Since Mario Party first launched way back when on the N64, gamers large and small have known the series to be a competition of a different breed.
Shouts of “Hey, that wasn’t fair!” and “I thought I won that!” have been known to be heard at every game during Mario Party’s lifetime as players compete in luck-rigged maps and unbalanced minigames for the fabled title of “Super Star”.
Some older gamers remember how ruthless the series used to be – from getting a Boo to steal another player’s Star to winning a clutch Battle Minigame, Mario Party was never meant to be for the faint of heart. The game was rumored to “ruin friendships”, and many who have grown up with Mario Party know it to do just that.
Along with some of Nintendo’s other titles, Mario Party has seen its share of reworking and rule-changing during its lifetime. A lot of the game’s mercilessness has been pushed aside to make way for some good ol’ family fun and shenanigans. Maps with roundabout paths have been exchanged for more linear boards. Items, instead of using them to screw over another player, have been put to use in bettering you or perhaps even leveling the playing field. And it just seems like the darn RNG gives a freebie to whoever is in last place.
Here it is, folks. Mario Party 10. We’re in double digits now – we’ve come a long way from our humble days on the Nintendo 64. But is the Mario Party franchise still the same gross amount of “eff-your-friends” fun as it used to be? Let’s take a look.
Mario Party 10 was marketed to include the new “Bowser Party” mode, where 4 players work together in outsmarting a 5th player, Bowser. The maps you can play Bowser Party on feature unique and interesting mechanics that all always seem to favor our giant Koopa King, such as laying traps or misdirecting which way to go on the road to retrieve a Star. Each player rolls a dice block in order to get as far away from Bowser as possible – but when it’s Bowser’s turn, he has the ability to roll dice blocks equal to the number of remaining players to catch up with them and engage them in a minigame.
Oh, and he gets a re-roll, too.
The Bowser minigames are relatively tame, but if Bowser ever fails to catch up to the players, he’ll become angry, and challenge them to harder, more biased minigames when he does manage to reach them. Bowser’s goal throughout Bowser Party is to “Out” all 4 players (rid them of all their hearts) and keep the Star for himself.
It seems at first glance, that Bowser Party is heavily weighted in Bowser’s favor, but this mode can be a little misleading. Sure, when Bowser gets angry, you have a pretty good chance of losing a lot of your hearts, but there are a good amount of areas where players can pick up hearts and revive fallen allies at the same time that Bowser is breathing hot on your neck. Players are able to pick up special dice blocks in order to help them better pinpoint where exactly they want to go, while Bowser already has to be very precise about what he wants to place all of his traps.
Don’t get me wrong – Bowser Party, being very aptly named, is a lot of fun…for Bowser. The players have to live in constant stress to perform well in games like Bowser’s Sinister Slots or select the right card in Bowser’s Bogus Bingo, while Bowser revels in tormenting them all without worry of any repercussions. It’s also extremely easy for him to catch up to you; getting a re-roll of his dice easily allows him to keep up with the car, challenging them to minigame after minigame and wearing them down.
The minigames are few in number, but generally fun and vary in difficulty depending on whether Bowser is angry or not. For example, Bowser’s Bad Breath, a non-angry Bowser minigame, has Bowser blowing into the Gamepad’s microphone to spit fireballs while players clamber to avoid them, whereas Bowser’s Wicked Wheel, an angry Bowser minigame, has players spinning on a hamster wheel that starts and stops on Bowser’s command. There are only about 10 minigames to choose from, which means longer games may double up. For me, repetitiveness just breaks the small amount of suspension of disbelief I always put into a game, and so I would have liked for there to be a more diverse set of minigames included in the Bowser mode.
However, Mario Party is about luck, and Bowser Party is no different. While the players have a good amount of special dice blocks to help them along the way, in the end, it really depends on the rolls of the dice. If the players roll badly, they risk stepping into traps, or getting caught by Bowser himself. If Bowser rolls badly, even with his re-roll, he very well may stay behind the group the whole game.
Despite the lack of diversity in minigames and the amount of sheer luck involved in the game, Bowser Party is a pretty fun addition to the series, and a pretty nice alternative to normal play. Having a 4v1 mode is an interesting idea among the free-for-all we normally see.
