For those who do not know, up until Mario Party 9 the series consisted of moving characters on a large board, like monopoly only bigger, more interactive, and with multiple paths. Each game even had multiple boards. They were all uniquely themed and had distinct elements. For example, there was a train in Mario Party 2’s western board that would push players back to the start if you got in its way. Players would each move separately along the board collecting coins, playing mini games, and purchasing stars. The winner at the end was the one with the most stars. It was fun, eventful, and took some strategy.
Then Mario Party 9 happened and it changed everything. All players traveled together in one car across a linear map. Sure, there are places where you choose to go left or right, but after a few spaces the two paths just connect again. This game was released to mixed reviews. When Mario Party 10 was revealed I prayed that they went back to classic Mario Party, and when I finally got to play I found they did not.
“Mario Party” takes the same approach that Mario Party 9 did as it puts all players in a single car. Each turn you roll a die and move the group forward, rinse and repeat. There is no real strategy to the maps and there is very little to make this part of the game interesting. As you move you collect mini stars and the person with the most mini stars at the end is the winner. I played a game where I was behind by about 60 mini stars and on the final turn we played a “Bowser Mini Game” where Bowser stole half of everyone’s stars and gave them to the winner of the mini game; I won the game on the final turn by going from fourth place to first. It was great for me, but incredibly frustrating for the person in first place. It’s small things like this that make for a not-so-fun experience.
The fact that the maps are so linear and short makes it hard to be invested in each game. By the time you really care the game is over and someone wins, but I didn’t feel like it mattered. Sure, each map tries to distinguish itself visually. There is the standard Mario map, a ghost map, an underwater map, a cloud map, and a lava castle map, but in the end they all feel pretty much the same. It’s going from point A to point B, with very little to break up the monotony. The only map I can say I actually enjoyed was the cloud map “Airship Central”. It had moving parts, airships attacking certain spaces, and it really felt like the board was an important part of the game. Other maps the board feel like they are an afterthought; a boring piece to break up the fun mini-games.
In past Mario Party games you played a mini-game at the end of each round of turns, so in a 20 turn game you played at least 20 mini-games. In this game you only play a mini-game when you land on certain spaces. You can go multiple rounds without even playing a mini-game, making for a very boring experience. The mini-games themselves have always been a great part of Mario Party and this game is no exception. In past games only the winner of a mini-game received the reward, generally 10 coins, but in Mario Party 10 everyone gets a few mini stars. First place gets the most and it goes down from there. I like this change because even if you are not winning you are still slowly progressing and staying in the game. There is a good mix of mini-games, from free-for-all, 1 vs. 3, 2 vs. 2, and “Boss Battles”, where all four players fight a single enemy and the player with the most points at the end of the battle is the winner. These games are fun because while you are all working together to take out enemies, such as giant Bloopers or Goombas, you still want to be the one who has the most points.
The “Classic” Mario Party mode is very disappointing. It has taken the fun of the board game aspect and thrown it out the window, making it feel like a forced chore with nothing exciting or interesting. Where are the Boo squares where you could steal coins or stars from your enemies; the teleporting squares to quickly traverse the map; item shops; happening spaces? Basically all are gone in an effort to streamline a game into a game of Candyland with Mario characters; anything can happen.
In Bowser Party, one player plays as Bowser against up to four other players who play as a team. In this mode it makes sense to put all four players together in one car to move around the board. The player who is Bowser holds the GamePad while the other players use Wii Remotes. I thought this mode might make good use of the GamePad, and at times it certainly does. There are certain spots on the map where you can arm traps to hurt the other players, and choose where to put them using the GamePad screen so players couldn’t see their position. The GamePad is also used in some mini-games, but not as well as I would have hoped.
In this mode the four players each roll a die to the car forward. After each player has gone Bowser rolls four dice and moves as well. If he catches up to the players a Bowser game is initiated. Each player starts with a certain number of hearts, and in the mini-games Bowser tries to do enough damage to knock each player’s hearts out before they can reach the end of the map. One tough thing about playing as Bowser is that it can be easy to fall behind. In one turn my enemies moved about 20 spaces forward and I rolled four 1s. The game does a good job of adjusting though. If you get too far behind then Bowser Jr. will give you an extra die to roll. It’s a slow way to catch back up, but it works.
Bowser Party is a pretty fun game mode, especially if you can scrounge up four people to play with. Mario Party always has been best to play in a group, and this mode really encourages that. When it’s me vs. four of my friends (not A.I) winning is just so satisfying, and the change up in the way mini-games work is really cool. The way Bowser wins is to just do enough damage in each mini-game to knock out the opponents; and the four players just want to stay alive long enough to finish the map. I can’t say I think it will have the replay value of past Mario Party games, but it is really fun for now.
The last main game mode is “Amiibo Party”. This game mode obviously requires Amiibos to play. Nintendo has released a whole new “Super Mario” line of Amiibos, but you don’t need those ones specifically to play Amiibo Party. In fact any compatible Amiibo (such as Mario, Peach, DK, etc.) from the Smash Bros. Amiibo line will work. Unfortunately you can only save data from one game at a time onto each Amiibo, so if you plan to use your Smash Bros Amiibos on this game you will need to erase your data.
Amiibo party is as close to “Classic” Mario Party as you are going to get. You start by tapping an Amiibo to the NFC reader on the gamepad that unlocks the mode. From there you can tap any Amiibo you want to play as. If you want to play multiplayer each person must have an Amiibo. Each Amiibo can also give you a daily bonus as by tapping it you can unlock new items or get points to buy things from the shop, such as new characters, cars, or the final CPU difficulty. In order to unlock everything you’ll want to tap as many Amiibos as you can each day.
Each Amiibo also has their own board, and to play on their board you must tap that Amiibo to the NFC reader. The boards in Amiibo Party are small rectangles, no more than 30 spaces big. Each player starts with 20 coins and must move around the board buying stars, which cost 20 coins each. Given the boards are small almost every few turns someone buys a star. It’s tough to get in position to buy stars with people moving around all the time, but it’s still enjoyable. There are ways to change up the board too; if you acquire certain items you can actually change a quarter of the board to a different one. Say you’re playing on DK’s board but you get the Yoshi item, you can switch up a corner to become the Yoshi board. It keeps things interesting and changes what can happen on certain spaces. I’m glad that this mode exists, but it almost feels like I’m being teased with a scaled down version of the old Mario Party.
The final mode, for lack of a better term, is mini-game mode. Here you essentially play only the mini-games. It’s a good way to just hop in and play mini-games to bypass the boring boards in classic Mario Party mode. There are also some bonus games such as Badminton, jewel drop and a mini-game tournament.
Graphically Mario Party 10 looks good. The boards are detailed and the characters look great. Overall I’d say it’s an improvement over past games, especially because it runs in 1080p, where as the last game on the original Wii did not. The Amiibo Party looks really cool because the graphics of the characters are actually the Amiibos, including the base of the Amiibo). Each player who uses an Amiibo actually uses them in the game, and any computer character is just a cardboard cutout of that character on a small plastic stand.
Mario Party 10 is a packed game. With three main game modes, tons of mini-games, and Amiibo support there’s lots to do. Unfortunately Nintendo chose to continue to dumb the game down to an uninteresting board-fest broken up by only a couple of mini-games. In the end, if you liked Mario Party 9 then get Mario Party 10; you’ll love it. If you haven’t played a Mario Party game before you may want to rent before buying to try it out although I would recommend getting one of the N64 Mario Parties on the Wii Virtual Console to experience the better Mario Party games.
***This game was reviewed with a retail copy provided by the publisher***