Review: 'Mario Party 8' Is Serious Family Fun

It's becoming easy to extoll the virtues of Nintendo's successful Wii console. The system's interactive controls have given many of us good reason to get our butts off the sofa and into some animated flailing with the Wii's remote control.

So it's no surprise that "Mario Party 8" — the first in the "Mario Party" series of frantically short snippets to be released on the Wii — is another great, family friendly excuse to play video games.

Like its predecessors, it's an excellent, whimsical title that's best played with up to four people.

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In truth, playing with others is the ONLY way to go. The bigger the audience you can gather around the TV set, the better.

You can play alone against the computer, but that might be a sign that you've already spent too much time inside and need to go out and make some friends.

So what, exactly, is the point of this E-rated, $49.99 title?

"Mario Party 8" delivers what's best described as a board game gone insanely digital.

You'll get to choose from a cast of characters like Mario or Princess Peach. Then you'll advance through the boards with a series of fast-paced games that will test your "Wiimote" skills, such as banging the controller to hammer nails into a board or moving it in a sawing motion to cut a log.

There are frequent good uses of the motion sensitive controls, but many mini-games also harken back to earlier titles in the series by requiring some standard-issue button mashing.

On a negative note, the graphics in "Mario Party 8" were fuzzy and lacked the cartoonish vibrancy I was expecting. Especially on a wide-screen television, I noticed a general lack of visual polish for a brand-new game.

I guess the target audience won't mind too much, though, and in reality, this game is all about fast, accurate reflexes and publicly jibing with your pals, not the graphics.

"Mario Party 8" is more than just some technological showcase of the Wii's controls, and few games are going to appeal to as wide an audience as this one.

If you're looking for some truly interactive entertainment and can overlook the graphical issues, it's hard to go wrong with "Mario Party 8."

Three stars out of four.