Mario Party 10 brings everyone’s favourite minigame filled board game to the Wii U with amiibo, the gamepad, and HD visuals. For better or for worse, this release inherits much of Mario Party 9’s ideas and qualities, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its innovations. Where previous entries have been pretty much limited to the board game mode or individual minigame plays, MP10 puts its eggs in three baskets. On top of Mario Party mode, Bowser Party and amiibo Party round out the gameplay options.
Mario Party mode is largely similar to MP9; players travel across a linear board together, collecting mini-stars as rewards for minigame victories, or just finding them along their way. The player with the most mini-stars come end of a game wins. Having all four players move in tandem was a widespread point of contention back then, and I’m sure it isn’t much more popular here. Mario Party was always been about luck just as much as skill and strategy, but this revokes much of the strategic options that were there in playing competitively. Using your ‘Special Dice Blocks’ to avoid obstacles and aim for fortuitous spaces is about the extent of the strategy in this mode. From there, all you can do to increase your odds at winning is beat your competitors at minigames and cross your fingers. As disappointing as that may be, I’m sure that’s the idea.
Mario Party mode is almost like a co-operative ‘adventure’ mode, and perhaps they should have labelled it this way. Creating a less competitive mode of play was surely Nintendo’s goal here. Focus is taken from trying to win and put on having fun. Boards are reminiscent of World Maps in the New Super Mario Bros. series, leading you passed Toad Houses, mini-boss mid-way castles, all the way up to the concluding boss fight. Minigames aren’t initiated after every round as they once were, but brought on by landing on certain spaces on the board. Irritatingly, the reward for winning minigames is largely insignificant compared to what you can stumble into or out of on the board by chance. If you go a few turns without landing on a minigame space, the game will throw one at you anyway, saying it was ‘hidden’ in whatever space you do land on. Despite what several publications have said online, it isn’t possible to go a few minutes without playing a minigame, let alone a whole game.
Bowser Party is the Wii U tailored experience. While up to four players use Wii remotes to traverse a board together (as in Mario Party mode), one player uses the Gamepad to play as Bowser. It’s Bowser’s job to chase down Team Mario and beat their health down to zero before they reach the star at the end of the road. Once Bowser manages to catch up, which is practically every turn, a Bowser Minigame commences. In these, Bowser does all the damage he can to his enemies as they defend themselves at all costs. The Gamepad player also has a chance to interfere every now and then. Bowser can place traps that other players can’t see or draw graffiti to trick players into making bad choices. It would have been cool to have seen more of this stuff, rather than it being unique to certain parts of certain boards.
It’s a pretty cool concept for the Wii U’s specialty in asymmetrical multiplayer, but it’s fundamentally flawed. Bowser has an enormous advantage in this mode, making it near impossible to win as Team Mario. Assumably in an attempt to keep the stream of minigames constant, if Bowser rolls a low number, he’ll have a chance to re-roll. Once Team Mario reaches the star, they’ll have to guess which of three enemies is holding it; answering wrong means going back a few spaces and having to try again. Pair this with the very limited selection of 10 Bowser minigames, and Bowser Party comes out as a mode you won’t want to play too much.
The final gameplay mode is amiibo Party, and this is my favourite of the three. You’ll need at least one amiibo to play it. As your amiibo of choice, you’ll work your way around a board, collecting coins and spending them on stars. Sound familiar? This isn’t just like old school Mario Party though. Boards are based on amiibo too; scan one in to play on the board themed after him or her. These aren’t the winding paths of the old days though; amiibo boards are all just square. This is probably because of this mode’s unique aesthetic.
You don’t just play as the character your amiibo is based on; you play AS the amiibo. It only makes sense that you then play on a plastic toy of a board. The fact that they still didn’t put some optional and twisting paths in the middle of the plain square is super disappointing – especially considering how cool the courses are otherwise. As well as their cosmetic individuality, they each house unique obstacles and minigames. Using the poltergust to steal stars on Luigi’s board or collecting star bits on Rosalina’s, for example, makes each board fun and different – more so than those of the Mario Party mode. It gets especially cool when you pick up tokens for different boards, allowing you to change a quarter of the board mid-game. Do this three times, and you’ve got a super interesting map on your hands.
As you play as your amiibo though, you’re going to have to tap it on the Gamepad a lot. Ready to roll? Give it a tap. Want to pick up that token? Tap it. Landed on a Special Dice Block Space? Tap. It’s annoying to be sure, and everyone I played with felt the same way. MP10 really wants you to remember that you’re playing with a toy. That being said, if you can find a good place for the Gamepad between all the players it’s not too bad, and you do get used to it. On the flip side, I’m sure kids will totally love this. Holding down your character to charge up your roll and pulling it off to slam the Dice Block into your opponents and knock them over would surely get them excited. You are missing out on content if you don’t have all of the compatible amiibo, but I think this is the best implementation of the technology yet.
Let’s get to the heart of the game though; the minigames. Mario Party 10 has over 70 new minigames, including 10 Bowser mode exclusives. I can only think of a few minigames I’m not a fan of; all of which are Bowser Party games. Outside of these, they’re all a lot of fun. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say this is the best collection of minigames in MP yet. A lot of them feel almost like playing a slice of a Mario platformer while others are more like puzzles. A handful of minigames are deceptively interesting and strategic while remaining simple and understandable. I only wish some of these had more rounds to them. There are certain games that all players can survive and, therefore, win. Why not have it go on increasing in difficulty until all but one are eliminated? A few of the Bowser Party games are just about entirely luck based, but there’s an option to filter out any luck based minigames entirely – nifty.
Mario Party 10 looks fantastic. This is the first HD Mario Party game, and the Super Mario 3D World aesthetic is just right for a party game. The boards are vibrant and colourful, and characters models are crisp, sharp, and animated with the standard high level of personality for a Mario game. Even the user interface looks great. Nintendo is great at making games that feel fun just from looking at the title screen – this is one of them.
Mario Party 10 is a fun, fantastic looking party game. It’s a shame none of the three modes are quite like traditional Mario Party, and the board games mostly feel luck based, but great minigames keep it fun. If you’re looking for a fun party game, look no further. If you’re after something with expansive content or a competitive nature, this probably won’t impress you.