Pros: Bowser mode. Nice looking.
Cons: Amiibo mode. Reminder that my friends are far away.
A party game is not the same without a party. Alas, I received Mario Party 10 just before I left for my annual visit to my mom in California, which meant I couldn't invite my friends over to check it out. I played MP10 in the worst possible way; all alone in my childhood home, pretending I had someone to play with.
Developed and published by: Nintendo
Genre: Party Game
For ages: All
Release Date: March 20, 2012
The Basics: Invite Your Friends and … Oh Well, That's Out
MP10 follows the essentials of Mario Party 9. The game is a virtual board game in which all players travel together collecting stars. These can be earned by landing on the right square and won or lostmini-game competitions.
There are three main game modes in MP10. There is, of course, the standard Mario Party mode, in which up to four players travel along the board trying to earn the most stars.
Bowser Mode is Nintendo's return to asynchronous gameplay, which they seemed to have lost interest in. In the game, up to four players travel along the board together while the one holding the gamepad takes on the role of Bowser and chases them. Every time he catches up with the car there is a mini-game in which Bowser tries to take out the rest by spinning and stopping a wheel to drive opponents into an electric field or blowing into the gamepad microphone to create fireballs aimed by tilting the gamepad.
It's an enjoyable variation on the basic Mario Party formula.
The Big Disappointment: Amiibo Mode
While Bowser Mode is a good example of how to take Nintendo's unique hardware and use it in a fun way. Amiibo Mode is the opposite.
Amiibo mode is built around using your Amiibo toys to play the game. You place one on the gamepad's NFC reader to start (it will give you a board based on the character used) and when you want to roll your virtual dice you once again put your Amiibo on the gamepad.
For the most part, the gamepad is used entirely as an NFC reader; in between times it doesn't even do something simple like display how many stars each player has.
While the boards used in basic and Bowser mode are elaborate landscapes full of quirky features and cute animations, the Amiibo board is very spare. It is a simple game in which you simply travel around the board and play a mini-game at the end of each round. You do gain tokens that can be used to help you out, or to make little changes to the board, but surprisingly little effort was put into this mode.
A party game seems like the perfect opportunity for Nintendo to really do something fun with the Amiibo, and the shameful laziness of Amiibo Mode feels like a bold statement that Nintendo is has no real ambitions for the toys beyond adding little extras to games and giving you cute toys to put on your shelves. Like the Wii U itself, the Amiibo is looking to be an example of Nintendo creating interesting technology without having a real vision for it.
This is not to say you can't have fun in Amiibo Mode. But since you'll have more fun in the other modes, Amiibo Mode feels like both a failure of game design and of marketing, flubbing an excellent chance to make Amiibos more engaging and appealing.
The Verdict: Probably More Fun With Other People, but I Still Had Some Fun
Party games are strange creatures, because so much of what makes them fun has nothing to do with the game itself but with the fun of hanging out with your friends; any halfway decent game is fun with the right people. In a way, playing a party game alone is the ideal way to judge it, because you aren't distracted by giddy laughter and silly jokes. Nonetheless, party games are designed to take advantage of that giddy laughter, so it's difficult for me to compare the latest iteration with the previous one.
Still, my guess is that, had I played with friends, we would have had as much fun as we did with Mario Party 9, we would have appreciated the twist of Bowser mode, and we would have ignored Amiibo mode altogether. At least, that's what happened with me and my imaginary friends.