March 9th 2003

My Mario Party-e hands-on report

March 2nd 2003 marked the 28th birthday of my friend Tommy, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try Mario Party-e with him and my best friend Sylvain. After seing "Craddle 2 the Grave" (a pretty forgettable movie) and eating lunch at a nearby restaurant, we headed back to Tommy's place, where I took the Mario Party-e cards out of the box.

The box itself is pretty neat: You open it from the right or left side instead of the top, and it has a piece of cardboard glued inside that holds the deck of cards in place. The package contains 64 cards, a 20x20 inches play mat and the instruction booklet that looks a lot like a GBA game manual.

The play mat is sturdy and tear-resistant, but it tends to fold up by itself when you unfold it and place it on a table. Once you're familiar enough with the game, you can play without the play mat. The manual is very well written, and all the rules are explained very clearly. Sylvain did not speak English, however, and I lost a lot of time translating the rules for him.

Here are the basic rules, if you're not already familiar with the game: You have to assemble three item cards (Mario's shoes, Mario's suit and Mario's hat) and play a "Superstar" card to win the game. You start with five random cards in your hand, and on each turn, you pick up a card from the main deck, and then play or discard one of the cards in your hand. Certain cards allow you to exchange or steal cards from other players in a variety of ways (including the mini-games played on the e-Reader), but to use some of these special cards, you have to spend Coin cards.

Here's my piece of advice to you when you (or other players) are playing Mario Party-e for the first time: Allow all the players to try each of the 11 mini-games before you start to play. Each mini-game has a practice mode you can use, and it's best to get a little play experience before getting into the actual game. That way, you won't lose too much time whenever you have to use the e-Reader. Me and my friends learned this the hard way: Whenever two players played a mini-game, the third player wanted to try it too, just out of curiosity!

The mini-games themselves are lots of fun. Some are so simple that a monkey could play them, while some others require some practice to master. All of them are designed to be completed in less than a minute, which is good because you don't want the other players to start yawning their jaws off while you're playing. I won't go into much detail about each mini-game, you can just visit The Mario Party-e Zone for that.

One thing that seriously bugs me about the mini-games is the swiping sequence: Whenever you swipe in a new mini-game, the e-Reader displays a warning about overwriting the previously loaded mini-game, and you have to select "YES" to confirm. It doesn't take long for this to get tedious.

Another problem I have with the game is that certain cards are confusing for beginners. Take the "Graceful Princess Peach" card, for example: To be able to exchange one of the cards in your hand with a card from the Deck or Discard piles, you can either spend two Coin cards, or if you don't have the required coins, you can try to win the e-Reader mini-game. However, if you do have two Coin cards, you can't play the mini-game. This may not sound too complicated, but it gets confusing when you're trying to play without wasting time. This is not really a problem for experienced players, but there is a certain learning curve that cannot be avoided.

Me and my friends only played one game, which lasted about an hour, and I won! There were a few mini-games we didn't try, such as "Daisy's Rodeo", but we had fun with the Chaos cards. Strangely enough, we didn't use any Blocker cards during the game, even though we had some among the cards in our hands. We all prefered to spend our Coin cards on more profitable activities (such as mini-games), even if it meant losing our cards to other players. We were beginners, after all.

It is possible to apply a certain level of in-game strategy, but winning the game is mostly based on luck, because you never know when you're going to lose your cards. You can only keep your fingers crossed and hope that you'll be able to use the card you want to play on your next turn. This makes Mario Party-e a somewhat simplistic card game, but still, all three of us liked the game a lot, and we may play it again in the near future.

Mario Party-e is a great card game even if you don't have an e-Reader, since you can replace each mini-game challenge with a simple coin toss. I do hope Nintendo will offer upgrade packs for this game, to increase the number of available mini-games...

Will we see other card games or board games that make use of the e-Reader? Time will tell, but this first card game is a pretty good start! :-)