Since 1998, the Mario Party franchise has graced Nintendo gaming platforms and filled the homes of players with an urge for fun and a competitive edge. Now the core console series of iterations has reached the double digits in its 10th installment (13th counting handheld games), and reviewers are somewhat split.
“Mario Party 10,” the first Wii U entry in the popular franchise, brings both new and retro aspects to the table. First, as with every game so far, the main plot focuses on maneuvering colorful Mario characters around a gameboard to see who can win an overall game by accomplishing certain objectives and winning minigames.
The similarities end there though because “Mario Party 10” features three completely different styles of play, two of which are brand new. The most recognizable form of play, dubbed “Mario Party” in the game, replicates the conventions of “Mario Party 9” as a group of four characters (any combination of human- and computer-controlled characters) travel together in a vehicle that moves mostly automatically across one of five game boards.
Those who did not play “9” (the last title on the Wii system) will be unfamiliar with this concept and likely not too happy with it. Since the characters take turns controlling the vehicle with dice rolls, meaning that you only control what is going on a quarter of the time and still at the mercy of the die, there really is no room for an effective strategy. The game’s mechanics are so luck-based, and events such as unfortunately landing on a Bowser Space happen so often that most will feel like what happens is largely out of their control.
Playing on the Mushroom Park board, my folks and I enjoyed some great Mario Party chaos. We all agreed the game was appealing to look at in HD graphics, the music was fit for a fantasy setting, and the minigames were undeniably tons of fun. We especially thought that Yoshi shaking his dinosaur rump at us on screen in a victory animation was funny, and I noted that small things like character animations have been polished to a state never before seen.
However, the lack of strategy necessary to win the board overall was evident, as my mom, who has not played the series in a long while, won the board in a landslide of stars that beat us out. She said she did not expect to win, and remembered, “I didn’t really like the controller,” in reference to her trouble with Wii motion controls. If you played and enjoyed Smash Tour on the Wii U version of Super Smash Bros., you most likely will like this mode a lot; but if you are more of a classic gamer, then the new Mario Party’s mechanics may not be for you.
The second main mode, Bowser Party, allows a fifth player, for the first time in the franchise, to take control of series’ villain Bowser, and chase down the other four players in unique and new minigames that take advantage of the Wii U gamepad. I found this mode intuitive and much fun, but it seemed like it was too easy for Bowser to catch the other characters and end the board way before they could hope to reach the end.
Thirdly, there is Amiibo Party, which is only available if you have purchased at least one of the new Amiibo figures that support the game. For instance, you can place the Mario Amiibo on the gamepad to play a basic game board but with traditional Mario Party rules where all four players control separately around the board, similar to a virtual Monopoly but a lot less complicated. Amiibo figures are sold separately and all cost around $13 each.
Overall, Mario Party 10 features less strategy in the already random franchise that throws crazy scenarios at players all the time. But for most like families and friends that want an accessible game to get together around and play, that will not matter. You would probably have an interesting time trying out what “Mario Party 10” has to offer whether you are a series mainstay or newcomer to the party.