By ZombiePie 38 Comments
So Mario Party.....
I have never played a game developed by Square Enix, Blizzard, nor Atlus . I have never played a game directed by Hideo Kojima. Instead I have accomplished a different gaming feat worthy of a mighty prize indeed:
I have played every single Mario Party game ever made…yes even the handheld editions.
This year Mario Party 10 was released and in order to maintain this gaming feat of mine I recently invited a friend of mine to bring their Wii U. Over the course of three solid weeks I have now played approximately twelve hours of the game, and as any purveyor of video game websites I have decided to encapsulate my potentially polarizing opinions about the game for your own visceral and visual entertainment.
Rule Changes to Standard Ass Mario Party
Much to the chagrin of fans of the series like myself Mario Party 10 maintains all of the rule changes from Mario Party 9. For those that are unaware of what those changes are here’s the gist of it:
- Players do not collect stars and coins and instead collect Mini Stars, ala Super Mario Galaxy, and work on increasing a running total of mini stars. There are ztars that negatively impact this total.
- Players move collectively and on a single vehicle.
- Items and the item shop have been removed completely. In their stead there are different types of dice. These dice are the only possible "items" in the game:
- Dice Block - Your standard 1-6 die.
- Slow Dice Block - Slows the dice block so you can easily pick your number.
- 0-1 Dice Block - Changes the dice block to feature only the numbers 0 and 1.
- 1-2-3 Dice Block - Changes the dice block to feature only the numbers 1, 2, and 3.
- Slow 1-2-3 Dice Block - Slow the 1-2-3 dice to where you can easily pick a number.
- 4-5-6 Dice Block - Changes the dice block to feature only the numbers 4, 5, and 6.
- Double Dice Block – You get two die. Woo-hoo!
- Minigames are not played at the end of a turn and instead are only played if you land on a minigame space. Sometimes you will land on spaces that engage a minigame despite not being a minigame space. It's secretly the game realizing that you have not played enough minigames at a certain point, which we will discuss later.
- Boards are not circular, and instead are linear with a Point A and Point B. The game ends when you reach the end of the board.
- There are five total bonus stars but only two of those bonus stars are put into play to boost the star totals of players. Possible bonus stars range from “Most spaces moved forward,” to the atypical “most minigames won.”
- Matches take at most thirty minutes, and there are no “turns.” You finish your game when you reach the end of the map.
- Bowser Spaces do not exist until players roll a “full house.” He roars at you via the Wii U gamepad to remind you when you are getting closer to unlocking him.
- Each board has a mid-boss as well as a final boss at the end.
Playing Standard Ass Mario Party
So yes, there are no “stars” nor items in this Mario Party game, and a lot of bellyaching has been made about that point as well as the decision to group players onto the same vehicle. In practice both of these changes address one of the biggest and most pressing issue facing the Mario Party franchise: it’s just too freaking long to complete one game. The linear maps also assist in this regard as matches realistically cannot possibly last more than thirty to forty minutes.
The collective movement gives Mario Party 10 the added benefit of being…the least annoying edition to the series in a long time. The collective movement means that there are fewer surprises in this version. Event/Happening Spaces are also less annoying. When you land on event spaces rather than screwing up players that happen to be in a specific area, events usually just deduct mini-stars from the player that landed on the space. Now, there are still plenty surprises, and Bowser will fuck you up if you land on him or unlock him in this edition. There are also an increase in the number of board specific “Special Events” in this edition, and these more so than in nine can be game ending. THAT SAID the decision to randomize the bonus stars that are awarded at the end, and also limit that number to two, is a genius design decision. The linear maps also have the added benefit of preventing user confusion about where to go next on the map, as many of you may have seen during the Mario Party 4 stream on Giant Bomb.
However, where does that leave Mario Party 10 for people who actually like playing Mario Party games? Well conflicted to say the least. All of the changes that I have mentioned addressed one problem to Mario Party, but have worsened or created all new ones as a result. The biggest of which is related to the number of minigames that you will play for the duration of a match. It is very much possible for you to only play maybe three or four minigames total during a single session; in fact it happened to my party twice.
I should also add that there are only five boards in this outing. Now I know what you are thinking, and yes most of Mario Party games do only have five maps. However, with all of these rule changes five maps is simply not enough content. By converting the format of the boards you essentially see everything there is to see on the maps in one thirty minute session meaning that boards lack any longevity after one play-through. In the standard format there were plenty of cases where after playing a fifty turn match I still felt like there was more to see on maps. I should also mention that one of the maps is Bowser’s Castle which you will only want to play once meaning the actual total is four. Much has been said about the fabled “Price to Game Hours” ratio, but I am just going to go on record and say that five maps at maybe thirty five minutes each…is not exactly worth fifty to forty dollars. Which then places a great deal of the burden of justifying purchasing this entry on the other modes and additional features..which we will get to.
