Its big attraction is that it works in multiplayer with just the one cartridge. In fact, it’s exclusively a single-card game, and it doesn’t strip down the experience like most other download games do. You get the full thing on three empty handhelds, with the host DS sending data to the others between rounds. It means there’s a loading pause before every minigame, but that’s entirely excusable when you consider that the alternative would be to limit four-player games to groups who had spent considerable cash on four cartridges. Single-player meanwhile, features an incongruous selection of puzzle games that have far too much to do with matching colors.
Technological generosity aside, it’s going to take a dedicated Mario Party animal to feel the benefit of the latest addition to the family. This time, the story involves the gang being shrunken to tiny size and somehow forced to play the same old board game, except it’s now set in giant environments. You get to shuffle across pieces of furniture, and the traditional bobsled minigame now sees players sliding on spoons through the furrows left by a normal sized sledge. It’s quite sweet at times, although we didn’t always notice the recurring theme because so many of the minigames are barely any different from the hundreds we’ve played in the past.
Some of them are downright boring. There’s one where you have to spin a wheel to make cars trundle through a turnip field, in what must be the slowest and dullest motor race ever seen. It made us groan to see it pop up a second time. Most of them aren’t of such a poor standard, of course, and there’s a nice mixture of stylus controls, the traditional Mario Party buttons and the odd bit of blowing into the microphone. Previous versions have included some truly dire voice recognition on GameCube, but - thankfully - the restriction of having to keep the game small enough to be shared speedily between players seems to have forced the developer to exercise a little restraint with what may otherwise have been an obvious feature to stick on a DS title.