Review: Mario Party 10 for Wii U

We’re ready, to party, in HD!

As a relative latecomer to the Mario Party series (my first experience with it was when a friend got me Mario Party 7 for the GameCube, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Well, almost thoroughly — I never did get to make use of that included microphone), one might say that I’m not quite as burned out on the series as other people who have been with the series since the beginning have become.

I missed the eighth Party, but came on board again with Mario Party 9 on the Wii and continued with Mario Party: Island Tour on Nintendo 3DS, but had fun with both. So how does the series’ arrival in the double-digits fare? Read on to find out!

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The game starts off a little unusually for the series by this point — specifically, after the game starts, the first thing you see is the above screen, displaying the game modes. While direct and to the point, it’s also completely lacking in cutscenes, or any sort of story. Heck, it doesn’t even have a title screen.

Given the series’ norm for a while, it almost makes one wonder if perhaps the game wasn’t a little rushed to meet a deadline. After all, all those new Super Mario series amiibo figures need something new to work with, right?

But maybe I’m just being paranoid. While odd, these omissions don’t really affect the rest of the game, and you were probably going to skip them nine times out of ten anyway, right? Perhaps Nintendo just figured that groups of nearly half a dozen party-goers would rather just cut to the chase.

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The first option you’re presented with is the new “amiibo Party” mode. This one is something of a mixed blessing, as it plays the most like classic Mario Party titles (move around a board, earn coins, and buy stars; the player with the most stars wins), but has a barrier to entry, that being at least one of the following compatible amiibo figures: Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Yoshi, Bowser, Rosalina, Donkey Kong, and Wario. No amiibo? No go for this mode.

Up to four players can participate, but at least one must use an amiibo — you can’t just unlock the mode and do without. Sadly, the most prepared can feel like the most punished in this case, as in addition to a Wii Remote (sorry, no Classic or Pro Controllers allowed) for each person, you’ll also have to tap your amiibo to the GamePad’s Near Field Communication sensor (best placed in the middle of your lot, though that’s not always practical/viable) for almost everything. Landed on a square and got an item? Tap the amiibo. Activate a token? Tap the amiibo. Even just rolling the die, which other players can do without an amiibo at all, requires tapping the amiibo to the sensor (though it admittedly does put a nice spin on it). It becomes a bit inane at best, and something of a hassle at worst.

Users of amiibo see a few benefits, though, such as being able to customize part or all of the board’s quadrants to a theme based on that figure. They also get a full 3D representation of the character (based on their Super Mario amiibo series appearance) in the game, whereas non-amiibo players have paper cut-out pieces, which are incidentally more susceptible to being knocked around by the rolling dice. Plus, outside of this mode, you can tap an amiibo in a bonus menu for a new item each day.

In truth, the worst part of the amiibo Party mode is that you truly have to commit to it. Leveled Bowser to 50 in Super Smash Bros., but want to use him in Mario Party 10? Sorry, you’ll have to either dispose of that data, not play, or — ideal to Nintendo, no doubt — buy another Bowser figure. While the Super Mario series at least makes it so that you don’t have to worry about duplicates, some characters such as Donkey Kong or the rather difficult-to-find Rosalina have no such counterparts (as of this writing). You can’t even just play amiibo Party without storing data on the figure — you’re either all in, or all out.

Fortunately, things get better from here.

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Skipping over to the far right of the main menu, we have the traditional “Mario Party.” Well, “traditional” being a relative term — this is the “main” mode of play, but follows on from Mario Party 9 by placing all four participants in a vehicle which traverses the board to collect mini-stars. Of course, whoever nets the most mini-stars by the end wins, and as in amiibo Party, each round ends with a mini-game to gain more stars.

Adding to the tension for this one is Bowser, who is trapped in a cell with six numbered locks, each corresponding to one side of a die. As players roll to move spaces, each time a different number comes up sees a lock removed. Once they’re all gone, Bowser breaks free with a roar and causes havoc on the game board by placing Bowser spaces at varying spots. Land on one, and you end up dealing with a roulette which could greatly benefit you or hinder you — and Bowser doesn’t play favorites, though sometimes he takes pity on the loser to keep things interesting.

Of course, that’s Mario Party in a nutshell — skill is only going to take you so far, and you can gain or lose everything at a moment’s notice, regardless. That said, a lot of it comes down to the game board, too. Each unique environment has different obstacles and twists implemented which can affect your progress for better or for worse.

As for the whole “grouping the party in a car” thing… I like it. There’s a certain level of strategy involved in trying to set things up with special dice or choosing a route to thwart other players while getting ahead that I appreciate, and doesn’t tend to be available in the old style of Mario Party.

