“Mario Party” is one of Nintendo’s longest-running spinoff series: It’s lived on the company’s home video-game consoles since Y2K was a thing people actually worried about. Although it’s on its 10th title now, the basic premise is still the same: Four players on a board collect stuff, and the one with the most at the end wins. Now that Nintendo’s finally released a “Mario Party” on the Wii U console, there’s so much potential for new or improved features. Overall, however, “Mario Party 10” is an easily forgettable experience.
That’s not to say there aren’t any good things. “Mario Party” looks nice, in the same way “Super Mario 3D World” does. There’s a lot of minigames to play -- about 70. For the most part, they’re amusing or clever rehashes of minigames we’ve seen before in the series, but they’re easily the most fun “Mario Party 10” has to offer (personal favorites include “Bob-Omb Bogey” and “Fruit Cahoots”). If you stick to the minigame-only mode “Coin Challenge,” you can have a great time in 15-minute bursts.
Bowser Party, one of the two new modes, is a bright spot, as well. One player can assume the role of series bad guy Bowser and hunt down the normal players on the board. There’s real satisfaction in tearing mini-stars away from players and knocking them out just short of the goal -- and, on the flip side, the four normal players do actually feel like a team, keeping each other alive. It makes great use of the dynamic that’s been forced upon the game: Players travel together in a vehicle along a mostly linear path, combining their dice rolls to get away from Bowser.
But that approach ruins the main game. Since you’re glued to the other players in a carpool, traveling along a single path, there’s really not much strategy to be had. There’s no individual movement, no branching paths, no items, no separate stars to collect. Everything’s done as a group, and, as a result, it feels watered down. Plus, there’s only five boards on which to play -- either the second or the third playthrough, this game becomes boring.
Add that to the fact skill is rarely rewarded. If anything, it’s punished. “Mario Party” used to be about building your stash by winning minigames, but here you’re likely to lose one-half your mini-stars on any given turn, especially if you’re leading (coins and regular stars are reserved for Amiibos only). Luck has always played a big factor in “Mario Party”: The algorithms have traditionally attacked the player in first place, in an attempt to even the score. But this is just overkill.
I had hoped “Mario Party 10” would have retained some of its old-time charm with the classic gameplay-inspired Amiibo party. It’s sort of the classic experience, but with a twist: using Amiibos as cardboard avatars. The boards are changeable and actually kind of cute, and it’s good to fight for coins and stars as in games of old -- but the execution is so off.
It comes down to the Amiibos themselves. Any time you want to roll, you have to use your Amiibo with the GamePad. To select tokens, you have to touch your Amiibo to the GamePad. To pick up dice blocks, you have to touch your Amiibo to the GamePad. See where I’m going with this? Touching it once at the beginning and ending of the game is fine, but why do you have to do it four times a turn? Amiibo integration was done properly once before with “Super Smash Bros.” for Wii U, so this is especially perplexing. You have to have a Wii Remote, aka Wiimote, to play minigames and select things in-game, anyway, so why force so much Amiibo interaction? It caused a lot of exasperated sighs during what could have been a good alternate mode.
There’s just not much to “Mario Party 10”: What is there is mostly the same mistakes made in the last game. Maybe this is simple fun for kids, but I think any adult, especially one who’s played older “Mario Party” titles, will be left wanting a lot more. My advice is to boot up the eShop and buy the old “Mario Party” titles -- you’ll have a lot more fun. Or find a copy of “Mario Party 8.”
“Mario Party 10” was reviewed with a copy of the game provided by Nintendo. It was released for the Nintendo WiiU March 20, 2015.