Su­per Mario PArty

Still par­ty­ing like it’s 1998

Games Master - - Contents -

Rolling dice, play­ing minigames, and hat­ing on Waluigi. Sounds like our idea of a party all right.

What does the word ‘party’ mean to you? Fizzy pop, bouncy cas­tles, and tails pinned on don­keys? Heavy basslines, in­ept danc­ing, and a lot of morn­ing-af­ter re­gret? Or per­haps a cheese­board, a bot­tle of some­thing nice, and con­ver­sa­tions on the lat­est bit of pres­tige telly? In the Mush­room King­dom, par­ties are none of these things – in­stead, they’re a sa­cred and time-hon­oured way of set­tling ar­gu­ments. So, a party.

fam­ily

In the case of Su­per Mario Party, the ar­gu­ment is about who is the great­est su­per­star in all the land. It could be Mario, Peach, or Yoshi; but equally it could be Bowser or one of his cronies. The only way to re­solve this con­flict, be­tween fig­ures who might at any other time be locked in mor­tal com­bat, is through a sort of gi­ant board game, where char­ac­ters move ac­cord­ing to the whims of the dice and play quick minigames be­tween rounds. You know, a party.

This has been Mario and pals’ pre­ferred for­mat of shindig for two decades now, with ten en­tries in the main se­ries and five hand­held spin-offs. Su­per Mario Party isn’t here to smash any pre­con­cep­tions, but it does prom­ise a big­ger hoo­te­nanny than ever be­fore. There are just north of 80 minigames on of­fer here, and they can be ac­cessed in a va­ri­ety of ways.

There’s the tra­di­tional board game mode, but also a Part­ner Party team vari­ant, bor­rowed from the Star Rush 3DS in­stal­ment. Or you can opt to play just co-op minigames, pre­sented as a white-wa­ter raft­ing ad­ven­ture in River Sur­vival, or test your rhythm with Sound Stage’s mu­sic-themed selec­tions. Then there’s the sin­gle-player Chal­lenge Road mode, and Toad’s Rec Room, a col­lec­tion of slightly more fleshed-out games which can be played across two Switches.

All of this is grounded in a hub world where you can in­ter­act with fa­mil­iar char­ac­ters that de­vel­oper Nd Cube couldn’t quite squeeze in any­where else. It’s an im­pres­sively big pack­age, although per­haps de­cep­tively so – ul­ti­mately, these are just dif­fer­ent ways of squeez­ing a bit of ex­tra life out of those 80 minigames.

Size doesn’t mat­ter

For­tu­nately, that se­lec­tion of minigames is pretty solid. They vary in com­plex­ity, from clas­sic Mario Party push-and-shove plat­form­ing to a three-card-monte-style game of shuf­fling Rus­sian dolls. There’s a ba­sic two-but­ton foot­ball match in there, but also a round that chal­lenges you to get the boiled sweets out of jar more quickly than your op­po­nents.

Many of the minigames utilise the Joy-Cons’ mo­tion con­trols, for ex­am­ple to flip a steak in a pan or ro­tate two tetro­mino-like blocks un­til they line up, and in some cases their ‘HD Rum­ble’ hap­tics, which is ba­si­cally al­ways a case of iden­ti­fy­ing the strong­est rum­ble.

None are go­ing to have you clam­our­ing to spend hours ex­plor­ing their depths, and some of­fer­ings are cer­tainly stronger than oth­ers, but there’s a nice range on of­fer. Their sim­plic­ity and brevity – each game lasts around a

“won’t smash pre­con­cep­tions, but it does prom­ise a big­ger hoo­te­nanny than ever be­fore”

minute – is ac­tu­ally a strength. With most games lim­ited to a sin­gle but­ton and the ana­logue stick, or a shake of the Joy-Con, just about any­one should be able to pick up a con­troller and play.

Drop a Switch on a ta­ble at an ac­tual, non-Mario party – it ac­tu­ally works sur­pris­ingly well on the small screen, even in the games that split it four ways – and peo­ple can cy­cle in and out, play­ing a cou­ple of games be­fore hand­ing off to who­ever’s been watch­ing quizzi­cally over their shoul­der.