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Finally, the most highly-touted mode of Mario Party 10 is the new “Bowser Party” mode. Up to five players can take part in this mode, with one of them using the GamePad to control Bowser, who feels less like a player than a force of nature as he will destroy anything in his path to reach the other four participants.

Sadly, while the stages available in Bowser Party mode are more or less the same as their Mario Party counterparts, there are fewer of them. In each, players take turns rolling dice, trying to get as far ahead on the board as possible. Then Bowser gets to roll a whole handful of dice to try to catch up, with Bowser Junior allowing one re-roll if you flub and roll too low. That’s because this mode is a race to the finish, and mini-games only come up when Bowser catches you.

Watching Bowser stomp across the board and knock down set pieces is a sight to behold, particularly in Whimsical Waters, where his enormous mass swimming through the water reminded me a bit of Godzilla doing the same. Upon catching up to the players, he leaps into the air and comes down with a mighty stomp of his foot, initiating a mini-game unique to this mode in which Bowser’s player uses the GamePad’s screen and features, while the rest gain their own perspective through the television screen. Bowser’s ultimate goal is to reduce everyone’s hearts to zero before they reach the finish line and get the prize, with Junior helping however he can.

Some people have been saying that Bowser Party favors Bowser (which is kind of to be expected, given the name and all), and to a degree that’s true. At the same time, it’s four on one, and most of the games I’ve played in this mode have been really, really close. In fact, when playing with other people, it was the other players who managed to just eke out a victory at the finish line, whereas playing against the computer as Bowser would see the Koopa King victorious.

For me, Bowser Mode is the highlight of the entire package, and it’s only a shame that it has the fewest boards to play on.

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As far as the series’ famed mini-games go, this batch… is alright. Perfectly competent, plenty of fun, but few really stood out to me. One of my favorite parts of Mario Party 9 was how it seemed as though several of the mini-games were distinctively Mario — such as bowling for Goombas with a Koopa shell against a backdrop straight out of a New Super Mario Bros. game — but few if any of the mini-games here offer anything as memorable as that, in my opinion. Mind, this doesn’t include the Bowser Party mini-games, which are the exception to the rule.

There are some other fun mini-games accessible through the main menu as well, including a badminton game, some which pit you versus Bowser Junior, and a neat physics-based jewel-dropping puzzle game. You can also play several mini-games in various tournament towers, complete challenges, or purchase poses for characters and backdrops to play around with and snap screenshots of in a special photography mode.

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The game also features two unlockable characters: Toadette and Spike, and the latter stole the show for me. I’ve never thought too much one way or the other about the Koopa minion who first debuted in Super Mario Bros. 3, but the little guy is — for lack of a better term — too cute.

He’s got an almost infectious enthusiasm that doesn’t feel quite as overplayed as the rest of the crew, and is just fun to watch in victory or defeat. I’m pleasantly surprised at this addition to the playable roster — heck, stopping to think about it, I even want an amiibo of him now.

Fortunately, it doesn’t take long to unlock the pair — particularly if you’re playing with a full group of friends. They’re 600 Party Points each to unlock, and I had that before I even looked at the option.

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As I played the game with others, I felt it only fitting to share thoughts on this party game from the rest of the party — Ian Flynn, Aleah Baker, and my wife, Nadia. The general consensus is that amiibo Party “is so tedious and needlessly complicated it wears out the novelty instantly” (I enjoyed it more when playing solo, admittedly), while the standard Mario Party mode is “just that – standard. You either love it or you hate it.” Then there is Bowser Party, which was “the most fun. Instead of grinding through the whole board game, you run the risk of losing, and that adds the pinch of spice needed to shake up the series.”

Overall, I don’t think this will go down as the best Mario Party game the series has seen, but its HD debut is nonetheless competent and manages to stand out on its own terms. If nothing else, Bowser Party sets a solid foundation that I hope to see them build on going forward, while amiibo Party could use some work. I doubt there is anything here to truly sway one’s opinion of the series as of late, should they have one, but any who still enjoy it should definitely give this one a look.

WiiU_MarioParty10_pkgMario Party 10 was released for the Wii U on March 20th, 2015 at a price of $64.99 and $69.99 in a bundle with a Mario amiibo.

A review copy was provided by Nintendo of Canada.

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About the author

David Oxford

David Oxford is a freelance writer of many varied interests. If you're interested in hiring him, please drop him a line at david.oxford (at) nyteworks.net.