In many cases, games focus on a single-player experience. Then there is also a multiplayer mode that is particularly useful in extending the game's life, and making it a more worthwhile purpose. MARIO PARTY 4 is one of the few games that bucks the trend. It's pretty much only enjoyable with four players, and the game gets worse with fewer players.
For all intents and purposes, MARIO PARTY is a board game. You collect coins as you move around the board, landing on spaces that trigger different events (or give you more coins). The coins are then used to buy items, bribe your way to different areas on the board, and most importantly purchase Stars from certain locations that switch after each Star is purchased.
Seems simple enough, and just like a lot of dumb luck, right? That's where the video game aspect comes in. In addition to weird things like part of the board getting flooded or breaking into pieces, there is distinct video game flair. This comes in the form of mini-games, which are easily the best reason to play the game.
It works like this. After each round, the players are divided up based on what kind of space they hit (blue or red, and neutral is randomly determined between the two). You can have everyone for themselves, 2 on 2, or 3 on 1.
The mini-games have all sorts of different tasks. One involves skiing down a mountain as an avalanche chases you, avoiding obstacles. Another two on two has two teams activating switches and rotating platforms to get each other across (one of my favorites). There's a giant assortment of games, over 70 in all, and they are the highlight of the MARIO PARTY experience.
I must re-iterate though, MARIO PARTY 4 is a definitely multiplayer game. Hell, it's definitely a party game. You NEED four people to enjoy this game to its fullest extent. If it isn't too common for you to gather three buddies around the GameCube for a couple of hours, MARIO PARTY 4 might not be the most satisfying experience.
That said, this game is like crack. It's so addictive that since I've had the copy, a game a day has been played here (a two hour affair). These are ample conditions though, lots of gamers are also getting as addicted as I am to the gameplay. College guys, if you can get past the fact that you're playing a MARIO game (gasp), you'll be playing this for weeks to come.
The graphics have been given a big overhaul since the last game. The boards are all in 3D, and due to the relative simplicity of the mini-games, lots of cool effects and polygons abound. The game is sharp and colorful, and is a pleasure to the eye.
The sound is pretty bland. It'll get on your nerves after a while. It's much more fun to be talking and such. The worst is the new taunts that some players like to use in excess. As a whole, the sound is generally good, but it gets old very quickly.
Generally, MARIO PARTY 4 is a lot of fun, and definitely worthwhile if you have a lot of friends. For solitary gameplay though, you might want to pass this one up.