It’s been three years since Nd Cube took over as the party planner for everyone’s favourite Mushroom Kingdom bash. While Mario Party 9 and Mario Party: Island Tour didn’t strike the same riotous chord that we’ve long come to appreciate, experiences drawn from their development have finally borne fruit in the incredibly entertaining Mario Party 10.
If variety is indeed the spice of life, Mario Party 10 can be classed as a particularly fiery concoction. We’re treated to three party modes this time around, with King Koopa himself taking a star turn in Bowser Party. This can be seen as the Wii U exclusive’s star attraction, deploying the Wii U GamePad as a means for one player to wreak havoc as Bowser as they look to prevent Team Mario from crossing the finishing line.
As Team Mario take turns to roll Dice Blocks and flee from Bowser’s towering shadow, the Mushroom Kingdom villain gives chase by stampeding along the board after them. Mini Stars are replaced by hearts in this mode, and by successfully catching up to Team Mario will see Bowser throw them into one of his particularly mean-spirited minigames. These are a fight for survival, as players look to evade Bowser’s attacks to retain their hearts.
If entirely depleted, players are knocked out and must rely on their teammates to secure more hearts for their recovery by traversing the board. But, while the boards provide plenty of opportunities to do so, it becomes far more of a struggle to maintain pace ahead of Bowser’s rampage with a reduced number of dice rolls.
Bowser’s Minigames clearly work hard to utilise the GamePad’s second screen, differentiating the player’s perspective from that of their opponents. You’ll blow on the microphone to breathe fireballs, swipe and tap the screen to control an electrified wheel, tilt the controller to roll fiery pillars or guide Bowser’s descent as he looks to flatten his worried rivals. This isn’t exactly anything that we haven’t seen before in another guise – be that on Nintendo DS, Nintendo 3DS or Wii U – but it’s certainly great to see Nintendo finding ways in which they can interwork the GamePad.
It’s all about competing to collect the most Mini Stars in Mario Party mode, removing Bowser’s more immediate threat and instead letting you simply enjoy the 73 minigames that populate the game’s disc as you work your way around the board.
Bowser’s still present, however, trapped on the Wii U GamePad behind six numbered locks representing each side of the dice. If players roll each, he’ll storm over to your TV screen and demand Mini Stars from whoever freed him – scattering Bowser Spaces across the board in the process in heightening the challenge. There’s also the Bowser Jr. Special Wheel to contend with, alongside tackling frantic miniboss battles periodically placed throughout each board.
Nd Cube provide us with fewer boards this time around – five in total – even if those present feel more grandiose and attentively detailed with Mario Party’s welcome shift to HD. From Mushroom Park’s rickety roller coaster to Chaos Castle’s trap-ridden jaunt, these all present their own surprises. Airship Central is a clear favourite, the airborne vessels constantly shifting places before players are later bombarded with Bullet Bills as Bowser’s Airship soars alongside you. However, it does come as somewhat of a disappointment that Bowser Party only supports three of the available boards, namely being Mushroom Park, Whimsical Waters and Chaos Castle.
amiibo Party replicates a more traditional board game experience, tasking players with circling a board as they collect Coins to then trade them for Stars. The aim is to have the most Stars by the time you reach the conclusion of the final round, with each Star costing you 20 Coins to claim. At least one amiibo is required for this, with Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Yoshi, Wario, Rosalina, Donkey Kong and Bowser amiibo all being compatible – whether that be in the Super Mario or Super Smash Bros. Collection.
There are clear benefits to using amiibo, and not simply in changing the appearance of your counter and unlocking a themed character board to match. It is only those players using amiibo that can use Tokens scattered around the board, rewarding you with bonuses that let you switch board sections for another character’s, add more Stars to the board, steal Coins from other players, or receive Special Dice Blocks. Outside of the amiibo Party mode, they can be scanned once a day to unlock bonuses – normally new base designs for them in-game.
While it’s great to see the amiibo figures so heavily supported, there’s sadly an over-reliance on how much they’re used. Players must scan the amiibo with the GamePad every turn to roll their dice or whenever they have to stop a roulette spinning, and while this is novel at first you’ll soon tire of the repeated use. Thankfully the additional character boards more than make up for it, throwing in Super Mushrooms, the Poltergust, and, if you use the Bowser amiibo, Bowser’s Minigames to the mix to vary the experience.
The content in Mario Party 10 doesn’t end there, either. Bonus Games lend some throwaway fun, whether that be in Badminton Bash, Jewel Drop and Bowser Jr. Challenges. Whereas players can wander into Toad’s Room where they can spend Mario Party points at the Shop to purchase characters, vehicles and music, look to complete an achievement-like Challenge List, or watch the game’s interactive credits. There’s also a Photo Studio where you can have your favourite characters pose together for snaps to be shared through the Miiverse service.
The clue’s always been in the name, but ultimately Mario Party 10 is infinitely better with friends and family joining in for rowdy and unpredictable minigame antics – even though there’s enough here for solo players to enjoy. This is the very best that the Mario Party series has been in years, wondrously mixing competitive and co-operative fun into a package that can suit any occasion.