Not many people will remember this, but video games arrived in a lot of American houses thanks to a console called the Magnavox Odyssey. It was hardware that, due to its rudimentary graphics, based a good part of its lineup on party games, becoming a sort of digital surrogate for board games. When the Mario Party series popped up on the N64 back in 1998, the party game concept took on a brand new meaning, becoming a collection of mini-games for a group of players. And so, after 20 years, we still find ourselves enjoying the series, this time with Super Mario Party, a game with a concept similar to that which gave life to the series itself.
Little has changed, and so you won't be surprised to hear that there's a board, you roll the dice, move your characters on the board, and wait for the round to end so you can compete in some fun mini-games where you can win coins and stars. This idea has been common in the last 15 (!) Mario Party releases, with only the mini-games and alternative modes changing things up, but the heart of the matter has always been the same. The point is that, after so many years, it's still extraordinarily fun.
Recently we had the opportunity to play Super Mario Party for ourselves, the 16th chapter in the saga coming out on Nintendo Switch on October 5. Divided into four teams, we started to roll the dice and discover what's new in the latest iteration. One addition is how each character is equipped with a special die which allows you to change the outcome in a subtle way. For example, Wario's die potentially allows for higher results, but at the same time, it has two sides that if rolled can take some of your coins. Meanwhile, Hammer Brother's die has more chances to yield lower results, but it allows you to roll a second dice which adds a maximum bonus of three boxes, and so on and so forth. This mechanic allows players to be more strategic, since the dice you choose at the start can be decisive when you're approaching a star.
As with the previous Mario Party, the aim of the game is to get the most stars, which in this case are guarded by Toadette. Whenever a player reaches her, we're given the chance to buy a star for 10 coins, and if you do purchase one then Toadette then changes her position and you have to reach her once again. For that reason, it's extremely important to have a good number of coins available, which you obtain by reaching neutral boxes. Here players are then challenged in the famous mini-games which are unleashed at the end of the last player's turn.
The mini-games, as expected, are numerous. In fact, there are 80 of them, all of which are designed for the Nintendo Switch console and its Joy-Con controllers. The secret of Super Mario Party rests in its ability to offer games that are easy to understand (via simple tutorials), and then fun to play. Everyone can learn a game in a couple of minutes, even if it's not unusual to see some players (including us) being clumsy with game mechanics that seem very simple but prove more complex than expected. In other words, Super Mario Party is, first of all, a great generator of laughter among friends, and this is certainly one of the most enjoyable aspects of the game.
Although Super Mario Party is mainly meant for group play, on a rainy night the game also offers an online component in the form of the Online Mario-thon mode whereby you can challenge other players online in five mini-games divided into a series of cups with increasing difficulty.
Finally, the Toad Room mode is where you can compete with two Nintendo Switch consoles in some fun games which use two screens simultaneously. For example, we played a small mini-game during which players had to rebuild a banana with its design divided between two screens, and you had to rotate and reconstruct the shape of the banana correctly. It's a really nice idea and proves once again that Nintendo knows how to innovate.
Although it's not particularly innovative, Super Mario Party is a really fun game, and the portable nature of the Switch could take the series to another level since you can carry the console in your backpack and challenge your friends in the most unlikely of locations. With that in mind, we can't wait to play it again on October 5.