When any video-game franchise, mainstream or niche, breaks into the double digits, developers should recognize the unique milestone as an opportunity to revamp the series, especially if the latest entry is making its debut on the mother company’s latest home console. Sadly, Mario Party 10 suggests the series has reached a downward-trending low. There hasn’t been a memorable Mario Party installment in over a decade, and, unfortunately, the 10th mainline iteration is about on par with 2013’s underwhelming 3DS version, Mario Party: Island Tour. This is disappointing, given all of Nintendo’s flagship properties (Super Mario, Pikmin, Donkey Kong Country, Mario Kart, Super Smash Bros., Kirby, etc.) have faired remarkably well on the Wii U. While most of Mario Party 10 takes advantage of the system’s high-definition capabilities, and one mode in particular, Bowser Party, makes exemplary usage of the GamePad, what’s left is a largely unimaginative undertaking that’s not very much fun to play with even the best of friends.
Almost none of the imperfections from the Wii’s generally unimpressive Mario Party 9 have been amended. In fact, myriad design mistakes have been carelessly piled on this time around. In addition to the board movement mechanic involving all players traveling around agonizingly linear maps in unison (which takes away much of the back-stabbing strategy that made the first Mario Party games rage-fueled sleepover classics), the mini-games themselves occur far less often, and when they do, the majority of them are entirely luck-based, requiring minimal eye-hand coordination in order to outperform your opponents. There’s also the frequent presence of overlong entry/exit loading screens to deal with, which slow already plodding soirées to a bitter crawl. Conversely, the thematic game boards, on the whole, look pretty great, from the mega-colorful Mushroom Park (complete with roller coaster and Ferris wheel) to the Meringue Clouds-esque Airship Central. If only Mario Party 10’s visual enhancements had carried over to the quality of its gameplay.
Accompanying the traditional party option are two new modes, Amiibo Party and Bowser Party; the former is rather useless while the latter is perhaps the game’s sole saving grace. Voracious collectors of Nintendo’s insanely popular multipurpose interactive figurines get a chance to put them to use here, integrating, via constant GamePad scanning, compatible toys from the Smash Bros. line or the freshly introduced wave released alongside Mario Party 10. Alas, putting your Amiibo into effect results in pointless environmental changes and inconsequential bonuses on square character-themed plots, leaving much to be desired, even if the frequency of mini-games increases compared to standard partying. On the other hand, Bowser Party is the figurative diamond in Mario Party 10’s rough, allowing a fifth player the singular chance to control King Koopa himself in a hijinks-filled 1vs4 showdown. With P5 manning the GamePad as a larger-than-life Bowser, numerous obstacles and mind-trickery enter an otherwise tedious fray. Terrorizing other players as they attempt to reach the end goal by way of flame-tossing, oversized hamster wheel-spinning, and graffiti vandalizing rarely grows tiresome. Back in its N64 heyday, Mario Party made remorseless multiplayer trolling cool way before it was on trend, and Bower Party proves there’s a small amount of gas left in this nearly broken-down vehicle.
A smattering of extraneous extra features, like Badminton Bash, Jewel Drop, or the shop-style Toad’s Room, while somewhat incentivizing, don’t make up for the lack of innovatory content in Mario Party 10. Predominantly uneventful dice-rolling sessions (save for Bowser Party), uninspired Amiibo support, and an unforgivable absence of online functionality render this mostly shoddy shindig one you can comfortably skip out on.