Mario Party is, inevitably, back with a new iteration. The last Mario Party game we reviewed, Mario Party 10 was fairly fun, and shook matters up a bit with the 1-vs-4 minigames. Now we have Mario Party: Star Rush, a game that shakes up the Mario Party formula even more. Let’s dive right into this one, shell (snrk!) we?
There are two big changes to Mario Party: Star Rush from prior entries in the series. The first is that there’s no turn taking this time around. Everyone goes at the same time and acts independently. This is the one big advantage to everyone using their own console. The second change is that Nintendo has released a guest version of the game that can only be used to connect to a full version. This means that in any given group of people playing Mario Party: Star Rush, only one person needs to have a full copy, and you don’t have to wait for download play to complete every time, especially if you’re playing with a full compliment of players (although, that being said, download play is still available for those people who cannot connect their 3DS to the store). Mario Party: Star Rush supports up to four plays simultaneously (depending on the mode), and any non-human spaces are filled by CPU players.
Naturally, all these changes mean that there must be a bunch of new modes to play, and you’d be quite correct. Ten coins to you. Feel free to exchange them for a star later on in the review. Most of the game modes have multiple boards that you unlock through play. There are also a number of player characters to unlock in the same way.
The first new mode is called Toad Scramble, and it’s the only mode where you don’t get a choice in who to play as. You’re all playing as Toads, like it or not. The aim of the mode is to head for the bosses in each map field, making your way along as you please. Along the way, the rest of the Mario cast will appear, and moving your Toad over their squares will net them as allies. They not only have their own abilities and dice blocks, but all the dice rolls of your collected allies are added together, allowing you to move around the field more freely. Each time one Toad team hits the boss, a Boss Minigame starts, and the more allies you have the better you tend to do. The one with the most stars at the end wins, which is the usual state of affairs with Mario Party games.
The next one is called Coinathlon, which is basically a coin race around a board. Netting coins moves you spaces. This mode has the least number of minigames, but was my firm favourite, since it was fast, furious, and relied more on skill than on the luck of the dice. If you don’t have much time to play but want a quick round, this is the one for you.
Next up, we have Balloon Bash, which takes place on a more traditional board, where you’re after coins to exchange for stars. The game can be over in as little as ten rounds (which will take around 15 minutes to play), or as much as 30 (which can take almost an hour). Spaces on the board can be occupied by coin balloons or star balloons which move around as they’re collected. Coin balloons start off minigames, whereas collecting star balloons automatically exchanges coins for stars. Fans of the original Mario Party style games will enjoy this mode, and it’s a lot of fun against other human players. This mode also provides the largest variety of minigames, so if this what you want, this is the mode for you.
Following this we have the weirdest game mode: Rhythm Recital. No coins, no stars, just play along to the music in a standard rhythm-game style, and the player with the most number of perfectly-played notes wins. The music is a collection of tunes from games in the Mario series, from Mario 64 to Mario Galaxy to the original Super Mario Bros. While the music is fun to listen to, I have my serious doubts about this mode. It lacks a lot of the competitiveness of the other modes and your part in the music is more of an odd, additional instrument part instead of one of the core instruments. Approach with caution, since each playthrough of the music doesn’t even count heavily toward unlocking the next mode or character.
Next up is Mario Shuffle, which has more to do with actual shuffling along than with the dance step. This mode sees you playing in two teams of three characters trying to get all their characters to the other team’s side, using two dice rolls each turn. You decide which two of the three characters to move with each dice, and doubles means you get to move all three characters. The board has a number of spaces on it that moves pieces forward or backward, but these are easy to strategize around. Once again, it’s a bit of a strange mode, because it’s a straight line affair with little variation. Approach this one, too, with some caution, because it has the potential to get boring quickly.
And then there’s Boo’s Block Party (which will take a good few hours and many multiples of playthroughs in other modes to unlock due to the linear nature of the unlocking mechanism). This mode, which makes for even quicker play than Coinathlon mode, has you playing a match-3 game against one other player, Puyo-Puyo style. The blocks you’re matching are numbered 1 through 4, and you simply rotate a single block at a time to make the numbers match. Fill up your opponent’s board with pieces before yours fills up and you win. This one is another fun mode that’s good against a single other player.
The final mode is Challenge Tower, which is a single-player logic game up a tower of blocks. No dice rolls, just logic and speed and don’t get caught by the Amps on your way to the top of the tower. This mode was an interesting change from the others, but still a surprising amount of fun to play, especially if you are a fan of tile-based logic games such as Minesweeper.
In all, it’s a strangely non-traditional collection of games, although the minigames themselves are typical of the Mario Party series. There aren’t as many minigames as in prior games, but that seems to be because the gameplay on the boards overpowers the minigames. The mingames themselves take a few seconds to load, but there is no noticeable slowdown when you add more players. Personally, I don’t enjoy minigames in isolation, but if you like, you can simply link up four Nintendo 3DS systems and charge into them. Unlocking the lot won’t take long either, although some–like Bowser-specific games–will take longer than others.
Overall, Mario Party: Star Rush is a mixed bag with some new ways to play and a noticeable departure from the way the rest of the series plays. This is a good thing to my mind, because it doesn’t feel like “just another Mario Party game”. Obviously, Mario Party games are best played with other people, and the guest copy of the game is the best way to experience this, especially if you have multiple Nintendo 3DS systems in the house, or a bunch of friends with 3DS systems. Mario Party: Star Rush is certainly better than it’s predecessor, Island Tour, and the new modes and new ways to play make this one you should be looking to acquire if you enjoy party mode games.