Games: Super Mario Party combines best elements of previous titles with new modes and Switch gimmickry
Super Mario Party (Switch)
TWENTY years on from Mario's first party on the N64, the world's longest-running mini-game series returns with its 11th console effort. Like most parties, the series stagnated the longer it went on and, for many, reached peak party with MP2 back in 1999.
The latest board game take on Mario's adventures promises a complete refresh for Nintendo's party animals, combining the best elements of previous titles with new modes and Switch gimmickry.
With a typically threadbare story mode, the main event here is once again four-player multiplayer, where the Mushroom Kingdom's finest take turns rolling a virtual dice, carousing a games board peppered with special moves and mini-games. Designed to accommodate a quartet of gamers, two share a JoyCon, each half of which turns out to have its own motion control and rumble functions. It's a fiddly solution best suited to petite pinkies but allows for four-player action without the need for extra controllers.
Tweaking the formula, players can now split up and follow their own paths through each board while character-specific dice offer various levels of gamble (Daisy can only roll respectable threes and fours, for example, while go-for-broke Wario will score either a six or cost you coins). New modes include Sound Stage's quick-fire rhythm action, such as whacking baseballs in time to classic Mario tunes, and River Survival, which emphasises teamwork as you swap the boards for white water rapids.
While there are only four boards on offer (the most miserly selection in the series' history), they feature over 80 new mini-games, with a nary a stinker in sight.
Highlights include Slapparazi, where players smack each other out of the way to steal a camera's limelight, Off the Chain, where one player rides a Chomp through an arena, slamming their steel steed into opponents, and Sizzling Stakes, where players flip cubes of meat around a frying pan.
There's still the glacial tedium of waiting for your opponents to take their turn, meaning three quarters of your time is spent ogling others, while the online offering is half-baked, with only 10 mini-games available on a rotating basis. Best suited to a well-attended couch, the emphasis here is firmly on local multiplayer, meaning sociopaths should look elsewhere for their fix.
If you can rustle up an extra six hands' worth of human, though, there's nothing to touch Mario Party's cutthroat carnival. With tonnes of content across the board(s) and dripping in Nintendo charm, Super Mario Party is perfect Christmas family fodder for entertaining the turkey-stuffed masses. Party on, Mario.