We tested this in the field (a busy pub on a Satur­day night) and found that, even af­ter we walked away from the con­sole, the ba­sic rules of play were passed or­gan­i­cally be­tween a dozen friends, some of them un­used to videogames, be­fore in­ter­est even­tu­ally pe­tered out. In this kind of en­vi­ron­ment, the game can truly live up to its ti­tle.

Dicey busi­ness

In this case, the minigames were served as a sort of fin­ger buf­fet, with play­ers free to grab what­ever they liked from the 80-strong menu. This isn’t the game’s own serv­ing sug­ges­tion, how­ever. It puts the board game mode front and cen­tre, so much so that it’s ac­tu­ally called ‘Mario Party’. This mode treats the minigames more as canapés, tiny ap­pe­tis­ers brought out at reg­u­lar in­ter­vals, be­tween ses­sions of the board game. And pre­sented this way, these morsels of game can seem flimsy and light­weight.

This mode con­tin­ues to be the game’s weak point. Nd Cube has tried to add com­plex­ity to the board game, with a few ad­di­tions to the for­mula. Each char­ac­ter now comes with a cus­tomised dice block they can choose to roll in­stead of the usual D6, re­flect­ing their char­ac­ter in some way – so re­li­able old Daisy has a die made up en­tirely of medi­ocre 3s and 4s, while the hulk­ing Don­key Kong ei­ther rolls a 10 or 0.

This is cou­pled with Al­lies, one of many ideas bor­rowed from Star Rush. Char­ac­ters not cur­rently in play will linger on the board, ready to join who­ever lands on their square. Once they’re re­cruited, you can choose to roll their cus­tom dice block, and they’ll also roll a smaller die, adding one or two to the to­tal.

The boards them­selves are more so­phis­ti­cated than ever be­fore too, loaded with fun gim­micks from warp pipes to ex­plod­ing Bob-ombs, and branch­ing paths to choose from. But all these choices don’t change the fact that it’s a game of pure luck.

Ran­dom chance can pro­duce great sto­ries: the player in last place man­ag­ing to pick up two of the game-win­ning stars in a sin­gle turn, push­ing them into the lead… then im­me­di­ately land­ing on a Bad Luck space and for­feit­ing one to the new loser. With friends, that can be a source of laugh­ter, but it can also be in­fu­ri­at­ing. While the game’s pre­sen­ta­tion might be kid-friendly, the lan­guage you’ll use when a bad roll loses you an hour-long game cer­tainly won’t be.

Worst of all, this struc­ture makes the minigames feel in­con­se­quen­tial. Win­ning yields coins, which can be ex­changed for stars, but so does land­ing on the right space. Played this way, Su­per Mario Party feels like it’s ashamed of its minigames. But it shouldn’t be.

For ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers and Mario Party new­bies alike, these 60-sec­ond nuggets of game pro­vide plenty of bounc­ing, in­ept danc­ing and a fair amount of cheesy thrills. In short, they bring the party. Just don’t be tempted to break open the board games, or it’ll be a long night.

One minigame has three play­ers work­ing to­gether to con­trol a mecha crab, be­cause… well, why not?

Once you’ve got an­other char­ac­ter on side, you can take their dice for a spin. Monty’s is fairly un­re­mark­able, but it does look quite cool. This is a Bad Luck space. Land on them and you’ll ini­ti­ate the worst game of (non-Rus­sian) roulette of your life. Each vic­tory feels gen­uinely sig­nif­i­cant, with cel­e­bra­tions spe­cific to the game and char­ac­ter. Ev­ery board has spe­cial event spa­ces, like these se­cret pre­sents in Me­gafruit Par­adise. Will you trade it all in for what’s in this box? Mario has re­cruited an ally – in this case, break­out star Monty Mole – to help with the fes­tiv­i­ties. Ev­ery minigame has a punny ti­tle. This is called ‘Sla­parazzi’. We as­sume the lo­cal­i­sa­tion team knocked off early that day.

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