My cousin, now 21, still remembers a time over a decade ago when me and my then partner were babysitting him during our summer holidays after our first year at university, and we all played a game of Mario Party on the N64. (To avoid trivial Mario Party tale, skip to paragraph 4).
It was a hot day. The game was long, and tense. We'd all held the lead at certain stages and the winning position was within reach of all of us. In the last suspenseful few minutes, my boyfriend stole the star he needed to win the game – from that 10 year old boy. I berated my boyfriend repeatedly for cruelly obliterating a small child's dream of beating two adults to Super Mario stardom.
That boyfriend is long gone (not because of Mario), but the memory of that hilarious/life-altering moment remains, and to me it shows the lingering appeal of how good Mario Party could be, and indeed any game where you can all compete as a group in the same room together.
Done the right way, the level of skill and luck is in perfect harmony so that the majority of the game involves getting good at the minigames, but some luck skews the lead throughout to mix it up. What Mario Party 10 is missing, however, is that level of strategy and skill that made the original so good.
Mario Party 10: in pictures
Some of the minigames really are great fun. You can have a little practice on any of the games in Free Play, or go for the Coin Challenge, but the main appeal is of course the Mario Party, in which there are 5 different boards. There are now more than 70 minigames, including a new Bomber Man/Splatoon cross 'Paintball Battle', and 'Ice Slide, You Slide', where you race along ice avoiding objects, but also have to control the speed (attempt to play at its fastest for an impossible challenge). There’s a huge variation of games, and although your turn comes around quickly enough, you simply don’t get to play enough of them. As in Mario Party 9 when you all ride together in a cart, it all feels a bit linear, and a bit too nice. This is good for kids, as it all pretty much evens out and everyone can win at points, but it doesn’t have to be just for kids. There’s more cut-throat competition in Buzz! Junior Jungle Party (which is definitely still worth a play, if you still have a PS2).
Mario Kart 8 is the most recent excellent example of how a ‘kids’ game works for adults; it’s of course all about skill, but if you can’t stop falling off the track or hitting those ruddy cows or crabs the bullet will catch you up. But while a little luck is helpful, a group of friends don’t want chance to determine a winner, they want dirty star-stealing, fast-paced competition.
The games themselves are too short and lack enough real challenge, so many could do with offering a best of three option. You can now use Amiibo, which opens up new boards (only one player needs an amiibo to play) but the addition of Bowser mode - which also takes excellent advantage of the GamePad on the Wii U - is a welcome change. One player can take on the others as Mario’s pointy-backed nemesis – who wouldn’t want to play as a giant Bowser spitting balls of fire?
There’s also no online multiplayer, so it’s only really worth playing with friends and family around (especially as most of the games don’t need that much practice), but it would certainly be interesting to see how this could work in the future.
It is still a lot of fun and it’s good Mario still wants to party with us all these years later. But after a few games it can grow frustrating that you’re just not playing enough and too many minigames are over before you can really get into them – it’s the long games that can really build up tension between friends.
Kids will undoubtedly love Mario Party 10. It’s fun, it looks fantastic, the games are clearly explained and it all runs smoothly. But for adults who hark back to the good old glory days of 1999 N64 greatness, you might be left feeling a little disappointed Nintendo couldn’t quite capture the same magic this time around.