It has been many years since I have sunk a lot of time into a single Mario Party game, as the series moved from the Nintendo 64 to the Gamecube, my tastes changed and when it landed on the Wii, the game seemed to be far different from what I recall, thanks to a single car and what not, but now the game is back and thankfully, it’s a much fun as I remember having years ago.
If you want to go to where motion works and when you have had enough at free for all, or partner battles, you can take to the games newest mode, River Rush, which places all four characters into a raft and sends them on a nice little river journey. Actually, the journey is not all that calm, and if you don’t work together, you won’t get very far, as you not only have a timer to deal with, but some wacky obstacles as well. As you make your way down the river, balloons will float above the waters and when popped will trigger a mini game, unlike the games in the other mode, these are going to be co-op driven games, making you work together, in order to achieve a high score, the better your ending score is, the more bonus time you will add to the clock, when back on the river. After a stretch of usually straight water, you will be given a choice of which way you want to go, a large sign will help indicate what you should see in the next section, but it is not always clear.
While playing through the modes all sounds fun, there is an ultimate goal in them, if you get 1st place on all the boards, in Party and Partner Party, along with River Rush and Sound Stage, you will earn a gem, earn them all and it unlocks something. I can’t tell you what it unlocks, simply because I keep loosing on the final leg of River Rush, but I hope it is something cool. Of course, the real joy of any Mario Party game comes from when you play any of the included mini games, while they are touting 80 all new games here, the number is higher, thanks to the other modes, as well as Toad’s Rec Room.
Almost all of the games use motion in some fashion and thankfully it works really well here, unlike the other mode, though some are strange uses of motion. The games that don’t use motion, generally just use the stick and a button or two, some are just the stick and they work well, games like moving a hand to pick up pancakes or controlling a giant crane, which is used to construct Mario’s face are simple and straight forward, the one that use a combination of motion and buttons are a little trickier to get. There are a number of games, that use a button press to begin them, but then rely on motion controls, like the removing candy from a jar and these are fine, but it is the ones where you need to continuously use a combination of buttons and motion, the climbing games and throwing ones are the examples in question.
Both games use the same controls, hold down the shoulder button on your JoyCon and then repeat the action, let go of the button and then repeat, the issue I had, was that for the first time, the JoyCon was too small, so after a single game of climbing the pole, my hand felt cramped. Because you have to hold the shoulder button down, or no climbing will happen, meaning you can’t progress with it. The same actions are required for the throwing mini games and the same result happened, cramped hands, similar issues arose when I tried to play the minigame, based around cycling a tiny bike, which requires you to rotate the JoyCon, or more accurately, wobble it, in between your hands, if there was a single game that might trigger flashbacks for Mario Party 64 players, it is this one. Because of the size of the JoyCon, I could not hold it properly as well as moving it, which meant I had it resting in between my palms, which was not a comforting position.
One aspect that I really disliked though, was across the board, how slow the game is and I don’t mean in terms of how it runs, but just its overall pace, the game is so slow. When you load into your first board, Toad appears to give you the run down, he even asks if its your first time here and if you say yes, he shows off some of the highlights, which is a nice touch. Then he asks if you want to know the rules, but if you then return to the board again, he askes the same questions, no matter how often you go, he asks the same questions. When you finally get to play, if there are AI controller characters in your game, you get to watch them go through the motions, dice rolls, moves, the works and there is no way to speed them up. Once three turns remain, Toad appears to tell you the spaces have doubled, Kamek appears to up the bad luck spaces, stating the same thing each time, the repeating of these parts, really bog down, what can already been considered a slow game.
Of course, one aspect I did like was the visuals, they were bright and cheery, with all the characters looking quite spiffy, in the Switch outing, for many at least. While the limited amount of boards might be an issue for some, there is no denying that each of the included boards, does contain a lot of details that look great. While Whomp’s Domino Ruins has a lot happening in the background, it is probably the least busy board, which is strange as it’s the one with the largest trap. King Bob-omb’s Powerkeg Mine and Megafruit Paradise are brimming with detail, it is easy enough to stop for a moment and just watch it. The last board unlocks, once you have completed a playthrough of the others, its name is something you will need to discover.
The mini games themselves are also bright and charming, though looking for love in a gym, is a little strange, with a lot of the games, taking place around tables or such, those rooms also contain a lot of charm. The charm did not stop there as when characters would interact with each other, when you acquired an ally or if you landed on a bad luck space, they would react accordingly, the best one was when I was playing as Bowser, I landed on a bad luck space and had to deal with Kamek. Of course, as an underling, Kamek fears Bowser, so when he noticed it was his usual boss, he started to shake all over, the text reflected that fear and such, it was a nice touch.
The games audio presentation is honestly on par with what you would expect from a Mario game at this point, the music is light and catchy, the characters wah-hoo and oh yeah when they win and the birds chirp in the trees. The music inside of Sound Stage, is remixed versions of classic Mario tunes and that is pretty cool, but nothing that people have not been doing for years already.
Super Mario Party is a perfect game for playing with friends, a lot of my time with the game, had my niece with me and she loved it. The mini games are really well thought out, though some motion control ones are slightly awkward if you have larger hands, but don’t that stop you. Get some friends together and enjoy one really great party!