Mario has seen plenty of spin-off games, but the one with the biggest identity crisis seems to be Mario Party. Despite some people’s nostalgia for the tired Nintendo 64 titles, the newer games have genuinely tried to be less reliant on luck with mixed results. Mario Party Star Rush at times feels like the developers are putting on a buffet of modes, hoping one will stand out. Some however are better to play than others.
Mario Party Star Rush has several different modes on offer, all of which provide something unique and requiring you to play games to increase the Party Level. By handing out modes piece by piece, as well as new characters to play as and difficulty modes, we did feel the need to try out every mode to see whether it was worth playing to unlock the next level’s rewards.
One thing I can say is that Mario Party Star Rush is visually pleasing. Each of the mini-games all look great on the 3DS, more so than any previous Mario Party title. It’s not pushing the 3DS to any extremes, but the vibrant visuals and charming music will certainly appeal to younger audiences.
For the review, I co-opted a few players of varying gaming experience to have a Mario Party to experience the whole game. Up first is the marquee mode: Toad Scramble, where players take on the role of a Toad to rescue as many stars on the board as is possible. Across each of the worlds on offer, there are hazards to avoid and coins to collect. Ally characters also appear, who upon collection, can alter the dice, add to the dice roll, and even clear some obstacles along the way.
Out of all the modes, this is potentially the most time consuming, depending on where the Boss Characters spawn on each of the non-linear maps. Once a player reaches a boss panel, the other players won’t appear in the game unless they hammer on the A button to dash to the space. Mini-games not only occur for boss battles, but when balloons are popped too, meaning the longer games drag on a fair bit. Thankfully, players move at the same time, cutting the duration somewhat.
Speaking about the mini-games, there seem to be fewer stand-out games in the main modes. Most are 4v4, while some can fit a large amount of players, such as the boss mini-games. Most use the buttons, some use the touch screen, and one even uses the microphone; that’s not as fun as it sounds though and comes across as very gimmicky.
Up next is Coinathalon, where four players play the same three mini-games, collecting coins to move spaces until a player finishes the race. Out of all the modes, this was the one that felt like it had the most skill required to play, which is a refreshing change of pace for the series. Rival Mode challenges you to win 10 races against the AI with changing difficulties and number of laps, while Free Mode allows you to choose for yourself.
The mini-games here are far more limited in scope as the point is to collect as many coins as is possible. Once a meter to the bottom corner is filled, you can obtain an Item Box to gain a power up. Some distract your opponents; while others help you gain more coins. While this does add an element of luck, the distractions can be somewhat overcome through skill. Our party found this to be the best of the bunch overall due to the skill factor and only having three games on rotation.
Balloon Bash on the other hand is entirely luck based, being loosely inspired by the Classic Mario Party formula, only with a slightly increased freedom of movement. The aim is to collect coins to buy stars, with winning mini-games and popping balloons being the main source of currency. Mini-games here also feature 2v2 variants, though these are just the boss mini-games with paired players. In my hosted party, this was the one we quit mid-game as it took too long to play compared to the others.
Mario Shuffle is perhaps the simplest game to understand. Two players have three lanes and three characters. Rolling dice allows you to move one piece per dice, but rolling doubles allows you to move all your pieces at once. Spaces can propel you forwards or backwards; passing the enemy player will make it unable to move for a turn, while landing on an enemy piece puts them back to the start. That said, it’s fun for about one game and our party moved swiftly on from that one!
Then we have Rhythm Recital. Oh boy… The general concept is that you take on an instrument and tap in time with the beat to produce Mario music, like in Rock Band/Guitar Hero, only far simpler. I instantly thought of that rather embarrassing Wii Music E3 Demo, only with more than just the Super Mario Bros Overworld music. Some may find it worth a giggle, but for me the memories are just too fresh…
Boo’s Block Party is essentially a puzzle game somewhat like Nintendo’s own Puzzle Challenge, only you need to match numbers instead of colours. This can be played in either Versus mode against AI or a human player, or Endless to reach a high score. Again, we had a bit of a blast for a few minutes with this one, but again it didn’t keep our attention for long.
Challenge Tower was the final game and the only one on the list that I played on my own. It’s essentially a climbing puzzle with Minesweeper elements, coming in the form of three different tower heights. It could definitely serve as the purpose for a long form mini-game but once you’ve conquered the towers there isn’t much incentive to continue.
While all modes are available to play on your own, Nintendo have opted to have two ways to play local multiplayer. The first is a stripped down version of the main game as a separate free download, which can connect to lobbies as normal. Download play is available, but definitely slimmed down. I’m not entirely certain what the point of having both options was, but having both is better than having none.
Much like the console Mario Party on the Wii U, getting the most out of the game means you probably should have a compatible Amiibo on hand. For some modes this can mean that you gain a perk, such as an extra power up collected every time in Coinatholon or an extra try in the Challenge Tower. This could be used as an unfair advantage against human players in a game where luck is the main concept, which may not sit well with some players.