You would have thought that the Mario Party was over by now. Yet, against all odds new titles are still coming out and the latest one comes in the form of Mario Party: Star Rush.
There ain’t no party like a Mario party because the crafty plumber knows how to keep people amused even thought the first title originally came out on the Nintendo 64. It’s actually quite impressive to see how far the franchise has come for those of us old enough to remember spending whole afternoons playing the original round a friend’s house. This latest entry manages to successfully introduce some new features that change how the title is played.
One of the more prominent changes is the way that players get to interact with the title itself. In previous iterations, it was was necessary to wait for each player or CPU character to finish the turn before being able to play. Now it’s possible for all players/CPU characters to take their turns at the same time. It’s such a simple concept and yet it manages to make what was a tedious process much more enjoyable. It even has a timer so those that like to take their time making a decision have to do so within a short amount of time. Whilst it’s not exactly necessary to spend a large amount of time throwing a dice, there is always the need to consider using items. In most of the modes, there are box tiles that characters can land on which give them random items. These items are mainly used to give characters extra moves to cover more board tiles and to make life difficult for the other characters.
Another idea that works out fairly well is the fact that content is unlocked by leveling up with experience earned after completing a mini-game session. Although arguably it’s more of a double edged sword given that it naturally takes longer to level up later on making it rather tedious to unlock all the modes and other content. Still, at least the few modes available are fun to play and manage to find new ways of engaging players.
Surprisingly, the easiest mode to get into is one called Toad Scramble and it’s only possible to play it by using one of the dwarf sized Toads. The idea (like with every Mario Party title) is to collect as many stars as possible to win. In Mario Party: Star Rush it’s also possible to trade ten coins for one star. But the best idea of modes such as Toad Scramble, is that it’s possible to move in any direction within the confines of the board. This makes it far better than only being given the choice to pick a path to stick to.
Found within most modes are also entertaining mini-games that involve taking on familiar bosses from the Mario titles. In these, characters work together to beat the boss and the one that deals the most damage wins. The quality of these boss battles is so good to the point that they wouldn’t look out of place if added to a Mario title. Part of what makes these mini-games and any other mini-game for that matter better, is the ability to recruit allies in certain modes. It’s certainly enjoyable to take on the likes of a giant Petey Piranha with the help of other characters.
Unfortunately, whilst the mini-games that make use of a traditional control scheme tend to work well, the same can’t be said of most of those which make use of the touch screen. It usually feels like the touch screen mini-games have a tendency to rely more on luck than actual skill and it makes it less enjoyable to play them. Also, whist it’s commendable to see the development team experiment with the modes, there are some like Rhythm Recital that feel too basic. Rhythm Recital sees characters play a music track from the Mario titles and it involves pressing a button with the right timing. It’s pretty much the same as one of the boss mini-games and it feels like it didn’t necessarily need to be a mode. Still, there are plenty of good ideas that work really well, like the frenzied Coinathon mode where it’s necessary to collect coins as fast as possible.
Whilst the CPU characters make for adequate adversaries and there’s even different difficulty settings, the inclusion of a fully fledged multiplayer mode is always welcome. After all, the main reason that new Mario Party titles are still being released is just how easy it is to play them for hours with other human players. Just like Monopoly, a Mario Party session has been known to ruin a friendship or two. Given the nature of handheld gaming, it is nice to see that it’s not necessary for every player to own a copy of the title. Instead, the development team has made it possible for one owner of the title to play with up to three other players who don’t have the title. In addition, it’s also possible to download a Party Guest edition of the title from the eShop, in order to play with other players and get a taste of what the title is like and any progress made can be used in the full title.
The multiplayer mode makes good use of the modes available to provide players with an decent list of mini-games to play. The only minor downside is that the selected multiplayer modes are only available in local play. In the age of online gaming, it only seems fitting for such a multiplayer focused title to give players the option to play with others from around the world.
Given the focus of the title, it’s a pleasant surprise to see the visuals are easily some of the best on the handheld system. In fact, some of the mini-games even seem to be making use of slightly downgraded assets from the Nintendo Wii U entry, Super Mario 3D World.
With a decent number of mini-games available and the addition of some simple yet effective ideas, this is easily one of the better Mario Party releases in recent times. If anything, Mario Party: Star Rush benefits from the faster pace that makes for a more competitive experience.