It's one step forwards and two steps back as Mario Party 10 offers three game modes, two of which are utter garbage. If you play Mario Party 10 just for its newest offering, Bowser Party, there is a good time to be had. However, if you devel into the core game mode, Mario Party, or were suckered into playing the Amiibo Party mode, you're going to have a bad time.
+Bowser Party is competitive and frustrating in the way the old games were.
+Bowser Party is ridiculous, over-the-top fun that will have you yelling at friends and the game itself.
-Mario Party is the same co-op, everyone moves together, gameplay that 9 offered.
-Amiibo Party is a prime example of how gimmicky and useless Amiibos can be.
Well, spoiler alert for this review I guess: It's going to be one of those unfortunate middling ones. Mario Party 10 does about 50% of its game right, but continues to ignore the core features that made players like myself fans of the franchise in the first place. Whoever told Nintendo that Mario Party should become a co-op game clearly doesn't understand why we were all playing it in the first place.
My fondest memories of Mario Party were in the epic battles that my friends and I had, fighting against each other as though our very lives depended on it, showing our individual superiorities in various mini games while striving to be the best over all.
These days everyone moves together, encouraging an idea that you're all playing together, and worse than that the mini-games seem far more luck-based than skill-centric like they used to be.
Having said all that, let me take some time out here to talk about the best new feature to the Mario Party franchise since its inception: Bowser's Party.
In Mario Party 10 you have the ability to play with five players instead of the standard four. The fifth player assumes the role of Bowser, fighting against all other players to assert his dominance on the Mushroom Kingdom via a series of massive dice rolls and diabolical 4v1 mini-games.
It's the most competitive the game has been in years, though it does feel like it slants pretty heavily in Bowser's favor. In a single evening, out of 10 games, Bowser only lost 2 rounds (and those were pretty damn close too).
Playing the role of Bowser, you have the ability to take the players down both in the mini-games and on the board itself. In example, there's sections of the board in which the players will be forced to stop their advancement while Bowser is provided a chance to graffiti on the board in the hopes of leading the players in the wrong direction. On an underwater board you have the option of trying to lead the team into traps as portions of the map are covered in ink, and the team has to guess which way to go. Later, in Bowser's castle, you can set traps on the board (pillars of fire) that the players have to guess the location of (and avoid via dice rolls) to ensure they don't lose half of their hearts (Bowser Party features health-bars rather than Stars for currency).
Seriously, if you don't remember how angry I was with Mario Party 9 you can check out the original review here. I have been pretty damned upset about the decline of the franchise over the last couple of iterations. I'm a mutant that takes Mario Party pretty damn seriously, and the fact is that the game hasn't taken itself nearly as seriously as I would have liked for some time... Even though Bowser Party is heavily skewed in favour of Bowser, it's at least got that competitive edge back that the franchise has been missing.
So we've talked plenty about what I DO like in Mario Party 10, let's shift gears now and talk about the rest of the game, which unfortunately continues the downward trend of the last couple of Mario Party titles.
The core, or standard game play-type, Mario Party, is exactly as you remember it from Mario Party 9. There are a series of themed boards, each with different objectives and currencies, which are played through dice rolls and a singular cart that moves all characters together as a group.
This is where Mario Party loses me.
I don't hate co-op board-gaming; in fact, there are some classic board games that I love that are co-op centric. However, the happy-happy joy-joy nature of videogames has NEVER been what I load up Mario Party for. The fact that you cannot play as individuals in Mario Party any more simply drives me up the wall.
It's not just that though, as mentioned the mini-games continuously skew towards luck in stead of skill as well. Most of the games are betting games in Mario Party 10, or slot machine-style analogs. If you're not risking your life against Bowser in his party mode, then you're basically just playing scratch cards with your friends and seeing who wins the "free ticket" at the end of the night (which, in modern Mario Party fashion, can be dramatically changed by the inherent rubber-banding of the game in its last moments).
Of course, it wouldn't be a Wii U title (in 2015) without some kind of Amiibo functionality as well. You might already be aware of this, but if not, heavy warning to those Amiibo owners out there that are picking up Mario Party 10 and want to try out its functionality: YOU CAN ONLY STORE GAME DATA FOR ONE GAME.
I'm sure its already happened to someone, but if it hasn't yet it will soon. All of your data will be wiped, all those hours of training in Smash Bros., if you are silly enough to add your Amiibo into the Mario Party 10 game for the purpose of letting your character play a board game in your stead.
Honestly though, if you're heading into Mario Party 10 with advanced knowledge of exactly what an Amiibo does in-game then you don't need to worry.
The Amiibo-based gameplay is utter garbage. You need to place your character down on the pad to begin a roll, then remove it to launch the die. This happens for each character for each roll... then the character itself plays out the rest of the match. It's the ultimate in "hey look, you're playing too!" and wears thin so fast you wouldn't even believe. I had rolled for my Toad Amiibo about twice before I wanted to throw the console out of the window.
The rewards for trudging onwards are minimal as well, considering there doesn't seem to be any advantage to playing multiple rounds of Mario Party 10 with an Amiibo. Smash Bros. let you train up your toy like a damned Pokemon, leveling it up, teaching it new abilities, and encouraging its battle behaviour though influence in-game. Mario Party 10's Amiibo mode is more like going to mini-golf and constantly being reminded to "watch this shot!" You get none of the fun of playing yourself, but someone else is constantly reminding you how much fun they are having... not letting you go do something else that might take you out of the mindset of "kill me now."
The final verdict? Well, like I said during the spoiler-ridden introduction: Mario Party 10 is a middling example of a video game. I have no idea who the primary game mode (Mario Party) is for anymore; it certainly isn't me. The Amiibo mode is just this side of useless; in fact it's worse than that because I actively hate playing it. Even having said all of that, though, Bowser Party is the most fun I've had at a game-night in a long while.
I'm eagerly awaiting another night where my friends are free to come over and get rowdy while Bowser tromps all over a Mario Party board and makes everyone loathe the Koopa King entirely.
If you are going to get Mario Party 10 - and for Bowser Party I would actually recommend it - just keep in mind that the game's other features (Amiibo Party and Mario Party) are pretty much as garbage as you would have imagined (if you played Mario Party 9, or were a pessimist who thought Amiibos were a gimmicky cash-grab).