Leaving The Party Early
The Mario Party series has always been dwarfed by Mario Kart and Super Smash Bros. as Nintendo’s premier party titles. At its best, the latest iteration to the series, Mario Party 10, is a haphazard attempt at stepping out of the shadows of its couch co-op competitors.
Mario Party 10 is a virtual board game featuring your favorite residents of the mushroom kingdom. After selecting someone to play as, you pick one of the game’s visually lovely yet extremely linear game boards and begin the game. After that, gameplay is a combination of rolling a die to progress, and playing mini-games for rewards.
Presentation-wise, Mario Party 10 hits the nail on the head. As you’d expect, the first Mario Party title to hit the Wii U possesses amazing graphics. This is especially evident in the game boards that are all themed differently but equally easy on the eyes. It’s the classic Mario charm and polish that Nintendo fans are accustomed to by now. Where the polish lacks its much needed luster is in the gameplay department.
Mario Party 10 divides its gameplay into three different modes: Mario Party, Bowser Party, and Amiibo Party.
Mario Party mode is the basic way to play the game. As stated before, the game begins with you selecting a character. While the cast of characters in Mario Party 10 may be extremely underwhelming in comparison to similar Nintendo titles, it does give the player a little sense of progression by giving them two characters to unlock. After that you are given a decent variety of maps to choose from, or the option to simply play your choice of mini-games. Unlike traditional board games and Mario Party games of old, Mario Party 10 puts all participating characters in one vehicle. This means that everyone moves at the same time, but only the player who rolled the dice for the turn experiences the effects of the board. This mechanic keeps the game moving but at the loss of any exploration of the game board, which explains why no matter which one you pick, the settings are very linear with a distinct beginning, end, and not much memorable in between. As you and your opponents traverse the map trying to accumulate as many mini-stars as you can and get to the final boss, you encounter specific spaces that change the course of the game. One type of space offers new die to use that can be helpful for specific situations, other types can give you, or take away mini-stars. There are a few more types, but all in all, few of them add any excitement to the game. This includes what many consider to be the best part of the Mario Party series, the mini-game space.
The mechanic of of having mini-games as a space on the board rather than making them a routine after everyone has taken a turn makes Mario Party very dull. By leaving it up to chance, the game can easily be experienced as a glorified dice rolling simulator with one boss fight mini-game at the end of each session. This upsetting mechanic may be for the better though as the mini-games themselves are extremely uninspired, repetitive, and boring. The myriad of simple games can range from testing your reaction time by swinging the Wii remote to be the first to hit a golf ball, to memorizing which shuffled cards had the most bullet bills on them, but most mini-games often feel like the same things over and over again. This comes with very few exceptions but nothing creative.
While in the middle and at the end of the map in Mario Party mode, you may encounter a couple of good mini-games though. The only bright spot of gameplay comes in the form of the boss battles and mini-boss battles (this game is all about the minis if you can’t tell). At the halfway point and the end, you will encounter a boss (that varies depending on the map) and must complete his minigame as a team to take him down. These were some of the more memorable and exciting games to play with my favorite being platforming across crates to hit King Boo with powerful flashlights. It makes you and your friends play as a team but still incentives the more competitive players. These boss battles typically send off a very boring session on relatively good note.
Bowser Party is the new and prominently featured mode in the series, and it finally fixes the big Mario Party trope of leaving everything to chance. Unfortunately it fixes this by stacking the odds in the favor of Bowser. Bowser Party adds Bowser to the game’s cast and he is controlled with the Wii U gamepad. The rest of the players will continue through the map as per usual but this time Bowser is in pursuit of them. Instead of grabbing mini-stars, the goal is simply reaching the end of the map without losing all of the players lives, which is a very difficult task considering what Bowser can do. In order to keep up with the other four players, Bowser gets more dice and can get more from Bowser Jr. Because of this, Bowser often catches the other players on every roll causing a Bowser Party mini game. Bowser party minigames are lopsided affairs in which Bowser beats the group mercilessly with things like an oversized hammer, fire breath, and bullet bills. If the players manage to make it to the final stretch with Bowser off in the distance, Bowser Jr will appear to help the big guy out. If all these advantages weren’t enough, Bowser also gets to place traps in particular places on the board.
Fans of the old Mario Party series may be drawn to the Amiibo Party mode. If you have an Amiibo, you can play as them on their character-specific board. In this mode, characters move individually around a very simple board in hopes to be the first to grab a star. The character with the most stars wins and stars need to be purchased with coins. Coins are gained through the same mini-games played in Mario Party mode, but this time those mini-games are played after everyone has taken a turn in a round. Amiibo Party can easily be seen as a barebones throwback to classic Mario Party games with repetitive games.
The Verdict: 4.0 out of 10
Mario Party 10 is a disappointing collection of new ideas combined with the problems of its predecessors. The visually impressive game is ultimately dictated by chance while its mini-games of skill are repetitive and boring. The game’s boss battles attempt to make up for this utterly uninteresting experience, but having fun twice during a round of Mario Party 10 does not make the game enjoyable. To put it simply, Mario Party 10 is boring, uninspired, and repetitive.
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