The Mario Party series has been floating around for four console generations, with few of them going to the effort to really shake up the core formula. The point has always been to finish with the most stars and beat your friends at a handful of mini-games. That formula, for better or worse, has not really changed. Many of these elements remain intact in Mario Party 10, right down to the rotten luck spaces that can turn the game around at the very last second. And while this new Wii U iteration of the series plays it mostly safe, it does take enough advantage of the new console hardware to make this particular game worth a peek.
Taking a Ride
As was the case with Mario Party 9 (developer Nd Cube's first crack at the franchise), individual players no longer explore the game board on their own in the classic Mario Party game mode. Everybody shares a vehicle and takes their turn, as normal, going down a linear path that only occasionally branches out. It's an idea that takes a lot of the "board game" feel away, albeit without compromising much of the randomness or the competitive element. The board game design does keep the game fresh with certain boards utilizing gimmicks. For example, Airship Central will offer spaces that blast away at a Bowser airship, while Haunted Trail has Boo haunt certain spots. Miniboss and boss battles will also spice things up, putting all four players against one of Mario's rogues in an obstacle-filled environment. These are generally well-designed and put the focus on competing with other players while trying to take out the target.
While the GamePad itself isn't used in classic Mario Party mode, it does use some neat visual cues. One of the main ideas is that Bowser is locked away, imprisoned behind bars within the GamePad. Rolling any of the numbers of the dice at least once will remove one of those bars. When the final number is rolled, Bowser will burst forth and appear on the television screen, in a nice touch.
Meanwhile, many of the mini-games feel mundane or uninspired at first glance. The classic minigame ideas are all there: jump on moving platforms to survive, count how many objects are on-screen, memorization, races to the finish line, etc. There are few, if any, of them that break new ground. However, it should be noted that I did play a night's worth of games with my 11-year-old nephew and my 9-year-old niece and they definitely enjoyed the mini-game portion of this mode more than anything else. Even the motion-controlled mini-games had more hits than misses, focusing more on using the Wii Remotes to point at objects or use simple flicks of the wrist. There were a few instances where the Wii Remote needed to be used for tilt-based movement, which were a definite lowlight, but the reliance on motion control simply isn't here as much it was in more recent Mario Party outings.
Good to be Bad
While there was some good-natured fun to be had in the classic Mario Party mode, Mario Party 10's best new feature is undoubtedly Bowser Party. This is a mode for up to five players, with up to four Wii Remote players competing to stay alive against a single GamePad player that controls the King of the Koopas himself. So rather than collecting stars, everyone has hearts and must proceed across the board to keep possession of those hearts.
Anyone that has followed the Mario Party series at all knows that Bowser is a dirty cheater who cheats, which makes the opportunity to actually play as him marvelously evil. After everyone takes their turn, Bowser will roll four dice to try and catch up with the other four players and engage them in one of his Bowser mini-games. And being who he is, the villain will cheat constantly. Bowser Jr. will sometimes sprinkle in an extra die or if the dice roll doesn't favor the big guy, he'll get a chance to re-roll.
This can even extend to certain luck sequences. For example, if a player gets a chance to pick goodies from a chest at random, Bowser Jr. will come along in the GamePad to show the Bowser player the chests' contents. At that point, the Bowser player can doodle on the GamePad to try and throw the players off the scent. This novel use of the GamePad even extends to the end of the game, where Bowser can hide the star in the pocket of one of his minions.
Playing as Bowser is one of the most fun additions to the Mario Party series in a long time. The kids I played with even started fighting over who would get to play as him next. The only negative here is that the GamePad player truly does stand to have more fun than everyone else, who will essentially be playing just another regular Mario Party game.
The other major addition to Mario Party 10 is the ability to use Amiibo figures for their own game mode, appropriately called Amiibo Party. While it sounds like a great use of the collectibles, the actual game mode feels like a major disappointment. Two to four players will compete on a smaller Mario Party board with the old-school Mario Party rules of passing by star spaces and purchasing stars for 20 coins. "Smaller" is the ample word, because the boards themselves feel tight and constricted, with few spaces really helping vary the experience. It feels like an abbreviated version of the main game and one that feels noticeably lacking in comparison to the other game modes.
Amiibo Party also feels like something of an overuse of the GamePad sensor. Players will need to hold on to their figures at all times, as they'll need to place the Amiibo on the sensor to do just about everything, including roll the dice. The novelty wears out quickly and this idea starts to wear thin. The game also lasts for a mere ten turns, so it goes quickly, but it's only a brief reminder of the manic fun that previous Mario Party games were.
Scanning Amiibo figures will also unlock themed boards, with their own distinct luck spaces. They can also unlock a special in-game Amiibo base to grant bonuses, but the Amiibo Party mode itself doesn't feel deep enough to support such unlockables. As much as I had hoped to use my Amiibo collection for a new purpose, the party doesn't last too long with this game.
Rolling the Dice
While Mario Party 10 is a fun romp, it's hard to make a case for this game standing out over previous Mario Party offerings. Anyone that has a previous installment of the game (including any of the ones currently available on the Wii Virtual Console) may find it tough to make the case for an upgrade. Bowser Party is worth a look, though, and is great for playing with kids or adults alike.
Mario Party 10
- Bowser Party is a blast
- Minigames are decent and don't rely much on motion control
- Creative board designs
- Amiibo Party is a shallow disappointment
- Noticeably long loading times
Ozzie Mejia posted a new article, Mario Party 10 review: keeping the party rolling
Pretty disappointed that they played it so safe for this title but I'm still excited as I'm a huge fan of the series. Going to host a Mario Party this weekend, good times will be had.
Haven't played a Mario Party in ages, so i was considering picking this up. Bowser party seems like a blast, but, since this is the first I've heard of this, can anybody chime in on whether putting everyone in the same vehicle in classic mode is a good change or not? I'm already hating the idea, it seems to take away all of the competitiveness of the game, but maybe in practice it's not that bad?
They did it on MarioParty 9 as well (The one vehicle idea) and I absolutely hated it. It was the sole reason I didn't get #10.
It's still competitive, because vehicle positioning becomes something of a strategic element. But I have to be honest, losing the ability to just go my own way is a downer. I'm not a fan of the change.
Also, the video crew played Bowser Party, if you want to check it out for yourselves.
A little sad there isn't more bowser stuff, since that's obviously the best of the bunch.