The Mario Party series has had a bit of a checkered history. While the franchise has and will always hold a special place in many gamers’ hearts, there’s no doubt that the quality of each individual title can sway significantly. This is especially true of the handheld entries, which have leaned much more heavily on the bad side of the line. There have been a lot of reasons for this, including the difficulty of multiplayer handheld gaming, and the slow pace of the series. Mario Party: Star Rush, the latest game in the franchise and the second to hit the 3DS looks to fix some of these issues. While it succeeds in many ways, the successes come at such a great cost that this game loses almost all the joy that Mario Party once promised.
The key innovation that Mario Party: Star Rush seems to lean on is that players now all take their turn at the same time. Everyone rolls at once, and then maps out their move across the board, at least in the majority of Star Rush’s game modes. This is a definitely good change, speeding up the gameplay from its plodding turn-based pace, and making for a more frenetic experience that doesn’t have players staring at their screen for minutes at a time, waiting for something to happen.
It’s just that everything else around this central idea doesn’t work well. The main mode that Mario Party: Star Rush offers is Toad Scramble. Whether played with others or against AI bots, the game works very differently from Mario Party of the past. Instead of a board game layout, or a linear path as seen in later entries, this is more of an open map. Players move across the board depending on their roll, gathering coins, and working their way toward the boss. This is an interesting idea, offering much more freedom, but it also just feels silly at certain points.
Everything else around this central idea doesn’t work well
If I see something far away that I want, but another player is closer to it, I am almost always guaranteed to miss it, so I usually just avoid even trying. There will be more things on the board to go after, of course, including Mario characters that aren’t Toad, who is the only playable character you can choose at the start without using an amiibo, but unless it appears near me, and away from other players, I found myself often just ignoring it, or hoping to get lucky and get a good roll. Of course, players with helper characters get to roll more dice, one for each character, so if you’re stuck behind you usually trail even further as the game progresses. And yes, just to reiterate, you only play as Toads in the main game mode unless you gather new characters as you move along. Its chaotic and loses a lot of the fun rivalry aspects that Mario Party is known for.
Once a player reaches the boss, which will need to be done a few times to end the full game, the battle begins, with players who were further away having to mash A to catch up and enter the fray. One of the key issues here is that there are very few actual bosses, alternating between them seemingly at random. Ally characters also help out, giving those players an advantage once again, and creating a very chaotic environment that is full of characters running around, disrupting the action. These boss battles will very quickly become old and tired, as they are recycled again and again, even across game modes.
Yes, Toad Scramble is not the only game mode in Mario Party: Star Rush. Some fair better than this headliner, while others are worse. My favorite was actually the one that more closely mirrored the older style of play, Balloon Bash. Giving players a more set board to play on, and having different objectives spawn around it helped direct the action, and make for more strategic moves. It also had a more logical layout to the mini-games.
Oh yeah, the mini-games. You might have noticed that I hadn’t really brought them up. That’s not because they are all terrible, it’s just that they felt like they took less of a starring role in a lot of the game. They’re fine, some are good, some are skippable, and none are extremely memorable to the point of mention. There’s also very few of them when compared to past games, making repetition a problem once again. When they come up, you’ll still have a good time, but you won’t load them up and play them with your friends all that often.
There’s still more to Mario Party: Star Rush, including a couple more game modes that are slight spins on how the whole thing works. However, the core gameplay here is simply not fun at all. In my few actual multiplayer sessions, which are thankfully easy to set up, even if the other players don’t own the game, most players were ready for the game to be over before we even hit the halfway point. This is due to a lot of reasons, including the repetitive boss battles and minigames, the chaotic and random nature of a lot of the game, and the very weird ways in which you earn stars in each mode. Overall though, no one was really having all that much fun.
Mario Party: Star Rush had one good idea, but lost sight of everything else that makes the series great. Ditching turns, and having players roll and move at the same time is interesting and does fix a problem that many have had with the series. But in making this change, and reshaping so much of the game, most of the fun was lost along the way. It’s admirable that Nintendo is aware of the problems the series has had, and is trying to fix them, but there’s just nothing here to keep players interested, unless they’re dying for a new multiplayer experience on the 3DS.
Mario Party: Star Rush
- Available On: Nintendo 3DS
- Published By: Nintendo
- Developed By: Nd Cube
- Genre: Party
- US Release Date: November 4th, 2016
- Reviewed On: Nintendo 3DS
- Quote: "Mario Party: Star Rush had one good idea, but lost sight of everything else that makes the series great. Ditching turns, and having players roll and move at the same time is interesting and does fix a problem that many have had with the series. But in making this change, and reshaping so much of the game, most of the fun was lost along the way. It's admirable that Nintendo is aware of the problems the series has had, and is trying to fix them, but there's just nothing here to keep players interested, unless they're dying for a new multiplayer experience on the 3DS."
- It's still Mario Party...kind of
- Faster paced
- Often chaotic and confusing
- Repetitive and boring boss battles
- Just not fun all that often