The same could not be said, however, for the regular Mario Party mode. Like Mario Party 9 before it, Mario Party 10 features 4 players traveling together in a car of some sort, driving through a level, collecting as many Mini-Stars as they can before they reach the end. Players will have to defeat mini-bosses and bosses in this mode, each map having a different one to defeat. The player with the most Mini-Stars upon reaching the end of the map is the Super Star!
Now, I am not a Mario Party aficionado and I don’t drool over new games in the series, but this latest entry just didn’t feel like Mario Party to me. Not that changing things up once in a while is particularly bad, but driving around together takes away from the free-roaming feel that the older titles had. It makes players feel trapped, like there is nothing they can do about going where they’re going in the long run. Sure, like in Bowser Party mode, players collect Special Dice Blocks to help them better control where they land and how far they go, and unlike Bowser Party they don’t exactly have the threat of a big bad Koopa chasing them across the level, but with older Mario Party titles it felt like there was more to explore, like every game would be as different as you made it by exploring every corner of the map. In Mario Party 10, this is not so. Having a linear map only allows for linear gameplay. There’s only so much variation in having only one track on the map. Of course, RNG shenanigans happen as normal, but the little subtleties in strategy that happened in the older iterations – sprinting straight for the Star versus heading to the shop for an early game item – that made each game that much more unique. Being able to decide your own fate, whether you find it to be good or bad in the long run, was what made Mario Party interesting to me.
The levels themselves, true to Nintendo form, are well designed, with my favorite being the Haunted Trail. The Boos were always my favorite of any aspect of Mario Party, and to see them return, albeit in a much less harmful fashion as those that steal a small handful of Mini Stars each turn, is always nice. The maps all have interesting gimmicks, like the recurring sea dragon treasure chest in the Whimsical Waters level, and the mini bosses and bosses of each level are all interesting in their own right. After a certain point called the “Homestretch” of the map, the player in last place decides the minigame to play, which is a nice touch in helping the losing players catch up, which we all know is integral to the developers of any competitive Mario game.
The minigames are numerous, with a total of 75, but unlike previous versions, a minigame is only played when a player lands on a minigame space, leaving most of the game to be spent traversing the map. Honestly, this is just an outright bad idea. Minigames at the end of every round allows a much needed break from exploring, and allows players that had maybe made a wrong decision to still keep up in the action. With the new mechanics, this isn’t so. Players that have fallen behind due to a bad roll or an “unlucky” square can only recoup their losses when a minigame shows up. It’s pretty depressing when you’re sitting behind in last place for most of the game, hoping that the Homestretch shows up soon so that you can even try and catch the other players.
The game was also marketed to feature Amiibo party, which allowed you to play a good old fashioned game of Mario Party on a board centered around an Amiibo you purchased. The boards are simple, small, and square, but reminiscent of Parties gone by, and are more fun than that of the standard mode. Compete to buy Stars, pay 20 coins, play a minigame at the end of a round – it’s almost all there, which is kind of a shame when you consider you have to pay at least $12 to unlock it.
There are as many boards in Amiibo Party as there are Super Mario Amiibos, plus a few more in Rosalina, Wario, and Donkey Kong. The Amiibos actually unlock corners of different boards to be used to make an amalgamation of all of the ones being played, which can be pretty interesting. The only aggravating part is that every player with an Amiibo must tap the Amiibo on the NFC in the Gamepad when doing…anything. But overall, Amiibo Party has a lot of things to offer that the Standard Mario Party mode left you wanting.
There are some tournament modes involving playing minigames and a few extra games that can be played, like a Jewel Drop game or even a round of Badminton, but after everything, Mario Party 10 just seems kind of…all right. Bowser Party and Amiibo Party really are what make this game shine, which can be very interesting considering that the game namesake comes from neither. I have to admit that the weakest part of Mario Party 10 is…Mario Party. It’s strange to say, but they’ve changed the game too much and made it too much based on fate for any semblance of strategy to make a difference. Sure, changing things up in the series once in a while is all fine and good, but when you take it too far, you may lose sight of what you were trying to accomplish in the first place.