Put on those party hats and pull out the game pads because it’s party time, and not just any party time, but Mario Party time. So let’s all round up Mario, Luigi, Yoshi, and the rest of the gang to compete in multiplayer mayhem for another (tenth!) exciting outing. Will moving Mario and his multiplayer hijinks to the Wii U do anything to save the franchise? Let’s take a look.
Mario Party 10 feels like a full, meaty experience, but still keeps things pretty close to its chest in terms of shaking up the formula. The title is essentially split into three different gameplay modes: Mario Party, Bowser Party, and Amiibo Party. Mario Party is the standard Mario Party experience, where gamers find themselves moving through the gameboards, avoiding the obstacles in their path, and frequenting the plentiful item shops when appropriate.
The Mario Party gameplay mode basically takes all of the concepts that Mario Party 9 introduced (mini stars instead of coins, travelling together in a vehicle, bosses and mini-bosses, etc.), so if you loved that entry, this one should be right up your alley. A number of different boards are offered up to you here, though none of them feel all that inventive. We see familiar locations like Peach’s Castle and Delfino Isle, and while some board-specific mini-games help add variety, there are no real surprises here (although Boo’s Haunted Board was a favorite of mine, and seemed to feature the most depth in its environment). Mario Party 10 brings back its boss concept from before too, and there’s still a lot of fun to be had, especially for a feature that’s relatively new to the franchise.
Of course, the main reason everyone will be playing this title is for the mini-games, so naturally you want to know how they stack up. There are many wonderfully delightful multiplayer experiences to be had here. Classic goals are resorted to, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself balancing on balls or trudging through obstacle courses for a majority of the games. The bright spots primarily shine through in the form of sports mini-games, with golfing, volleyball, and badminton all getting creative representations. That’s not to say that the other games still aren’t a lot of fun, and I personally found myself having the best time in a tight 1 vs. 3 mini-game that requires everyone to fire Bullet Bills at a lone player stuck on a direction panel. Of course, long-time staples like your typical musical conductor and musician fare, stamping, and drawing games, also make an appearance. However, while this nostalgia is appreciated, fond reminders and retreads aren’t what we need here, and in the tenth entry in a series (and literally thousands of mini-games in), that’s not surprising. Nothing here feels new or inspired, and while a lot of these are fun, is that really enough? I don’t think anyone truly thought that we needed a new Mario Party game, and if that wasn’t the case, maybe this entry should have waited until some more groundbreaking concepts were decided on.
If you are eager for new content and uncharted Mario Party territory, the new Bowser Party mode might be able to make you smile. Here, one party member actually plays as Bowser, while up to four other people control Mario and friends through new Bowser-based mini-games. The four non-Bowser players try to complete the gameboard without losing all of their hearts or getting caught by Bowser. The player operating Bowser mans the Wii U gamepad (where his screen is located), controlling and orchestrating the mini-games with it accordingly, all the while hoping to take down the other players. The Bowser Party games have the most life and energy put into them, and there are some particularly creative ideas here. A masochistic version of pinball, another twisted take on roulette, and a version of Bingo and Tic-Tac-Toe would make the Saw creative team blush. But while this might be Mario Party 10’s most worthwhile mode, a lot of these games do fall back on the traditional “running hard, slowing down, then running hard again” structure that the “Bowser Vs. Everyone” games have traditionally implemented.
Mario Party 10 also includes the aforementioned Amiibo Party mode, which seems less cohesive and offers up different gameboards that correspond to different Amiibos, each with their own special rules (the Luigi Amiibo board is Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon-based, which is actually kind of great and worth checking out). This mode functions similarly to classic Mario Party gameplay style. In another novel twist, if you have additional Amiibos in play, you can mix and match different components from different boards. It’s a fun bonus idea, but these boards are small and truncated in comparison to the real ones. You also have to scan your Amiibo every time you roll the dice, which becomes pretty tedious and again comes across as a little unpolished.
Despite all of this, Mario Party 10 is still lacking the robust type of one-player “Adventure Mode” gameplay that was offered in the original Mario Party games. I know it’s not much more than making you play every single mini-game laid out in a consecutive order, but there was a challenging charm to it that is missed here. With the capabilities that the Wii U has too, there could be a sort of mammoth prize offered at the end of all of this too, even something along the lines of offering up the original Mario Party as an incentive. That might seem crazy, but why not at this point? Go for it, Nintendo! Even Mario Party 4 had a full-length “Mario Volleyball” game that could be unlocked if you passed the grueling expectations.
Nintendo has kind of been killing it recently in the DLC department with games like Hyrule Warriors and Mario Kart 8, providing tons of content to keep the experiences fresh. This is the perfect area in which Nintendo could beef this title up a little more, and that’s not to say that they won’t eventually. Mario Party 10 is very passable as it stands, but some impressive DLC efforts could tip the scales in their favor. Boundaries have breaking more and more with Nintendo lately, and while a lack of DLC at launch is a little disappointing, an update at a later date would invoke a lot of good faith.
Basically, everyone is familiar with Mario Party games at this point. You’ve either played them or some form of mini-game compilation and you know exactly what you’re going to be getting here. It’s not a series that’s particularly relied on graphics or aesthetics in the past. If these games are still fun for you and you have friends to play them with, then it’s probably worth checking out.
Even still though, the public’s fascination with the series has certainly cooled down, as evidenced by the constant rush of sequels becoming fewer and less frequent. Sales largely slowed down, with Nintendo even trying to re-focus the series on the DS. Most of the time, this Mario Party feels full and thoughtful rather than a title that’s been rushed to meet some random Wii U deadline, which is pretty crucial. There’s already a wealth of mini-game compilations for the Wii U, like Nintendo Land, Game and Wario, and Wii U Party, so it’s not as if gamers can’t get this experience elsewhere. Mario Party 10 would really need to deliver in order to justify its existence, and while it’s hardly the best Mario Party game (an honor reserved for long-ago entries like Mario Party 2 or the minor reinvention seen with the Gamecube’s Mario Party 4), it’s an encouraging step for the series. New features like Amiibo Party are hardly going to bring in a new audience or save the franchise, but different, creative steps like Bowser Party are moves in the right direction.
That being said, Mario Party 10 still largely feels like the sum of its former parts in terms of being a recycled experience. If you’re looking for a refocused, ambitious jump back into the Mario Party world, then this is not it, but if you just want to have fun with Mario and his pals in a pretty, flashy, enjoyable universe where you’re not bringing in too many expectations, then this is perfect.