Nintendo Switch is the ultimate platform for party-based games. The potential of a Nintendo Switch with Mario Party is limitless, so there was a sense of excitement surrounding this news of the initial Super Mario Party announcement. The game also looked great offering unique and creative ways to match up with friends in a party of four players. Now that Super Mario Party is out, does it live up to its potential?
Super Mario Party ditches the pro controller in favor of single JoyCon controls. It works because the mini-games are all relatively simple, tailored for just a couple of button presses or motion controls. Each JoyCon works as a full controller allowing a particular Switch user to play together with a friend. If you want to get a party of four together, there is an expensive overhead cost involved with the need for another pair of JoyCon controllers. It is something that is hard to digest at first because pro controller also has all the necessary hardware support. After playing almost every mini-game, I find it difficult to see how a pro controller could have worked here.
Super Mario Party has received criticism for lacking content at its launch, but in my opinion, the ‘party’ aspect of the game executes rather brilliantly. There is a total of 80 mini-games which maintain an infinite amount of replay value with friends. Most of them aim at kids and getting the best experience out with their simplified controls. My favorite is typically one that involves numbers or quiz mini-games. There are in fact a couple of them e.g. one where you strike blocks to obtain the biggest sum and then destroy the opponent’s castle using it. Another mini-game expects you to count the number of toads. Some variations to it look for you to count specific objects divided by properties like color or type.
Super Mario Party offers 3 difficulty levels from the beginning. They are Normal, Hard and Very Hard. In my opinion, they are simply labeled wrong, perhaps to make normal seem less embarrassing; because in reality, this mode plays like easy difficulty. The hard difficulty is also easy enough that you won’t have issues in the mini-games. It is the very hard mode that will offer some decent challenge if you are up for it. Of course, nothing can match playing against other veteran players, so there’s that as well.
Once you pick your character and difficulty mode, it is time to jump into the game by either picking from a party board, simply playing the mini-games, going through a partner party board as a team, or enjoying the extra content like Sound Stage and River Survival. If you invite another user with Nintendo Switch, Toad’s Rec Room provides one of the most innovative ways to play mini-games through the screens on two different Nintendo Switch hardware. The technology used here might need some time to mature fully, but the demonstration showcased in the mini-games are mind-blowing. These brief snippets of mini-games are actually quite fun in a group.
The main story mode is the party board where the game offers four worlds for you to explore. There are 20 different characters available with some locked in the start, each offering their own individual dice. You can pick from a normal dice roll or a unique character based dice roll which changes the sides of the dice completely. This is a typical risk vs. reward scenario since special dice roll can offer a bigger number but might incur a penalty as well. The choice of picking the best dice matters a lot in the later stages of the game, especially if you are trailing behind others.
The primary goal in each party board is to get as many stars as possible and win by becoming the leading player. Coins are also given as a currency for various actions performed with the dice roll, but they don’t help in getting a higher rank. If you focus on completely finishing all the boards, it is possible to quickly end the main campaign in a short time. There are many mini-games available in the start but a little under half are hidden in the beginning. Some of them stay locked until you randomly play them after each dice roll in the party board mode. Once unlocked, they become available to play along with other mini-games.
I am not the biggest fan of motion controls, but they work just well enough that it never felt like a chore to use them. A recent example of terrible motion controls execution is Go Vacation, which used to feel unresponsive. I find it hard to go back to it now after experiencing the smoothness of the Super Mario Party controls. The mini-games have a clever use for not just the motion controls but also the HD rumble. You will mainly use it to look for hidden objects by deciding the vibration pattern of the controllers. It is an impressive accomplishment that never feels like a trick here.
The replay value offered here is immense and as someone who played this game for hours on end with kids, it is easily the most fun I had with a party based game. What I liked about it was that even if someone is not really a dedicated player, the simple controls and easy tutorial that explains the mini-games at the beginning is more than enough to allow them to play it. However, the need to buy another JoyCon pair is something that is hard to ignore because the only way you will get the full experience out of Mario Party is if you engage in it with four human players. The AI is fine, but it just doesn’t give the same feeling as another human partner.
For a game which predominantly focuses on its multiplayer friendly design, Super Mario Party begins to show its flaws once you try the online multiplayer. There is a restriction on the mini-games in the online mode, and out of the 80 of them, only a select amount is playable online. The baffling thing is that you can’t even pick a specific mini-game and have to settle on a random choice for them. This is a rather ridiculous limitation and a crushing disappointment coming after the launch of Nintendo Switch Online. If one of the major first-party games from Nintendo doesn’t even bother to implement proper online support, then why should fans pay for yearly membership? It is my hope that a future update can at least rectify this issue to some extent because the online mode is barely worth it in its current state.
Overall, Super Mario Party has ended up being a guilty pressure for me. It is utterly gorgeous with dynamic colors, pleasing visuals, humorous and simple mini-games with easy to understand controls. Almost everyone can enjoy Super Mario Party since it is a fun game irrespective of their age or experience in gaming.
Super Mario Party Review (Switch)
Game Reviewed on: Switch
Game description: Super Mario Party is a party video game published by Nintendo. It is the eleventh main instalment in the Mario Party series and was released on 5 October 2018 for Nintendo Switch.
Final Score - 8/10
Super Mario Party is one of the best entries for the series in a decade. It is incredibly fun for both kids and adults alike, but the online multiplayer implementation is rather disappointing making it more suited for local multiplayer.