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Wii Preview: Super Paper Mario, Mario Party 8, and Mario Woods. Tiger! Er, Tiger Woods.

We check out three games sampled last night at a Nintendo party.

Nintendo threw a little shindig last night, and I went to sample the company's upcoming wares. The games Nintendo showed off included Super Paper Mario, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07, and Mario Party 8. Frankly, all three games look darn good.

I spent the most time on Super Paper Mario, sequel to the excellent GameCube RPG Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, and it's even weirder than its predecessor. Unlike the straight role-playing in previous Paper Mario games, Super Paper Mario is a puzzle-filled platform game with some loose RPG elements. The titular 2D plumber gets the power to move about in the third dimension, adding fantastic puzzle elements to otherwise flat landscapes. Impassible walls and dead ends can be overcome by switching to 3D mode and revealing that the wall is only paper thin, or that the dead end is actually the start of a bridge. The level of the game that I played was filled with clever 3D puzzles that included hidden pipes, invisible blocks, moving platforms, and plenty of imposing-yet-flat enemies. Of course, you can't spend all your time in 3D; after a while in 3D mode, Mario starts to lose health and must return to flatness. Fortunately, even 2D mode is full of enemies to stomp, puzzles to solve, and characters to interact with. What little I played of Super Paper Mario got me pretty pumped for the rest of the game when it hits in April.

I also played some Tiger Woods PGA 07. Predictably, this game is Wii Sports Golf on steroids, and that's a good thing. I didn't spend enough time with it to get the hang of the control scheme, so I can't really say whether it's a big improvement over Wii Sports' model. I did, however, spend enough time to notice much better graphics and physics than Wii Sports, and a much greater sense of realism. I also spent enough time to twist my shoulder awkwardly while swinging the Wiimote. It's still sore.

Finally, there was Mario Party 8. If you've played Mario Party versions 1 through 7, you know exactly what to expect. Giant game boards where Mario characters run around collecting coins and stars. The minigames were nicely varied and made good use of the Wiimote. Among other minigames, I saw a House of the Dead-style target-shooting game that involved launching balls at ghosts, a crazy race of navigating spinning platforms and avoiding Bullet Bills. I also saw a kart-racing minigame that left me wondering when they'll finally announce a Mario Kart Wii. In short, Mario Party 8 looks like a sweet party game, but I don't know how easily it will unseat Wii Sports.