The Mario Party series has become quite successful for Nintendo and has brought many gamers and their families together over the years. Nintendo, obviously still concerned over the taxing controls of the original Mario Party which caused more than a few blisters and hand cramps among players, have decided to skip straight to Mario Party 2 for the debut of the series on the Virtual Console. And while some will claim that the series is far too casual to appeal to the more hardcore Nintendo fans, it's tough to deny the family-friendly experience the game offers up.
For the most part, Mario Party functions much like a board game. Each character hits the dice in order to determine the number of spaces on the board they'll move each turn. Some spaces will add coins to your stash, whereas others will take them away. To liven things up, there are also quite a large number of special spaces that can win you specialty items and even allow you to do battle with other players. Once all four players have landed on a particular color, a mini-game will ensue. It's here where you'll be able to experience the competitive spirit of the game, not to mention win yourself some serious coinage.
The majority of the mini-games are extremely simple in design and execution. Most of the time they require little more than some minor moving around and making use of one action button in an effort to keep things simple and intuitive. These range from jumping on moving platforms to avoiding being struck on the head by a hammer. In truth there is an almost endless amount of variety between the various mini-games, so you'll never be at a loss for something new to try out.
The ultimate goal of the main game is to acquire more stars than your opponents before the set number of turns are taken. Not only can you trade coins you win for stars, but if you've set the Bonus Mode to be active during the game, you'll occasionally find special hidden blocks that contain stars as well. You can even swipe stars from other players with the help of Boo. Of course if you'd rather just play specific mini-games, you can purchase specific mini-games that you've played in the main game from Woody in Mini-Game Land.
The simple controls can sometimes make the mini-games a bit too simplistic, but it's easy to see the reasoning behind it. The developers obviously wanted to make the game as playable as possible for a wide audience of gamers, and in that respect they've been quite successful. It's definitely a game you'll want to have extra players on hand for, as the game can be a bit tedious sometimes as a solo experience.
Since Mario Party 2 is a Nintendo 64 game, you can expect things to be a bit blocky from a visual standpoint. Most of the playing fields are very minimal in design, but considering the type of game, they're able get the job done just fine. There are plenty of Mario-themed touches strung throughout the game, but perhaps not as many as you'd expect from the game's title.
The same can be said about the musical score, as for the most part you wouldn't even know it had anything to do with a Mario release. It's clear that the developers stuck with a "less is more" mentality for the game's audio/visual presentation, but it still manages to carry the game's lighthearted theme and gameplay.
There's just something about the simple fun of Mario Party 2 that makes it so difficult to put down at times. Sure the mini-games can be a tad on the basic side, but it works quite well in giving the game a more accessible gaming experience that should appeal to gamers of all ages and skill levels. The game tends to be a bit bland as a single-player experience, but if you can round up some additional players, and in truth that's what this game is all about anyway, you're likely to get far more out of the game and find it to be a nice diversion from the usual platforming fare normally associated with this cast of characters.