For any parent with a youngster clamoring for a video game console, Nintendo is the way to go. Nintendo games usually keep the violence to a minimum and the bright colors and bouncy music turned up.
That trend continues with "Mario Party 3," one of the best games ever designed to keep kids busy for hours.
It maintains the look so beloved by Mario fans over the years — a pallet of brilliant colors and sharply detailed backgrounds. The game also provides a vast number of games so young minds don't get bored. There are six huge Battle Royale board games for one to four players, and 70 new mini-games.
Some of the games are familiar, such as Mario's Puzzle Party, which looks suspiciously like Tetris. Others, like Parasol Plummet (control your descent by opening and closing your umbrella while floating into coins) and Aces High (an aerial dogfight) are less familiar but no less entertaining.
The board games are played like most of their ilk — you spin to get a number, then move that many spaces around the board and see what happens at the space you land on. In "Mario Party 3," some spaces pay coins, some take coins away and some play tricks that will frustrate you or propel you to a winning position.
After all players have rolled, you're off into a mini-game. Win, and you get coins or other valuable items. Lose, and you head back to the board with empty pockets.
If you're playing alone, the game provides three opponents. There's also a Duel Mode for two players, which is a bit more confrontational. You can get into a fight whenever your paths cross, but you can hire one or two of the dozen "partners" available to guard you while you make your way around.
All the games are easy for kids to understand. There are no tricks to throw them off, the rules are explained before each game and mini-games include a "practice" mode so you can try the game as often as you like before you have to play for real.
Give the graphics an A. While the detail and effects of more adult games have their own charm, the colors and the cartoon images of Mario games are great. "Mario Party 3" gives you the best Nintendo has to offer.
Control also gets an A. If you lose, don't blame the controls. They're so easy, even a child can quickly learn to use them perfectly.
Sound also gets an A. The music is typical merry-go-round fare, but as always it's infectiously cheerful and rarely gets boring.
While "Mario Party 3" won't be played at too many adult parties, it is absolutely perfect for its purpose — keeping children amused and delighted. Start the kids off on the Fourth of July and you might not see them again until Labor Day.
"Mario Party 3" is rated E, for all ages.