Mario Party 10 Hands-On Preview [E3 2014]

Mario Party 10

When Mario Party 10 was announced, I was so busy preparing for Day One of E3 that I ended up missing it. I’d watched all of Nintendo’s special Direct livestream, but became worried about missing my shuttle and decided it’d be best to start getting ready, as opposed to watching the Last Minute stuff and risking being late. After all, it was my first E3 and, as expected, it was crazy.

Being as busy as we were, I didn’t really get to do much news checking or read many forums while I was in Los Angeles. Instead, my mind was focused on making appointments and writing as much new content as possible. So, it wasn’t until I got to Nintendo’s booth a day later that I found out about the impending tenth instalment of this once wildly popular party game series. Truthfully, the discovery was both surprising and unsurprising at the same time, because while I didn’t expect to hear about another Mario Party this month, this is Nintendo that we’re talking about.

Now that I’ve had a chance to actually think about the timing of this announcement, I still feel the same way as I did then. I’m a fan of good party games, but Mario’s board game adventures haven’t lived up to expectations for a while now, and I’m sure that I’m not the only one who thinks that they should be put on the back burner for a bit. The classics are still fun to remember, and I do so fondly, but variety and creativity are two things that have eluded this series for several years. It’s too bad, but it’s true, and things have become pretty dull in Party Land as a result.

The Media section of Nintendo’s booth was full of Wii U kiosks, and each one had access to five or more game demos. It was that demo selection menu which ended up unveiling the existence of Mario Party 10 to my unknowing eyes, and once I saw it listed, I knew that I needed to try it. In fact, despite the series’ wobbles, it behooved me to try its newest iteration, as a longtime fan and formerly avid player. Unfortunately, though, what I walked away with wasn’t a sensation of improved optimism for a series that’s become long in the tooth, but more of a disappointment-based attitude.

From the looks of things, Mario Party 10 is simply a prettier version of what we’ve seen before. It looks nice and plays well — based on a ten minute demo — but it’s far from anything special. Or, at least, that’s true of what the Big N brought to the bustling show floor.

Instead of picking the traditional Mario Party mode, the PR representative who played against me chose a new Bowser’s Party scenario for us to play. At first, I was excited by what could be behind that proverbial door, but when the mini-game options list loaded in, most of that dissipated. Why? Because Bowser’s Party is simply more of the same. Sure, someone can take a turn as the villain and try to defeat a few other human or A.I. controlled opponents, but isn’t that the same as some of yesteryear’s 3 vs. 1 mini-games?

The first thing we did was play a game of “Avoid the Fire Rope,” which is a name that I’ve pinned to a rather uninspired mini-game. Within its design, three players must avoid rolling lines of fire, which are controlled by another, unfriendly player. You either run or jump and try not to lose all of your lives. That’s it. Come on, Nintendo: We’ve played this same game for more than a decade now!

Three other mini-games were available for play, and none of them were anything to write home about. In fact, they also felt like rehashes of familiar mechanics from previous titles.

The only really memorable one — which is honestly the only other thing that I can remember now, a week later — took place inside of a hamster’s wheel or something like it. All it tasked me with doing, though, was avoiding fire by running in different directions. Said fire was controlled by my enemy — the PR person, this time around — who would stop the wheel as I was running, in an attempt to make me run into the now-dormant fire. It was a bit of fun, but not in an, “I need to play this more” kind of way.

I hope that Mario Party 10 will blow me away and prove me wrong, but I’d be lying to you if I said that I was holding my breath in anticipation of something great. All this seems to be is more Mario Party, which is both a good and a bad thing depending on how many times you’ve played the same mini-game designs, and how much you still love the series itself. As a veteran gamer, who’s put many hours into these games since day one, I’ve become a bit disenchanted by what Nintendo has been turning out under the brand’s title, and really need more from it after all of these years.