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Super Mario Party - MojoPlays Review

VO: Riccardo Tucci
Mario Party is now out of storage and on the Switch, so check out our Super Mario Party review!

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MP Review - Super Mario Party

The Mario Party series has had a bit troubled legacy over the years. Arguably a highlight at any N64 party night, the series over the years have tried some experimental changes that has been met with mixed reception. Which leads us to “Super Mario Party” a title that aims to try and recapture the magic of the N64 games while also putting forward new party features. Does “Super Mario Party” return the series to its former glory? Or is it a party crasher? Welcome to MojoPlays, and this is our review of “Super Mario Party.”

The first thing you should be aware of is that the game only supports single Joy-cons on their own, meaning it cannot be played in handheld mode when the joy-cons are attached and there’s no Pro-Controller support. At first glance I was concerned that this may have made the game uncomfortable to play, but I actually found it very easy to enjoy since the game’s controls are thankfully rather simple making the Joy-con easy to hold.

Super Mario Party doesn’t skimp on game modes, there’s quite a handful to jump into. To start off there’s the traditional “Mario Party” mode, which sees a return to the classic format from the earlier games in the series: i.e lap based boards with branching paths, a Star to collect from a random rotating location, and playing a random minigame at the end of each turn. Yes the dreaded “Party Car” from Mario Party 9&10 has finally been retired in favour of bringing the series back to its roots. And it’s a very welcome return indeed, while boards are a bit smaller than previous entries, its balanced out by having a reduced number of roles dices, meaning that if you’re still unlucky and get constant 1s or 2s, you’ll still be able to make some progress across the board.

Though the biggest new feature is that on top of the standard 1-6 dice, each of the characters have their own special dice they can choose to use, each with their own risk/reward factor. For example Dry Bones has a dice that is made up half of 1’s and half of 6’s, while Rosalina’s dice has mostly low rolls but one side that has an 8. Furthermore its possible to recruit other characters as allies throughout the game and use their special dice as well, providing a better sense of strategy into games that have been absent from the series for more than a decade now.

However the format has some issues though, the allies that we mention earlier can really upset the balance of a match, as they stay with the player that recruited them for the duration of the game, and every ally gives the main player 1 or 2 extra space moves. This can mean that a player who may have gathered 4 allies can easily dominate the board over others struggling to land on the right space, and while some boards are harder to land on the right space than others, it can make matches infuriating for players at a disadvantage.

There’s also only 3 playable boards, with an 4th being unlocked once the others have been played, While “Whomp’s Domino Ruins” and “King Bob-omb’s Powderkeg Mine” are both well designed boards with lots of different routes and traps, the tropical themed board “Megafruit Paradise” is particularly disappointing as traversal across that board requires luck with landing on specific space with warp pipes. Some fans may also be disappointed to know that the maximum amount of turns for a match is now 20 turns, though do keep in mind that 10 turns takes about an hour to get through.

The next major mode is “Partner Party” and this is a gamechanger for the series, this mode is a 2v2 mode with players moving around omnidirectional grid based versions of the aforementioned boards instead of down the traditional paths. This allows for a lot of strategies between players to be formulated, as if both players in a team land on a star space on the same turn, that team ends up getting two stars. But like the main mode, the star also moves each turn, so teams have to decide: “Is it better to stick together and get a bigger reward? Or Split up and cover more ground?” The pacing of this mode is also faster than the traditional mode since there’s less downtime for players waiting their turn.

Overall since the mode offers a lot more strategic depth, “Partner Party” ended up being our favourite mode in the game. But of course the boards are only half the story here, so before we get to the other modes let’s talk about the minigames.

If you’re familiar with previous Mario Party entries, then you’ll know that minigames are traditionally split into 3 different categories: 4 player, 1v3 and 2v2, and the offerings here range from … decent to good, with a handful of great ones. There are quite a few creative standouts like “Nut Cases” which requires players to use the Switch’s HD Rumble to determine which boxes have more acorns than others, or “Stake Your Claim” which is a deceptive head scratcher requiring players to figure out this biggest slice of a large rectangle. But then you have less interesting games like “Feeding Friendsy”, a game that suffers from imprecise readings of the Joy-Con’s motion controls; as the game sometimes has issues telling the difference between a “light”and “heavy” throw. I will say though that the ratio between good and bad mini-games certainly lean more in the positive side, so overall I’m pretty happy with what’s on offer here.

That is of course is assuming you’re playing with other people. Yes unfortunately the A.I. of computer controlled characters still is very questionable at times, especially in team mini-games and they’ll often move around in really random directions, to the point where it becomes comical as to how dumb they can be. In our sessions playing against others was certainly far more enjoyable than playing alone. Even if it’s with just one other person.

Unfortunately the other big party modes are a bust. River Survival has 4 players all working together to paddle in synchronisation down a river while catching balloons that trigger 4 player co-op games. But sadly these co-op games lack any real challenge since there’s no real foe to fight against in any of them, and their limited quantity makes the whole experience feel repetitive very quickly. The other major mode is “Sound Stage” which is a gauntlet of rhythm themed minigames, which all essentially boil down to: Swing the Joy-con at the beat of the music. There’s just simply not enough depth to this mode that it becomes nothing more than a side distraction.

The final major mode is Challenge Road, which is unlocked once all the minigames have been played at least once, this mode sets you on a Classic Mario style world map with each mini-game acting as a different level, some mini-games require certain criteria to complete, and there’s a harder “Master Mode” to unlock with each game once you’ve beaten the mode through if you’re hungry for more minigames.

Speaking of the mini-games, it is possible to play them online in what’s known as a Mariothon where you compete in a set of five time or score based mini-games. While the mode was available offline to try out, the servers won’t be available till launch day. Once we’ve gotten a good assessment of that mode we’ll drop a pinned comment about our impressions about this feature.

Overall “Super Mario Party” despite having a few issues, is still one of the better games in the series thank to a return of game modes with a better emphasis on strategic play. It may not be the “Definitive Mario Party Experience” that fans were hoping for, but it’s good to see that the series is now back on the right track. If you have the means to: get some friends together and give it a go. It’s certainly capable of creating a lively game night.

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