There’s no party like a Mario Party because a Mario Party has been going on since the Nintendo 64 days. One of Nintendo’s longest franchises has been released on every hardware system that it released since then. Now Mario and his pals are back to test more relationships with the release of Super Mario Party on the popular Nintendo Switch system.
The main attraction in this new family friendly franchise is the Classic Mario Party mode. It consists of getting players to collect randomly placed stars in a board that are exchanged for coins gained by playing mini-games. Unfortunately, the various rules linked to this process can make playing Super Mario Party feel like a chore. Although doing well in mini-games is necessary to earn a decent amount of coins to trade for stars, it can seem pointless, since getting to the location where the next star (or stars) can be more about luck.
Each of the boards has routes that characters can take. Some of the boards make it very difficult to move around because of gimmicks such as pipes that move characters to different routes. This is due to these routes being separated from others. Now characters can only make use of a certain amount of moves that are allocated by throwing dices each turn. It means that the only way to get out of the separate routes is by being lucky enough to get the exact number of moves that will land the character in the pipe tile. The same also applies to other key features such as the tile where coins can be exchanged for stars.
Although some neat ideas, like tiles used to sell items to help players with abilities such as having more moves, at least make it less likely to get bored of playing Super Mario Party, there’s no denying that it can also feel like being trapped. At least Nintendo has managed to make it so that a full round of Classic Mario Party doesn’t feel like it has gone on forever because of its focus on going after the stars in the board.
Sadly the design of the boards used in this title isn’t particularly inspiring when compared to those in previous titles. It also applies to boards that make use of more traditional routes that don’t involve going through pipes to separate routes.
Another feature that is better used in a mode called Partner Party mode is the ability to have AI partners join a player’s character. The addition of extra tiles and wider paths is an improvement over Classic Party mode, since it gives players more control over how best to use allocated moves. Although boards that make use of gimmicks like pipes in this mode are still a pain, at least it is more enjoyable to play through, since it’s more likely for two characters to be closer to the next star exchange tile. What can be confusing and this applies to the other Party mode is the ability to gain more AI partners whilst playing that only serve to give the player more moves. Being able to gain AI partners in a session just makes it more likely for it to become unbalanced.
Essentially winning in Party modes will usually feel like it’s down to luck and the current location of characters once the star exchange tile is move to another spot on the board. It also tends to be the case that stars awarded at the end for completing certain requirements will result in a completely different character being the winner.
At least there’s a lot of mini-games to somewhat make up for the various shortcomings in the Party modes. Most are really fun and will come in handy during festive periods when families and friends will no doubt enjoy playing them together. Its all down to the clever use of the Nintendo Switch and its various nifty abilities. Name a Nintendo Switch feature and Super Mario Party will very likely have a mini-game or two that makes excellent use of it. Even the Nintendo Switch console itself can be used on its own in mini-games where players work together. It’s really enjoyable to finally see another game that makes such good use of the joy-con controllers. It’s also a lot better to play them in modes such as Square Off, where characters compete to earn squares in a grid by winning mini-games.
Not that every mini-game is a winner as observed when playing the frantic Sound Stage mode. It consists of using motion themed mini-games to blast through several rounds. The faster paced remix version of this mode is very enjoyable and is reminiscent of Warioware, but it’s a shame that it also makes it clear how some of the mini-games used are not so accurate.
Super Mario Party also allows players to go online to play a basic mode where players go up against each other in five random mini-games to see who gets the highest score. For some reason it was deemed necessary that everyone must finish each mini-game, which seems pointless when the last player will usually be the worst one for most mini-games.
Some of the modes and other extras become available by just playing the game, but there’s no doubt that the mini-games themselves are the highlight of this party. It’s commendable that Nintendo has tried to experiment with some new ideas, but unfortunately they don’t always work as intended.