Those who have not followed the Mario Party series in recent years could be forgiven for dismissing its 9th console entry as yet another attempt to milk an aging franchise. Hell, even as someone who's been mini-gaming around the Mushroom Kingdom since it required being tethered to an N64, I had trouble mustering enthusiasm for the latest sequel. Allowing that big "9" on the box to mislead you, however, would be a mistake on the level of hiring Bowser as a babysitter.

You see, Mario Party 9 -- the series' first entry in nearly five years -- feels surprisingly more like a thoughtful reboot than a phoned-in rehash.