When it was first released back in the nineties, Mario Party was something new, exciting and different. It was an interactive board game starring members of the Mushroom Kingdom and their peers, and was the perfect multiplayer experience for the four-player Nintendo 64. For those reasons, it quickly became a hit and spawned sequels. That was fine, though, because we wanted more. Back then, at least.
Fast forward to today, and the long-in-the-tooth franchise is about to reach double digits with the release of Mario Party 10. The sequel marks the series’ debut on Nintendo’s current-generation Wii U console, after a couple of middling efforts on its predecessor, the latter of which I seemed to enjoy more than a lot of others did. The problem, however, is that hardly anything has changed, and it continues to be evident that Mario’s board game engineers have run out of great ideas. Things have entered cash cow territory, and what was once a great brand is beginning to become a nuisance. I hate having to say that, but it’s true.
Mario Party 10 continues onward from its most recent predecessor, but doesn’t push things forward in any notable fashion. It borrows a lot from those that came before it, and offers a surprisingly low amount of content to boot. On top of that, it continues to use Mario Party 9‘s polarizing vehicles, instead of returning to the series’ roots and allowing each player to venture out on-foot.
When they first came into play, the vehicles were something new that changed things up a bit. Sure, they weren’t great or ideal, but they showed that creative thought was part of the game’s development process. That isn’t the case this time around, though. Now, what was previously interesting and acceptable as a one-off has quickly become old hat, existing as nothing more than a reminder of how great classic Mario Party was in comparison to what it is today.
Instead of allowing each of the four contestants to choose their own paths strategically, the cars, planes, sleighs and whatnot push everyone forward at the same pace. It’s not fun, nor does it allow for much planning or creativity. You simply take turns moving the damned things around each board, as you drive from one end to another.
At its core, Mario Party was always a race to collect stars. Players would roll their dies, move their allotted amount of spaces and use maps to figure out the best way to travel whenever varied pathways appeared. The idea was that one person would get to the star, then the game would randomly place it somewhere else; potentially making it closer to another user. And it was always exciting to see where the next star would appear, especially in close matches with friends. In recent years, that magic has disappeared, having been replaced by on-rails gameplay.
In this entry, you’re tasked with moving through each board in an attempt to collect as many mini-stars as possible. You do this by winning mini-games, landing on lucky spots, stealing from others and, of course, collecting them at special star spaces. If you’re the one in control of the vehicle when it goes through one such space, then you’re the one who will receive its available mini-stars. It’s pretty simple and uninspired stuff.
As the first Mario Party game for the Wii U, Mario Party 10 is also rather barebones. In fact, there are only several different boards to select from within the main game. There’s a spooky forest, a Mario-themed amusement park, an underwater trek, Bowser’s lava-surrounded castle and an aviation-based course where position-swapping planes act as pathways. The variety is appreciated, but the majority of the maps present familiar themes and (at best) above-average designs.
Every board carries an average playtime of thirty minutes, two middling co-op boss battles, and very few customization sliders. As such, you can expect not to have any options available for quick play, unless you stick to mini-game and coin tournaments, or opt for mini-game free play. Gone are the days where one could choose how many turns to play for.
Outside of its main Mario Party mode, Mario Party 10 features some spectacularly bland and forgettable side games like badminton, as well as new Bowser and amiibo Party options. There’s also a store, as per usual, though it’s severely lacking in inventory and places its main focus on figurines which can be used in an unnecessary photo mode. Not once did I see a new board for sale, though I was able to buy Toadette and Spike to round out the game’s small roster.
Bowser Party, itself, sort of turns the series’ core formula on its head. It does so by letting one person use the GamePad to play as Bowser, whereas WiiMotes are required for almost every other aspect of the game. To win, Bowser must catch up to the good guys and steal all of their hearts, prior to them making it to the finish line. He can do this by hurting them in painful mini-games, or by using an evil slot wheel to dole out punishment. Even Bowser Jr. gets in on the fun and helps his old dad by causing chaos via a similar wheel.
The Koopa King can be deceptive, as you’d expect, and can draw graffiti whenever the others must make a decision. This includes choosing from one clouded path or another (because one is always more dangerous), and when a non-playable character is choosing a chest to plunder. Sometimes, the stupid-looking graffiti and its silly stamps actually work, although the game’s AI is about as uneven as a circle. It’ll wow you with its smarts every once in a while, but will surely make you laugh more often than not.
If you buy one of the new character amiibos from the upcoming Mario Bros. line (or get one with the special edition of this game), then you’ll be able to use it to unlock amiibo Party. That said, the mode is certainly nothing special, much like the rest of the game, as it simply tasks you with going around a small course (themed after the character you’re using) to collect coins, which can then be exchanged for stars. A lot more really could’ve been done to promote the combination of Mario Party 10 and the incredibly popular amiibo toys, but Nd Cube failed to capitalize on much of that potential. The same is true of online play, as it’s nonexistent and could’ve been a game-changer.
Without doubt, the new mini-games are the best part of this middling and overpriced experience. That isn’t saying much, though, and I’d be lying if I said that the mini-games stand out as being some of the best in the series’ history, because that certainly isn’t true. However, there are some standouts, and some out-of-the-box thinking is evident. The problem is that so many are created around familiar mechanics found in previous entries.
To its credit, though, Mario Party 10 does succeed in being the best-looking iteration to date, but that was to be expected. Generally speaking, its presentation is solid and its visuals are impressive, although they aren’t as great as those found in some of the consoles’ top titles. Everything runs very well, too, and that’s the most important thing.
With everything having been said, it’s hard for me to recommend spending $49.99 USD ($59.99 CAD) on Mario Party 10. It’s simply not worth the money, and isn’t the type of cash-grabbing sequel that should be supported by fans of the series.
This review is based on the Wii U exclusive, which we were provided with.
Mario Party 10 feels a lot more like a lazily produced cash cow than a game that was made with pride and consumer respect.