In a house where Mario Kart 8 reigns as the go-to candidate for all of our local multiplayer needs, I was always intrigued to see if and how Mario Party 10 could ever usurp its throne. On paper, it sounds like the perfect solution for a group of five friends, one of which has usually had to sit on the sidelines whenever we huddle around the Wii U.
When playing Mario Party 10, that’s no longer the case, all thanks to the series’ newest game mode. Bowser Party, as the name suggests, allows one player to assume the role of Mario’s arch nemesis, clutching onto the Wii U Gamepad as their opponents look on in envy, motion controller in hand.
As in any of the series’ core game modes, players get to select their favourite characters before being placed on one of several Mario themed boards. From there, they will each take it in turns to roll the die, hopping from space to space in an attempt to earn stars and other game-changing bonuses.
There’s a crucial twist, however. While Mario and his chums are attempting to reach the end of the board, Bowser, on the other hand, is trying to pursue them. Rolling four dice instead of one, he will mercilessly tear across the board in his quest to deplete the hearts of his rival party goers. It’s essentially a game of cat and mouse.
Whenever Bowser takes a turn, players will cringe as they wait for the rolling dice to produce a result. Similarly, when maintaining a safe distance, there’s a collective sense of relief – even when you factor in the inevitable team infighting. However, when roped into playing the Bowser mini-games it’s every man, woman, and cute fungal humanoid for themself. They can be particularly brutal for Mario and his friends and often involve Bowser attempting to flatten them, grab them, or blow them up with a variety of cartoonish weaponry.
Overall it’s quite a fun mode, but only if you’re able to gather a decent group of friends. The mix of camaraderie and trash talking between both teams really helps sell what is otherwise an over-inflated gimmick. It might sound harsh, I know, but at the end of the day Nintendo has basically created a mutation of the existing Mario Party modes instead of genuinely breaking new ground.
Speaking of other modes, this tenth instalment also has an amiibo focused variant. It’s far less robust than the other game types, tasking players with moving around a modular board while collecting the most stars. As in last year’s Super Smash Bros. the amiibo integration itself is cool yet hardly jaw-dropping compared to what other publishers are doing with toys-to-life technology.
By registering an amiibo, players can collect token that unlock specialised boards and other perks, allowing for a minor degree of customisation. Not all of Nintendo’s collectible figures are compatible, however, with only Mario and the series’ core cast being playable. Other characters still have their own use and can be scanned in to unlock scratch cards that, in turn, bestow players with coins to spend in-game.
Of course, the traditional Mario Party game mode lives on, allowing up to four players to battle it out across a series of dynamic boards. This has always been the bread and butter of the series, so fans will be delighted to hear that little has changed. For dissenters, however, this is an obvious problem. The last time I played a Mario Party game was when Nintendo originally brought it to the DS. Minus a few tweaks here and there it’s mostly the same luck-dependent formula that inevitably leaves players frustrated or with a grin slapped on their faces.
Thankfully, you don’t have to partake in these featured modes if you just want a quick bit of fun. Within minutes, you can jump straight into a series of mini-games, most of which are equal parts fun, clever, and simple. The only slight downside to these is the demand for motion controllers. If you’re new to the Nintendo family, you’re going to need to buy or borrow four Wiimotes to get the most out of Mario Party 10.
If you’ve bonded with the series before then it’s a small concession to make. However, for first timers, Mario Party 10 isn’t the immediate smash hit you may be expecting off the back of Super Mario 3D World and Mario Kart 8. Bringing the game to Wii U has meant a facelift and some nice new bells and whistles to fiddle around with. However, Mario Party 10 is much like the latest iteration of an established board game: although it may look different, love them or hate them, the rules are still very much the same.