Sunday, 18 November 2018

Super Mario Party ★★★★☆

Ever since earning my Mario Party palm calluses -Trademark Nintendo 1998- from playing rotation minigames with an N64 controller, me and my friends have been avid fans of the friendship-destroying series. Eleven games later and countless lost friends, the latest edition for the Switch makes that need of friends obsolete. Mario Party finally has an online mode. Sadly this is only relegated to a set of minigames and not the full dice rolling experience, but that's slightly understandable. No one wants to play 50 turns of a board game to then lose connection or have a player rage quit after losing at Social Climbers, probably due to finicky motion controls, and ruin the game.

Super Mario Party (MP) has a smorgasbord of game modes and a really useless and unnecessary hub area to select them. Thankfully, once each mode has been played, they're then selectable from the quick menu, by pressing "Y". Which should be the only menu, to begin with. Like many a good game of generations past, there is a bunch of stuff locked behind simply playing the game, and not a paywall. Imagine that, EA, Ubisoft and Capcom, games with content. There's an extra board (final board) to unlock and a few extra characters and also a game mode; which is a slightly odd one. 

In the traditional main Party Mode, -that Nintendo seemed to forget about in the last two games- the computer opponents are too easy, and make some pretty stupid moves, even on very hard; but is great fun with some friends. The boards are slightly smaller than they used to be and stars are only half the price. As everyone earns money more frequently than in previous games, this makes the game's pace seem that bit faster, with everyone picking up or stealing a star every couple of turns; making for some crucial last few turns. With only four boards to pick from, there's not much variation but the other modes make up for this. 

A stupid raft mode, River Survival, where you work together to get down rapids as fast as possible, collect time extensions that you don't need, whilst also rowing the dingy into as many mini-games as possible; along the way. The path branches out like at the end of an OutRun race, giving a variety of routes to take and adding some replayability… but I can't see me ever going back to it, personally.
Sound Stage offers a bunch of rhythm-based mini-games, to compete in, against friends and is probably the shortest to play through. Thank Jebus. The best new mode is Partner Party, which is clearly taken from Mario vs Rabbids, playing like an X-Com style variation on the board game mode; with more freedom to movement. Played in pairs, it makes for a more strategic game of route optimisation to collect more coins than the rivals. In a reverse on the main mode, the computer seems to cheat, in this mode, and they will coincidentally get rolls that benefit them while you will roll just shy of (or over) what you need.

As Nintendo, for some reason, need to fit every gimmick of their system into the game, a few of the mini-games are only playable in undocked mode; in an area called Toad's Rec Room. Most can be played on a single screen but are enhanced when two systems are linked. The Banana Split mini-game, however, requires a mandatory second Switch. I tried this out for the sake of review but really, it's not worth the effort.

Whilst the mini-games are a main focus of the game, there's around 80, I didn't feel a need to talk about them as they're mostly just as fun as ever… however, I do have a personal loathing of waggle controls, so finding out that the only way to play is by using the uncomfortable Joy-Cons and that the really expensive pro pad you bought, to play your games with, doesn't work here didn't go down too well. Mario Party is the second game I've played this month that doesn't support the Pro Pad - The World Ends With You also only allows for a single joycon or touch controls, and neither of those work very well.

On the plus side of it being on the Switch, it's relatively easy to take the game to that friend's house, who basically refuses to ever leave his home, and make the hermit play. The first two are still the best Mario Party games but unless you still have your N64 or -here’s hoping- Nintendo decide to re-release them one day.

Bry Wyatt

Super Mario Party at CeX

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