Mario Party 10 Review
A party too far?
Really, I’m quietly amazed that the Mario Party series has lasted as long as it has. Its initially fun and robust take on the digital board game has waned heavily over time, the rose tinted memories of the N64 originals fading more and more with every passing year. And yet, when playing it with a group of friends, it still has the potential to be a good time – a true ‘party’ game if ever there was one. It’s just unfortunate that the series isn’t being utilized to its full potential.
The main Party Mode in this iteration is pretty much carried straight over from the Wii’s Mario Party 9, and still differs greatly from the original winning formula of outmaneuvering your rivals, using strategy on boards to win stars – and the game as a whole – through both luck and skill. What we have here, however, is the return of the everyone-in-one-vehicle mode from the last console entry, whereby each character moves everyone forward in the car they’re all in by rolling the dice. This cuts out strategy almost completely, and frankly I’m amazed this design has returned from Mario Party 9.
In classic entries in the Mario Party series, each player would roll a die, indicating how many spaces they could move around the game board, in much the same way you do in real board games such as Monopoly. There would usually be branching paths, risk/reward shortcuts and all manner of special spaces that could mix up the game in entertaining ways. The aim was to reach the space where the golden star was located and purchase it with the coins you had accrued from the mini-games you’d won. At the end, the person with the most stars won the entire game, allowing for a nice blend of luck and skill.
However, in Mario Party 10 (as with its immediate predecessor) the game boards are linear and the mini stars you collect (no longer somewhere you’re frantically trying to reach) are simply littered randomly along the path, making sure that someone will collect them, it just being up to chance who’s turn it will be when the car arrives at the stars. As problematic as this is, the rarity of mini-games popping up – the lifeblood of Mario Party – is an even greater problem. It isn’t guaranteed that you will play one at the end of each turn, as in classic Mario Parties, but instead you rely upon either you or a rival landing on a specific place on the board; it’s entirely possible to finish an entire game only experiencing a few of the mini-games.
Thankfully, there are two other primary modes to play in Mario Party 10, but neither save the package. Firstly, there’s the brand new Amiibo Mode, which both shakes things up whilst staying faithful to the classic formula. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite come together as well as it could. Using Amiibo, Nintendo’s NFC (Near Field Communication) toys in capacity with the game can be a thrill at first, but soon becomes a bit of a chore. It also feels like a cynical money spinner to part kids and their cash, with each player in Amiibo Mode requiring one of the plastic toys to play, sold separately of course.
Each Amiibo, from Mario and Luigi to Peach and Toad, when tapped on the Wii U’s gamepad, can spawn a board themed to their character. However, these small, square offerings are dull and lifeless, and although they bring back the classic rules of each player trying to reach and buy the golden star first, there’s simply no leeway for strategy and frequently tapping the Amiibo’s on each turn soon becomes tiresome.
The last of the three main modes is Bowser Party, and by far the most fun and innovative. One player – the person with the gamepad – controls Bowser, playing against the four other characters who work together against him. This works similarly to some of the other ideas used in Wii U multiplayer games, such as in Nintendo Land, and the results can be fun. The mini-games in this mode are also reminiscent of many of the classic 3 v 1 games of past entries in that they can be both hilarious and quite unbalanced. Bowser is often given an unfair advantage, easily whooping the regular players, and so again this mode, after initially entertaining, doesn’t have the longevity to keep players coming back. However, trolling your opponents by scribbling and writing on the gamepad – which shows up on the TV and getting in the way of what they’re doing – can be a blast and is one of the games’ most successful new ideas.
As for the new mini-games themselves, well, they’re a mixed bag. There are a few that are both fun (and require skill) such as a speed boat race that tests your reflexes as you avoid spiky balls, or the amusing mini-game where a photo is being taken and you have to knock your opponents out of shot. Most of the mini-games are an all against all, winner takes all sort of scenario, but there are a few where you have to team up with a pal to take the other two contestants on, such as mini a football match or a territory based game where you have to knock all the Goombas into your opponents area before the time runs out. However, as is often the case with Mario Party many are simply based on luck, by choosing a random option out of four and hoping for the best. These have always plagued the series and Mario Party 10 is no exception.
Rounding out the package are a couple of extras, including a mini-game only mode and a badminton distraction, a little reminiscent of Mario Tennis. Still, these additions don’t change the fact that Mario Party is best in its most classic form. If brought up to date, with modern twists and great mini-games, I think a classic style Mario Party could still have a place in the Nintendo roster of returning franchises for each console generation. As it is, though, Mario Party 10 feels like it treads too far from what made Mario Party fun in the first place. I only hope that next time Nintendo can rekindle some of the magic of the earlier iterations, for when it works, Mario Party can be one of the most fun – and hilariously frustrating – multiplayer experiences around. Unfortunately, Mario Party 10 is not that party. Tear up the invitation and sit this one out.