn, it looks like they are lucky (similarly, if another friend lands on a jar and takes the funds deposited inside). However, if a CPU character collects a useful item or finds a hidden star, it raises suspicion.
Play alone and the game can suddenly feel very long, even a 20-way “Lite Play”. It’s still nice, but when there’s no one to discuss the news or your plans for world domination with, there’s nothing to do but twiddle your fingers between turns while other characters press dice, pay fees, or participate in item mini-games. It’s not a big deal, but it’s a social game by nature and really needs to be played with other people. One person does not make a Mario Party.
The gameplay of Mario Party 2 is simple yet a lot of fun as you compete to collect as many stars as you can. The variety of mini-games and different game boards with their unique features (love that laser in Space Land) combine to provide a lot of enjoyable multiplayer games, whether you’re in “Filet Relay” or trying to beat your rivals with the Koopa shell. Naturally, the game loses some in single player mode, but that’s to be expected from a game with “Party” in the title. Gather your friends and you will have fun with Mario and his company.