No one parties quite like Mario
For some of us Mario Party is synonymous with strange burns in the centre of our palms and broken three-pronged controllers. Many hours were spent on the original N64 for versions of these games, often with friends or siblings. The ever-shifting balance of co-operative and competitive gameplay usually led to arguments and intense rivalries. This was serious business, and one that was defined by this strange digital board game and mini-games contained therein. The aim of the game was, and still is, simple; just collect more stars than everyone else and you win.
Super Mario Party is the first entry on Switch, which means it carries a fair amount of baggage with it. Mario Party 10 was a bit lacklustre, in part due to the weird idea that everyone should move as one around the board. Thankfully that car crashed and was written off on the Wii U, everyone can move separately nowadays. This then is the latest console entry that feels like Mario Party again. It’s not that the series had gone horribly awry, merely that it wasn’t making the most of its potential.
Super Mario Party has a few different modes, all of which include mini games to some degree, but all of which have a different general theme. First of is the Mario Party mode, the classic mode as it were. You all take turns rolling dice and making your way around the level trying to buy or find the stars you need to win. In between each round is a random mini game that will earn you coins. These can be free-for-alls, or any combination of teams against each other depending on what colour space you landed on. The maps have their own unique obstacles to overcome and are themed on a few nefarious enemies from the Mario universe.
There are lots of little events that can occur depending on the level, you might end up in a mine-cart travelling from one side of the map to the other, or you might set of a giant explosion. You can even pick up allies on your journey around the map. Each of these give you an extra point or two on your rolls, very helpful for anyone with terminally bad luck. They also give you access to their own personal dice. You see, each character brings with them a dice that balances out risk and reward, this means your character choice isn’t just cosmetic now. You can choose to roll the personal dice and pray for good luck, or just roll the standard six-sided dice instead if you aren’t feeling as adventurous. This is a nice change to the traditional formula, and one that certainly improves things.
There is also the fully co-op mode River Survival. This sees the four players, human or otherwise, making their way downstream to try and get to the goal. There are multiple branching paths but they all lead to victory, of course each one houses its own group of hazards to slow you down and make your journey more perilous. Naturally nothing in life is that simple, so you only have a limited amount of time to descend to the bottom. You can extend this timer by either making it to different checkpoints or completing mini-games along the way. It’s a very different way of playing Mario Party, and one that genuinely allows for playing as a team.
The third big mode is Sound Stage, a mode that adds in a rhythmic twist to the mini-games. Each mini-game in this mode requires you to match the beat, the better you do the higher the score. It is a bit of an oddity, but enjoyable nonetheless. Each of these has various difficulty settings and each of them unlock mini-games for some of the other modes too. The amount of content here is staggering. You can run through the mini-games in tournaments, you can link multiple Switches up using Toad’s Rec Room. It really is impressive.
While not all the mini-games are instant classics, the vast majority of them are a lot of fun. Even solo the modes are a lot of fun, but the game shines in multiplayer. Super Mario Party is an incredibly entertaining game throughout, the variety is fantastic and while there aren’t as many maps as there could be for the main mode, it is still a great experience.
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