It's Mario Party, for better or worse.
But the game should probably be judged on it's own merits. It's a board game, one in which four players, controlled by either people or the computer, take turns rolling a die and traveling around a board. Your goal, as always, is to collect coins with which to purchase stars. And as always, the winner is the person who has the most stars at the end of the game. At the end of every turn, and sometimes during a turn, the participants are all thrown into a mini-game in which they compete and sometimes cooperate for a coin prize. All of which is still fun. The new mini-games are as good as any from the other games in the series, although none of them seem to rely on dumb luck this time around, which is very welcome. The game still has a habit of randomly rewarding people who have done nothing by giving them the belongings of people who have been doing absolutely everything, which can be intensely frustrating, especially when playing alone.
There are a few new modes here. One is the solo mode, in which two characters, one controlled by a human and one controlled by either a person or the computer, face off on one of six boards. Each board has a different objective that must be fulfilled to achieve victory. For example, on one board your goal is to retrieve a star from a character on the board and then return it to a different spot on the board. The intense problems with the seeming randomness in how the game rewards how you play come front and center here, as you can go from first to last at almost any point no matter how dominant you've been. Still, once you've managed to play through these things once, you won't have to bother with them again unless you don't want to.
The other significant new additions are the eight-player minigames, which are accessible from the main menu and are played separately from the rest of the game modes. There actually is no requirement to have seven other people with you when you play these games (which is a bit of a godsend), but they really don't feel any different from any of the other mini-games in this latest edition. The GameCube microphone that was introduced in the last Mario Party returns here (one is included with the game if you never picked the last one up), and for the most part it's used well. There's only one single-player mic game though, and the participants in the four-player games must take turns rather than competing all at once. Still, the mic games are fun and do offer a bit of a change from the usual mini-game fare.
Graphically, once again, not much has changed from before. That means that everything looks like the renders you see on the game box. There are references to the Mario series thrown in throughout the game, and different Mario characters show up all the time. Most of the characters do have a few facial expressions, which is a nice touch, especially at the end of a mini-game. Other than that, the boards are incredibly detailed and everything has a fun, slightly corny atmosphere.
The sound is slightly less enticing than the game's graphics. There are a lot of vocal samples in this game, however, most of them repeat themselves way too much. This becomes especially evident with Toadsworth, who accompanies you in nearly everything you do. Listening to his voice and the very limited things he says becomes old rather quickly. The music is very good, for it's part. It's a party game, so of course most of it is bright and peppy. Things do change just a wee bit at times, usually when Bowser gets involved with the game, but for the most part everything sounds cheery and fresh.
So, all in all, Mario Party 7 is more of the same for people who want to play it. People who liked the last one and aren't tired of the series yet would benefit from picking this up. Likewise, it won't change the minds of anyone who doesn't like the Mario Party series. But for anyone who hasn't tried the series before, now is as good a time as any to do so. It's pretty safe to say that Nintendo and developer Hudson have a formula for making these games, and it's a bit frustrating that they didn't take a lot of the randomness out of the game's scoring system, but other than that it's another solid Mario Party game, even if it isn't a revolutionary one.