Hands-on Preview: The Trials and Tribulations of Mario Party 10
As someone who always has friends and family around to play games with, I wasn’t a surprise that I wanted to give Mario Party 10 a fair shake. Outside a couple of entries, I always enjoyed what the Mario Party games delivered and that is having a good time with everyone I know. Even Mario Party 9, which introduced a whole array of weird mechanics, I really enjoyed. That isn’t the popular opinion among fanatic Nintendo players, but it is what it is. Mario Party 10 is, however, a very different beast and I felt the need to address why. Because while I smiled a few times, my first impression was mostly filled with disappointment.
The worries start with the main menu of Mario Party 10, which looks sort of sterile and boring. The menu is colorful, but it doesn’t go all out like the other entries in the series. It is more in line with the Wii Party games, which wear straightforward design choices on their sleeves. If you compare it Mario Party 9, the direction of Nd Cube’s development staff is telling. Their first worry was simply bringing another party game to market and I honestly wish that they took a little bit more time. When you look at the menus, a few things are starting to become very clear and it is here that worry turns into suspicion. There is no solo mode for starters and the big glowing button for minigames is no longer in plain sight.
I began my journey with the brand new amiibo Party, as this was second title to support Nintendo’s figurine line-up in a massive way. The mode brings the classic formula back to some degree and that is a welcome change. You will be collecting coins, playing minigames every round and trying to snatch stars to become the winner. The action seems straightforward, though it is the original gimmick that throws away some of the fun. Your amiibo acts like a game piece in this whole charade. You will have to scan it in to enter and save Mario Party 10 data to even use it. While you are moving on the square shaped boards, you will have to constantly tap the amiibo to the Wii U GamePad to activate your dice, roulette wheels and other similar things. This becomes irritating way too soon and leaves you wondering why they did it in the first place. You have a perfectly Wii Remote in your hands, which should do the trick, but apparently can’t.
The big thing of the amiibo inclusion here are the tokens. Before you begin playing on a board, you will have to equip one of these coins to your amiibo. These contain various effects that can change up the game in your favor. You will be able for example to summon stars all across the board, double the coins you earn in one select minigame or swap places with one other person. On the boards, you can collect these tokens, swap them and save them to your amiibo. This makes your selection at the start of the game bigger and this can make it easier to have an advantage early on. Next to this, you also collect character tokens and this will unlock board parts for you to use. You don’t need any additional amiibo to unlock extra boards, though the pieces are locked to the one specific amiibo you save the tokens to. Once unlocked, you can arrange boards out of various options and that is a legitimate cool idea.
The Mario Party mode has the same set-up as Mario Party 9, which I quite enjoyed the last time around. That being said though, it might not have been a smart idea to take the concept for a second spin. The focused linear structure was an interesting idea the first time, but I do start to miss the freedom of the regular Mario Party boards. There are surprises along the way in the form of traditional events in Mario Party 10, but gone are the special Captain spaces or the Bowser Jr. minigames. Luckily, the crazyness of Bowser and Lucky and Unlucky spaces stop the whole thing from growing too stale. In terms of minigames, you can no longer choose what you will play and it goes back to randomness. Random is also the placement of the minigame spaces, which are a bit too much spread out for my liking. The midway and end points still see you battling a boss, which are the absolute highlights of the whole journey. The enemies are now more tailored to the boards and that is a nice touch I suppose.
Talking about the boards, there are five in total and that are two less than the previous entry. You have your standard grass land in Mushroom Park, a spooky environment with Haunted Trail, an underwater world called Whimsical Waters, a sky high experience with Airship Central and your lava finale in the Chaos Castle. As you can see, the themes are really standard Mario fair and kind of similar to the last game. They do things enough to make them stand out on their own, but I would have appreciated some brand new scenery to boot. The boards do look really sharp on the television and come complete with a lovely soundtrack to give it all shape.
The final thing I will talk about today is the Bowser Party mode, which is another new addition to Mario Party 10. You will be playing on three of the five boards and it can be considered an one versus four option. The four people in the car will have to work together to get to the end of board. Every character has their own set of hearts and it is important to stay alive before Bowser completely destroys you. The big King Koopa will do this in dedicated minigames that make use of the Wii U GamePad’s capabilities like touch, gyroscope and naturally a different perspective. They are fun to play, but with only ten available, it won’t last you forever.
Many of the standard board elements are removed in Bowser Party and the mode is more about survival. That means for Bowser that he can place traps on the playing field and make it difficult for Team Mario to succeed. On Team Mario’s side, they can try to steal dice blocks from Bowser and this makes the clash between the two sides less likely. There is a constant struggle, which is cool, but it means that the mode can end in really bad ways. In many of our playthroughs, the game ended at the very end of the board as Team Mario was stopped by a game of chance. In one specific instance, it all came down to mostly roulette wheels and one minigame at the very last possible moment. It makes for interesting stories, but Bowser always seems more on the upperhand.
Mario Party 10 leaves me with many questions. I wonder if doing the car mechanic again was a good idea and if the other modes have any staying power. With some elements removed and others toned down, Mario Party 10 has to do a lot to win me over. There are things that I liked about it and the game isn’t badly made, but that doesn’t mean that I will enjoy it as I did with Mario Party 9. That is maybe the hardest part about the whole thing.