The minigames…still repeat the same minigames within the same match, and have become increasingly reliant on counting and memory games. Given that they are experienced at a limited basis this is completely baffling. Worse yet is how once the party reaches the middle point of the map the player in last place gets to pick, from a selection of three, which minigames are played. Now to many this may sound like a good change. However, for me this meant that my drunken friends kept picking the same games over and over again because they felt more comfortable playing something “safe,” rather than something new. That said with each entry it seems as if the emphasis on the minigames grows weaker and weaker. Also, my criticism of the minigames being too reliant on counting and memory games is moot as every entry seems to zero in on one style or flavors of minigame the most. For example let's not forget the "Mash A to win" nature of Mario Party 4.
Playing the Amiibo Boards
In theory this mode was envisioned to be the “alternative mode” for people who want to play more traditional Mario Party. In execution this mode is completely worthless. While this mode tasks players with collecting coins, playing minigames at the end of a turns, and using coins to purchase stars a couple of design decisions spoil this mode. Firstly the boards are all exactly the same shit over and over again.
Are you thinking that I’m being hyperbolic? Here’s the board that you play on if you play the Mario Amiibo:
Now here’s the map that you play on if you utilize the Peach Amiibo:
YUUUUUUUUUUUP all of the maps are just squares. Each board has one map specific feature that lets the player collect more coins, most of the time from other players, but they are still boring ass squares. Like I said this mode is worthless, and as such I only really played it twice.
Playing Bowser Party
Now here’s where actual fun can be had in regards to Mario Party 10. There are two distinct “flavors” Bowser Party, and both are actually fun. The first is perfect if you have that one person in your party that enjoys being a troll. In that mode you have two to four players on “Team Mario,” and another player playing as Bowser using the Wii U pad. If you play in Team Mario each player takes a turn and works towards trying to get the team as far away from the Bowser player as possible with the goal being able to reach the end of the map. Bowser on the other hand has to gobble up all of the members of Team Mario by depleting their hearts during minigames or board based events. The other version has all of the players on Team Mario and working together to get to the end of the board and away from an A.I. controlled Bowser.
I really enjoyed this mode as it takes the luck based aspect of Mario Party and finally embraces it, as well as tame it. Now that players work as a group if one player rolls poorly you can then rely on the next team member to bail you out. Also with special die blocks being shared there is a sense of collective strategy. Bowser on the other hand works to ruin the fun of the other players, and plays off of the trollish undertones of Mario Party’s luck based nature. More importantly players are participants in all parts of Mario Party’s shenanigans. If you are Bowser you are actively trying to ruin people’s fun, and for everyone else you are trying to frustrate that one person that wants to ruin the fun for everyone.
In this one mode it appears, very briefly, a viable alternative to the standard Mario Party playstyle. There were plenty of times when someone was playing as Bowser and completely fucked up team Mario in one minigame, and in this mode that is all in good fun. Bowser Party also puts stakes on the minigames as each hit from Bowser removes your heart, thus finally integrating the minigames with the actual game. Sure the minigames are all cheap parlor tricks meant to waste away hearts but it is a nice inversion of the standard format. The issue is that of the five boards, only three can play this mode.
Despite my best efforts, and every bone in my body telling me to be a Mario Party apologist…I can’t...I just cannot recommend Mario Party 10 with a straight face. There are still people that will get some semblance of joy out of this game, but those are crazy people like me that enjoy playing a game as mindless and trollish as this. I mean I had fun…with one third of the game. Which might I add I enjoyed the Hell out of that one third, but that is not a great reason to purchase this game.
To be honest this is all dancing around the big elephant in the room. We live in a post WarioWare and Fortune Street world. Yet Mario Party has consistently failed to borrow any of the good ideas from either of these game franchises when trying to reform and tame its inherent flaws. Why the Mario Party developers don’t just borrow the style of minigames from WarioWare is just downright stupid. Also the board format of Mario Party definitely could learn something from Fortune Street, especially regarding how to utilize luck in an engaging and fun way. Yet how it stands now is that the general party mode of Mario Party 10 is a disappointment to fans of the series, and too much of the same for people that have never enjoyed Mario Party in the first place.
BUUUUUUUUT…that is my recommendation to most of you. I’m still playing Mario Party 10…and most likely will continue to do so for the next couple of months. So what’s the deal? Mario Party is still one of the few games where I can honestly invite any person I know to play, and regardless of video game experience they will be able to play it and be able to win. It is for that reason that I continue to play it under very specific circumstances, and will continue to do so.
P.S. I also played Super Smash Bros. on the Wii U, but that is a stupid game lacking any form of finesse and discourages skill based play. It is the Mario Party of fighting games.