With an announcement imminent for their next console, many may not notice that Nintendo still have a few releases before year’s end. Shown under the radar earlier this year at E3, Mario Party: Star Rush comes to the 3DS hoping to be more of a party starter than the most recent console entry. With more of an emphasis on always being involved and never waiting for your turn many are anticipating Star Rush to alight the series to its former glory. Can the Mushroom Kingdom throw one more soirée?
The main difference between Star Rush and the previous entry (Mario Party 10) is that instead of being grouped together to scour the board, you individually move freely. Reverting to the more traditional formula, this is one that will heavily be welcomed by fans including myself. Did anyone truly enjoy travelling in the awkward locomotive? Here though the individual control helps the game flow better and the inclusion of every player rolling the dice simultaneously stops things becoming stale. The other big difference is normally in Mario Party you have one main mode that is the core focus. This time out you unlock (very early on) a number of various game modes that you spend time in equally depending on preference of course. This is done through your party level which increases the more you play.
The bulkiest of the lot is Toad Scramble where you control one of the mushroom men as you try to obtain the most stars and coins whilst recruiting allies from the Mario family. This being most similar to the original Mario Party mechanics you have the new introduction of Boss Battles on the board where each player rushes towards the space to gain an advantage in that specific battle. Board maps are different too being split into more Super Mario style levels as you progress through each one like a world. You’ll being with World 0-1 (Being the tutorial) and continue from there. Each world slightly changes up play whether increasing the overall size of the board or adding in more boss battles. This felt both refreshing and evocative as it incorporated old elements whilst ushering new ones.
Giving coins there deserved time in the star-light, Coinathon sees players hurry to collect as many coins as possible through mini-games to ultimately beat your opponents to the finish line. The experience is fun and great for dropping in for a quick session. I ended up spending a decent amount of time in Coinathon when I had a free moment whether it was waiting for a friend or on a lunch break. Saying this, the simplistic nature can make it feel quite flat if you spend longer than an hour solely in this mode; conventionally strong but nothing to shout about.
More positive news for old school fans with Balloon Bash again having similar rules to original outings. Not surprisingly the aim here is to bash as many balloons as you can to earn the most coins and therefore obtain the most stars. This mode is superb and my personal favourite for playing with friends as you get to explore all the mini-games on offer. You also get to dual one another if you both land on the same space. Literally we took this very seriously as those duelling would stand up in the centre of the room whilst the others watched. Tense. This is now worth mentioning that download play is an incredible standout addition that allows owners of 3DS to all experience a large amount of the content with only one cartridge; Very generous Nintendo.
Typically mini-games are the key compound of the Mario Party series; usually living or dying by that sword. I still have wonderful memories of playing bumper balls for hours on end back in Mario Party 2, yet this was a long time ago. 16 years in fact. So it’s about time I started created some new memories. Thankfully there is potential here with some noteworthy entries like Pinball Brawl (which really made me crave a new Mario Pinball) and Cheep Cheep Reach that have frantic fun written all over. On the whole the majority are excellent new entries taking innovation with the 3DS. One gripe that kept coming up time and time again was having to pull the stylus out during a mini-game to interact in some way. An example of this is in Coinathon items can be used to disable your opponent’s movement, so halfway through a mini-game it can be frustrating, more than I think intended.
Proceeding to Mario Shuffle, we have the most inconsistent of the lot. Mostly because of the luck factor coming into consideration so much, there is barely anything you can do decide the outcome. Consisting of two teams of three you must try to reach the opponents region completely determined by the dice. The interesting part I found were the squares that you manoeuvre over as each has a certain effect on the player sometimes helping or hindering. So plotting your movement actually requires your thought. It’s just a shame that the dice roll could ruin everything.
Now we come to Rhythm Recital which is easily the biggest throwaway of the lot. Using tap mechanics you perform with an orchestra to play music from Mario back catalogue. The premise sounds whimsical but the execution is poor due to the tap function being overused and generally just no fun to be had. I adore the music but hating hearing it being butchered when someone (normally me) misses a note. A sound player in options would have sufficed just as much and on that note (note get it?), I left the mode never to return.
Similar to Mario Party 4’s trait of giving side characters their own board, Boo’s Block Party brings head to heads more into play as this 1 vs. 1 setup sees you trying to match numbers to outwit your opponent. Ideal for two people with a spare five minutes as this fast mode really plays into the star rush feel.
Last but not least we have challenge tower that requires tactical thinking to succeed. The aim is to climb to the top of the tower first. Sounds simple right? The trick is blocks that you climb can contain hidden electric Amp’s that will knock you off the tower. Derivative of mine sweeper, I’d recommend reading the rules before jumping into this one.
Rush by name, Rush by nature. The newest Mario Party brings a superb pace to the occasional lacklustre franchise. Increasing the speed and throwing the dice concurrently may be little amendments but welcome ones at that. With seven brand new modes available you’ll be amazed how much content is packed in. Toad Rush may have been given the most coverage, yet its standouts like Balloon Bash and Coinathon that bring a great sense of new and old. New experiments like Challenge Tower, Boo’s Block Party and Mario Shuffle pay off nicely with the only exception being the throw away Rhythm Recital. Though the stylus use may become frustrating at times when you overlook this, you’ll find some of the strongest mini-games in the series to date and thanks to a generous download play everyone can join in. I think it’s time to get this party started!
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