The mini-games are fun... when you can get to 'em.
This past long weekend may have been important for West Coast or Collingwood fans, but not so for the rest of us. While our assembled group kept an eye on the score – mostly in the hopes Pies fans would taste bitter defeat – I used the opportunity to try out Super Mario Party in four-player action. We only made it to halftime before swapping over to 1-2-Switch (and then the fourth quarter of the AFL Grand Final because we were counting on Eddie McGuire to cry).
Hardly anyone in my AFL party was a gamer, but everyone had heard of Mario Party before. Most people had played at least one game in the franchise, too. Needless to say, the group wasn’t elated when we were greeted with page after page of introductory text and instructions that we simply couldn’t skip through fast enough. One person shouted out, “oh, come on!” when a giant arrow pointed to a warp tunnel, advising players that they should try to go down it.
Gripes aside, we pulled out four single Joy-Cons – because that’s the only controller combination you can use – and got going. Our group played through two 10-turn rounds of Mario Party mode, each lasting an hour each. What started out fun quickly became something to do – in our second game, a winner walked away with four total stars, but the first game had the winner only needed to secure two for a victory. The rest of each hour consisted of mini-games that hardly mattered, an abundance of coins that could hardly be used and lots of lots of practically meaningless ally characters, special items and character-specific rolls.
If you’re new to Mario Party, the basic mode puts up to four players on a game board, with dice rolls leading to the collection of coins and all-important stars – the currency required to win. The same is also true for the Mario Party offshoot Partner Party, which puts players into teams. Along the way in either mode, you’ll run into bad luck spaces which could lose those items and good luck ones which could help to steal items from opponents.
Character-specific dice can be substituted in place of the normal one, important when trying to lock-in a specific roll to move a certain amount down the board; much in the same way, items like mushrooms can help to add a certain number of spaces to whatever you’ve rolled. The boards we played were turn-dependent, meaning there wasn’t a finish line to accompany the starting one; you merely went around and around until all turns were exhausted. In the end, players commented that Mario Party mode is all about luck, not skill – and the end of each hour played, we all just wanted the game to be over.
Thankfully, there’s more than Mario Party mode to keep players engaged. We also tried out River Survival, a mode for up to four players that puts you on a raft and challenges you to make it to the end of a timed course made up of branching paths. The players need to work together, not only using motion controls to steer the raft down the river, but to also play and be successful in mini-games to add more time to the clock. It’s more of a mini-game party than anything else, though our group continued to groan out loud each time the game made us synchronise motion-controlled, in-game high fives… but nonetheless, we did it – each one added three extra seconds to our time.
The mini-games are easily the best bit of Super Mario Party, with 80 new experiences on offer. Each is varied and easy to understand, and they’ll certainly get your friends in the competitive mood. It’s shame then that near impossible to get friends together and just play the mini-games… and that’s why we ended up switching (pun intended) to 1-2-Switch to duke it out.
Except for a couple offerings inside Toad’s Rec Room where you’ll play baseball and a strange tank shootout mini-game that requires you to undock your Switch and place it on the table in front of you, there’s nowhere to sit down and just play games against one another. If you’ve got a Nintendo Switch Online account, you can ignore your friends at a party and play through a series of mini-games online against randoms, but that’s hardly the same. That, and we don’t have said account. The same is true for a second pre-release copy of Super Mario Party, so we couldn’t try out the neato multiple-Switch game inside Toad’s Rec Room either.
A mode called Challenge Road is also mini-game centric but designed for a single player. Here, specific challenges must be accomplished to proceed. While it’s fun, it’s hardly the type of thing you’ll play in a party environment (unless you’re all happy just passing around the Joy-Con). Finally, a mode called Sound Stage does pit players against one another but does so using rhythm-centric mini-games that we all felt were designed to help five- to ten-year-olds develop just that: rhythm. They got old very quickly and ultimately felt like an old Wii shovelware game that required clapping or arm raises.
So that’s why we went back to 1-2-Switch. Super Mario Party has far more mini-games – and ones of higher quality, too – but it’s too time-consuming and tedious to get into them. Couple that with Nintendo’s (usual) aggressive hand-holding and the party fizzled out fast. I imagine children would have a great time bouncing around the board, so keep that in mind if you’ve little ones. Otherwise, there are better ways to spend your time – especially in October, the month of Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, Forza Horizon and Red Dead Redemption (just to name a few games).
Super Mario Party was reviewed using a promotional code on Switch, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.