Like the Rolling Stones or Paris Hilton, Mario just keeps on partying. The rotund Italian plumber has been on the fun circuit for more than half a decade now, with Mario Party 6 the latest in the series for Nintendo.
While Mario Party 6 has some new additions to the mix (such as a microphone that can be used for some mini-games), the basic gameplay is exactly the same -- if you've played any of the five previous Mario Party's, then you'll know exactly what to expect. The last Mario Party game I played was the very first one they released for the N64 back in 1999, and despite the time difference, the gameplay in 6 was instantly familiar. This will be comforting news to fans of the series, but if you've never been one of the Mario Party faithful, then this latest version certainly won't convert you.
The interactive board game aspect of the Mario Party games remains strong in 6. Players get to choose a character from various Nintendo properties as their avatar, and then they can play against up to three other players on different-themed boards. Boards include Faire Square, Towering Treetop, Clockwork Castle, E. Gadd's Garage, Snowflake Lake and Castaway Bay. In one of the major additions to the series, Mario Party 6 introduces the concept of night and day to the boards. Every few turns, the boards will switch from day to night mode (and vice-versa), with each of the two modes having different paths and challenges. During the day on the Towering Treetop board, for example, angry bees will attack if you land on a certain square. At night, the bees are asleep, giving you safe passage through.
The object of the game is to collect stars once again, which appear on random locations throughout the board. Also scattered throughout the board are special power-ups (they can also be bought at special stores), which have a variety of useful and some plain annoying uses. Some power-ups, for example, allow you to have three rolls of the dice instead of one, while others can be placed on the board to steal coins from any opponent that lands there.
But it's the mini-games that occur after each round that have always been Mario Party's strength, and in terms of sheer numbers, 6 doesn't disappoint. Close to 80 individual mini-games can be found in Mario Party 6, ranging from simple button mashers to complex cooperative tasks.
The quality of the games, however, varies quite dramatically. With Nintendo keen to make the Mario Party series accessible to players of all ages, many of the mini-games in 6 tend to be quite simple, with a large elements of luck needed to win through. This makes younger or inexperienced players more competitive, but it will also serve to irk those looking to test their skills. It does, however, give everyone a level playing field to compete on, making for plenty of close, competitive games. It can become frustrating, though, to see a hard earned lead get wiped away by a mini-game of chance that doesn't go your way.
Also new to the series are voice controlled mini-games, which are performed via a microphone included with Mario Party 6. There are not that many games that support the mic, though they do pop up quite regularly. Most of these involve speaking simple instructions or answers into the microphone -- for the most part the game recognises the commands well, although there will be the occasional missed word which will have you yelling. These microphone games can be fun, but they feel rather gimmicky as opposed to a vital new aspect of the game.
Mario Party 6 retains the bright and colourful look of the series -- it's not the most impressive looking title on the GameCube, but its graphics suit its light hearted topic. Sound is your typical cheery Nintendo muzak -- fluffy and inoffensive.
Cute is still the mantra behind Mario Party 6, with all of the character and level designs looking like they just leaped out of the Barney the Dinosaur TV show. All of the game characters exhibit their trademark personality quirks, sounds and flourishes throughout the game. This can actually becoming grating after a while, particularly when you're playing with less than four human opponents. Each turn sees a character have to 'roll' the dice, move in their own particular 'cutesy' way, and then finish with a little flourish. There's no option to skip this, stretching out the time it takes for every round. It's fun to see the first few times, but trust me, you'll wish the game came with a fast forward button soon enough.
But overall, Mario Party 6 is another fun addition to the series and is hard to beat as a game the whole family can get into. Its additions don't break any major new ground for the series, however, meaning that if you weren't won over by Mario's party antics before, this game isn't the one to convert you.
Keep up to date with the latest games news, reviews and features by signing up to CNET.com.au's free Games Spotlight weekly newsletter. Sign up now!