The Mario Party series of games—originally developed by Hudson Soft but now developed by Nd Cube—has been around since its inception in 1998 on the Nintendo 64. Every Nintendo console since then has received one or more Mario Party games. Some of you may remember that we reviewed Mario Party 9 for the Wii a while back. The newest addition to the series is called, in a surprise twist, Mario Party 10. Surprise twist because it’s actually the fourteenth iteration in the game series. I grab my dice in hand and head down to the game boards to see just how much fun the new game is.

Mario Party 10 features three main modes of play, and I’ll cover them each separately, because they’re actually all that different in the way that you experience the board. The main mode of play is Mario Party mode, which plays in a similar vein to prior entry, Mario Party 9. For those who don’t know, you and up to three other friends travel across the game board together in a single vehicle. The number of spaces you move is determined by the throw of the die, and whichever space you land on determines what happens. Board effects—for good or for ill—happen only to the person driving (“Captain”). For example, if you car heads through a space to collect 5 mini stars, only the captain earns them. The player who collects the most mini-stars by the end of the board is declared the winner. Mini stars can be won in various ways: finding them lying on the board, awarded through various minigames, or occasionally, stealing them from opponents. The gamepad is not used for actual play during Mario Party mode. Instead, the Gamepad shows Bowser, trapped behind bars that are numbered 1 to 6. For each time the die rolls lands on one of the numbers, one of the bars disappears. Subsequent plays of those numbers have no further effect on Bowser. Once Bowser is released, the board hots up and Bowser starts causing chaos, making it more difficult to win.

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The second mode of play is Amiibo mode, for which you need to have an amiibo to play. Any one of the Mario franchise amiibos will do (i.e. Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Bowser, DK, Rosalina, Wario, and Waluigi). Upon tapping these amiibos to the Wii U gamepad, a custom board appears, and the look of the board changes depending on which and how many amiibos are tapped. This mode plays more like the traditional Mario Party modes where each player plays for themselves, earning coins to exchange for stars. The game has a set number of rounds, and by the end of it, the person with the most stars wins.

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The final mode is Bowser Party, which supports up to five players. It plays a little like Mario Party mode, except that the fifth player uses the Gamepad to play as Bowser, chasing the remaining four players around the board while trying to prevent them from getting the star at the end of the course. The game makes creative use of the Gamepad during the Bowser-vs-players minigames. For example, one of the games has the players running around a platform, while Bowser stands above them trying to hammer them. The Gamepad shows Bowser’s first person point of view, with the motion sensitivity of the Gamepad being used to change your view of the screen. Obviously, the other players can’t see what schemes and machinations you have planned, and must adjust their play accordingly.

Additionally, there is an amiibo scratchcard game that uses any amiibo you have lying around to earn prizes, and there is also the Toad’s House, which contains the shop, Miiverse settings, and a photobooth that you can decorate and pose your characters in before taking photos to upload to Miiverse. As of writing this review, the Miiverse community for Mario Party 10 was not active yet, so I couldn’t test Miiverse integration, except that I note that no Miiverse stamps seem to be available. Lastly, there are a few bonus games that you can play, such as badminton, Jewel Crusher, and an 8-player knockout tournament.

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I played Mario Party 10 extensively with my kids, partly because that’s how its meant to be played,and partly because they have a complete blast with the game. I personally had a great time playing Bowser Party mode, while my kids took equal pleasure in both Mario Party mode and Amiibo mode. As usual, all the minigames have a practise mode so you can get the hang of the idea before playing for stars, and this has always been a positive thing because some of the minigames can be obscure. Speaking of minigames, the selection and range of the games seems about on par with prior games in the series. The Bowser minigames are unique to the console, however, and are a surprisingly fun variation on the standard ones, especially if you enjoy being an oversized bully. It’s gloriously magnificent.

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As usual, at the end of each play session you earn points, which you can spend in Toad’s house. In this case, you can spend the points on music, vehicles, and backgrounds, characters, and poses for the photo mode. I’m honestly not sure what the point or attraction is of photo mode, but it’s there nonetheless. Aside from uploading the pics to Miiverse and making snarky comments, I don’t think I quite understand it.

Obviously, because it’s a party game, it’s terrible as a single player experience. Yes, you can muck about with the minigames, or play some of the Bonus games (of which there aren’t many), but grinding for points to buy the vehicles isn’t as much fun as earning them during play with other actual friends in the room. What would have been wonderful is a mode allowing you play online with others via the Nintendo Network a la Mario Kart 8. That’s the kind of thing that would lend longevity to a title that desperately calls for human interaction. It’s just not as much fun lording your victory over AI players, especially in a game that seems to encourage sore winners.

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Mario Party 10 is a brilliant and, in places, unique version of the game. Many older fans of the game hated the “collect a star in a reasonably priced car” alteration that was made in Mario Party 9, but in my opinion, it helps the game move along at a decent pace, ensuring that no game session lasts longer than about 40 minutes or so. For those players who hate the idea of travelling together, you’ll love the Amiibo mode, which is a return of the old mode of play, provided you have the requisite amiibos, of course. And there’s something to recommend about both styles of play. But the true star mode here is Bowser Party. If you have four friends willing to play against you, it is the most wonderful fun, especially since Bowser seems unfairly overpowered in comparison. Canny players will soon figure out your strategy, but if you have younger players, it’s probably best to let them be Bowser, if only to give them a false sense of superiority.

Final Score: 8 Party Time Prawns out of 10

Detailed Information:
Developer: Nd Cube
Publisher: Nintendo
Distributor: Nintendo South Africa
Platform: Nintendo Wii U
RRP: TBA
Release Date: 20 March 2015
Age Rating: 7+
Website: http://www.nintendo.co.za/Games/Wii-U/Mario-Party-10-892779.html