Super Mario Party (Switch) Review
Super Mario Party was an inevitable title for the Nintendo Switch. Since its inception on the Nintendo 64, the Mario Party series has been on every single Nintendo console and handheld ever since. It has even made appearances in Japanese arcades thanks to Capcom. Mario Party, for all its absolute bangers (2, 7, DS), its absolute clangers (8, Advance, Top 100) and everything in between, is here to stay whether we like it or not.
Seemingly going back to basics upon first inspection, Super Mario Party ditches the carpooling formula, and gives everyone their own dice back, allowing everyone to take their own path to the star. The problem with this, and it’s a big problem, is that the game only hosts four different boards to play on, and aside from a couple of detours, the boards really don’t have much to do. Games like Mario Party 7 had players making multiple decisions each turn, buying and using items, participating in single-player minigames for coins, the party never stopped. Super Mario Party’s boards allow you to pay money to a Whomp to get past or have Lakitu steal stars or coins from other players. That’s about the height of excitement when it comes to Super Mario Party’s boards.
To mix things up a bit, each character in the game can opt to use the standard d6 dice or use their own special dice that the other characters don’t have access to. Shy Guy’s dice has a larger number of 4s on it instead of 2, 3, 5 and 6. Koopa’s dice has a 1, four 3s and a 10 on his dice. Depending on the dice and the situation, it does allow for some minor strategic moments when players try to avoid certain places on the board.
The typical Mario Party mechanics are still in play. Just about everything is left up to complete chance. Aside from using items and dice to try and gain an advantage, people will still randomly land on a square with a hidden block on it, which sometimes contains a coin, other times it contains a star. People will get close to buying a star from Toadette, only for her to move to the other side of the board near a rival, just because someone beat you to it. Even being two stars in front at the end of a match may not matter, as the usual Star Ceremony dishes out stars at the end of the game for the usual stuff – most allies, fewest spaces travelled, etc. For someone to do so well in the game, only to be beaten at the final hurdle is something that a group of people will laugh over, while another group will scream in agony.
Other modes include Partner Party, a mode that has teams of two compete against each other to try and get the most stars. It’s much like the regular party mode, except that after both players roll the die, their dice make a combined total and then the players both move around a grid-like board trying to land on the star spaces. I liked this a lot more than the regular party boards, but the minigames lack in variety due to being 2 vs 2 affairs every turn.
River Survival is a mode that requires cooperation between four players. The party oversees a blow-up raft and it’s up to them to paddle down a river, avoiding Cheep Cheeps, Mega Bloopers, rocks and more. Along the way, the team try to paddle into red balloons which offer minigames and a chance to score some extra time. The amount of extra time given is directly connected to how well the minigame is completed by the team. As the river continues, the team make decisions on whether to take different paths, each path has different hazards attached to it to try and keep things interesting. The goal is to reach the end before the time runs out, so teamwork is crucial in this mode. The unfortunate aspect of this mode is not the quality of the minigames, but the tiny amount of minigames that are offered in this mode. Coming in at less than ten, it’s not uncommon to have to play the same minigames multiple times before completing one trip down the river.
There’s also Challenge Road, which has the player complete all 80 minigames in a row. Many of the minigames also include an additional requirement to complete, such as beating a certain score, not missing an object etc. It’s basically the single-player mode for Super Mario Party, and while 80 minigames in a row sounds daunting, characters in the game ask you if you want to take a break after every three or four minigames. The game can be saved until later after completing a single stretch of minigames, which is usually between 10 and 15 minigames in total. It’s a lot better than other attempts at single-player in the Mario Party series but remains one of those modes that gets completed once and never visited again.
Toad’s Rec-Room is quite possibly my favourite mode. It is this mode that allows the player to take the Switch out of the dock and put it down on a table for all to play around. The first game that comes up is Mini League Baseball. This is an overly simplified game of baseball that pits two players against another two players. One side takes turns batting, while the other team handles pitching and fielding. Fielding is done by moving three buckets left and right trying to catch the baseball after it is hit. Pitching is done by moving left and right before pulling the control stick back like a pinball machine to launch the ball at the opposing player. I found it hard to get my timing right at first and ended up in a lot of low scoring matches, but I eventually got better with practice.
Other modes include Puzzle Hustle, a game where players push and pull chunks of 8- and 16-bit characters around a large board to try and put them back together again, as well as Banana, Split where you use two Switch consoles to match up bananas in a manner, not unlike the item rotating minigame in Super Mario Bros. 3.
The best game in Toad’s Rec-Room, and the one shown off in trailers is Shell Shocked Deluxe. Reminiscent of Battle City on the NES, it pits players against each other in tanks trying to shoot each other. It’s shown from a bird’s eye view and allows players to bounce shots off one wall to try and shoot each other’s tanks. This mode allows two Nintendo Switch consoles to be put side by side so that the level can be extended into two Switch screens. This is a lot of fun, though to play the minigames that require two consoles, each console needs a copy of the game. This was achieved for review purposes by logging into my second Switch and making it my primary console, logging in as my daughter. I then logged into my secondary Switch as myself. For most people, this won’t be an option, so the ability to use two Switch consoles at the same time won’t be a feature that a lot of people will have access to, unfortunately.
As for the standard mini-games, the selection in Super Mario Party is a pretty high standard. Highlights include baby penguin chasing, boomerang throwing and a quiz-show. Most of the games require a level of skill rather than luck to complete which adds a competitive element to the game. There are a small number of games that completely fail due to poor motion control, this was due in part to the fact that only Joy-Cons will work with the game, and I had some moments where my Joy-Con stopped communicating with the system because my entire hand was covering it.
While Mario Party 10 had some unique and thoughtful amiibo integration, Super Mario Party encourages you to use your amiibo collection to unlock unique stickers. Stickers are used in Mario Party by taking a background and putting stickers on it. That’s it. After putting the cast of Mario Party into some dubious positions with each other, the novelty of putting stickers on things wears out. The amiibo unlock the same character stickers that can be earned in the game, except they’re a bit shiny. To see amiibo utilised in Mario Party 10 so well just makes it harder not to cry when I look at my amiibo display cupboard and see my precious amiibo so criminally underused.
Like a pizza with pineapple on it, Super Mario Party is an attempt at going with what works and then throwing something unappetising on top. The return of giving each player their own dice and direction is nice, but the boards themselves don’t have a lot to explore anyway. Toad’s Rec Room is probably the best part of the entire game, though it is marred by the requirement of needing two games to enjoy it at its full potential. It’s the game that tries too hard to please everyone, but at the end of the night, the party leaves things a bit flat.
- Toad’s Rec-Room is a delight
- Many of the minigames are a lot of fun
- The boards are bland and uninspired
- Some minigames have motion control issues
- Two cards required to play multi-Switch games