The Mario Party series is widely regarded as the king of party games, and is known for experimentation within the franchise, even if the results are mixed. Whether it’s motion controls or microphone integration, the Mario Party games are known for clever use of Nintendo hardware, and this game is no exception. Mario Party 10 is the first Mario Party game for the Wii U, and one of the big innovations here is the ability to play as the series’ antagonist Bowser against your friends. This is also the franchise’s debut in HD and it is easily one of the best looking games on the Wii U, but looks aren’t everything, especially if the content offered doesn’t live up to expectations.

Mario Party games all play out like a board game in which each player moves their character around a stage collecting stars and coins until the end of the board is reached or the set amount of turns is reached. This lack of variation in gameplay means that Mario Party games live and die by their mini-game collections. Mario Party 10 has great mini-games in spades, and no mini-game ever feels boring or unfair. One of the first things that Mario Party veterans will notice is how streamlined everything is in this game.

Right off the bat, each board gives you an estimate on how long it will take to complete. Aside from a couple of amiibo boards, the most you’ll be spending on a single stage is about 30 minutes. This is fine for people who want a light play session, but the lack of customization options in each stage does make the game feel a bit empty. A returning feature from Mario Party 9 is that all players traverse the board in a vehicle rather than move independently. This, in addition to coins and stars being replaced with mini-stars, streamlines the experience and shifts the focus onto the mini-games and boss battles.

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The boss battles in this game are essentially extended mini-games in which all players focus on defeating a boss, and the player who scores the most hits wins. In addition, the player with the most mini-stars at the end of each stage is the winner. This ultimately ends up feeling like a watered down version of Mario Party and the fact that there are only five boards to choose from in the base game isn’t helping either. It’s worth noting there is the occasional hiccup since some games that use motion controls can feel unresponsive. Also, there will be some repetition of mini-games across a game board, too, which wouldn’t be a big deal if the stages weren’t so small.

That’s not to say that the game lacks content however, as there are multiple game modes outside of the normal Mario Party and newly added Bowser Party modes. There are mini-game tournaments, a match four puzzle game, and a badminton game as part of the Bonus Games mode. Two new modes are introduced as well. The first is Bowser Party, in which a team of four players face off against Bowser. The Bowser player is given the gamepad to use, and its up to the team of four players to reach the end of the stage before they lose all of their hearts. The game plays out like a typical Mario Party session, but instead of playing mini-games against each other, the objective is to outrun Bowser and survive until the players reach the finish line.

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This mode can be a lot of fun, but it can quickly become unbalanced due to random chance. This is due to the Bowser mini-games being highly in Bowser’s favor and losing a teammate early on means losing a dice roll, so Bowser will have a much easier time catching up. This, in turn, means that it’ll be easier for Bowser to eliminate the remaining players. As unbalanced as that is, random chance is par for the course in a Mario Party game so this isn’t a deal breaker by any means.

The amiibo party has its own set of problems though, namely the fact that amiibo figures can only hold data for one game at a time. With amiibo Party, you unlock and play on character-themed boards by placing the corresponding amiibo on the gamepad. Unfortunately this deletes any previous data that was saved on that figure. This wouldn’t be a problem since Nintendo released new amiibo to be used with this game, but there are a number of boards that can only be unlocked with already released amiibo. This means that players that own these figures will have to delete their saved data if they want to play on these stages at all.

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The worst part about this is that there are more amiibo boards than there are regular boards, so players without amiibo figures are missing out on a whole lot of content. The rarity of figures like Rosalina only makes matters worse for those who want to experience everything this game has to offer. This feels like an oversight on Nintendo’s part and hopefully it is alleviated soon with new figures, since there really is no other solution.

Mario Party 10 ends up feeling like an effort to streamline the series in the hopes to appeal to a wider audience. While Mario Party 10 is still a great party game and fun to play with friends,the fun is short lived due to small boards and a lack of any customization. The mini-games and boss fights are a lot of fun, and some of the bonus modes are a nice distraction, but those don’t hold up the game on their own. The newly implemented Bowser and amiibo Party modes are really nothing more than a novelty, and after a couple of hours with each you’ll find it hard to return, even when playing with friends. Not to mention all of the missteps with the amiibo Party feature. Unless Nintendo plans on releasing new content for this game it’s hard to recommend it due to its short lifespan.

This review was completed with a purchased retail copy of Mario Party 10 for the Wii U.