There’s more than one way to party.
I’ve talked about Mario Party: Star Rush’s main mode Toad Scramble in earlier previews, and though it’s a fun mode I came out of it with some reservations about it. Thankfully, it’s not the only way to play Star Rush, and these modes twist the game in some neat ways.
The most well-known mode besides Toad Scramble is Coinathlon, which was shown in the last Nintendo Direct. Where Toad Scramble more depends on the roll of the dice, Coinathlon is a test of skill. The character selected automatically moves around the board using coins earned in a constant stream of minigames. The objective is to complete a set of laps before the other competitors, which can be made easier by performing well in the minigames and earning items. Among the items I earned during the game were a Blooper which works as it does in Mario Kart and Kamek which freezes the opponents in their tracks. Once activated by your rival, you will have to tap your way freedom if you want to carry on.
The minigames can either be twitch action based or more cerebral, but they’re all skill based. An example of an action title is Leafboard Hoard, which involves racing down a slope on a leaf, jumping chasms, and dodging spikes and Wigglers, all while grabbing coins. The opponent’s usually close to you in the coin race, which adds to the tension. Another minigame, House of Boos, requires expert navigation to grab coins out of a small maze while dodging Boos. It’s a time based challenge and touching a Boo costs a lot of time, so it comes down to a conflict between moving quickly and knowing when to slow down to dodge the Boo.
Although Coinathlon is a new way of partying, fans of traditional Mario Party might be more inclined to try Balloon Bash. This Bash takes place on a small board that can last between 10 – 30 turns, in which players try to catch Coin Balloons around the map and win minigames. Unlike Coinathlon, this time the coins can be cashed in at a dedicated item shop which stocks items like Double Dice. Balloon Bash also takes some cues from Toad Scramble, in that a quick minigame ensues if two characters end up on the same space. These tiebreaker games tend to focus more on timing and luck as they involve drawing cards or stopping timers.
Another nod to classic Mario Party in Balloon Bash is that the field is populated by Star Balloons, which require a certain number of coins to make use of. But even this can be left up to luck, as the Star Balloons aren’t always floating solo – sometimes they come in packs of two or three. This adds a bit of strategy to the game, as you have to decide whether to let the opponent have a single-star balloon because it may take them away from a larger set. The item shop even carries an item that doubles up the Stars, but it is a bit pricey. The Balloon Bash is a game of close encounters of strategy which is quite fun, but the board layouts are restrictive and there’s not many of them, which limits item usage and makes exploring almost too simple.
Balloon Bash keeps the free-for-all minigames similar to the other modes, but the occasional boss battle minigames have been changed dramatically. They’re a lot shorter, and have a focus on co-operation as players form uneasy truces to eliminate the boss. One battle in particular, Petey Piranha’s Shell Smackdown, would take an inordinately long time solo. Since the battles are co-operative, I would run to grab additional shells to damage Petey while my partner kept up the offensive pressure, then I would jump in while he went to reload. There’s been co-operative minigames in Mario Party since the start, but there’s something about these boss fights that make them feel unique and fun.
There’s a few standout free-for-all minigames available as well. One of my personal favorites is Splat-a-Stamp, in which the touchscreen is used to fire paintballs at a large stamp. The objective is simple: get as much of the character’s color on that stamp as possible. It’s frantic and really fun to ruin someone’s effort with a well-placed splat. In Haunted Hallways, it’s a race to reach a hidden goal on a map filled with Boos and all sorts of doors in the way. The key to survival is remembering where you’ve gone under time pressure. Finally, there’s Top It Off, a game of quick reactions where a card is split and the 3DS’s face buttons are used to choose the correct half to complete the card.
The other two modes in the game are fun for a bit, but limited. In Mario Shuffle, the goal is to move three Mario figures to the end of a board. Each turn starts with a roll of two dice, which can be used to bring the figurines forward in whatever combination you want. There’s other figurines on the board that can knock you back – possibly all the way to the start if they land on your space – and the spaces can cause movement forward or backward. It’s a fun novelty, but there’s only one board so it’s not likely to be replayed. The final option is called Rhythm Recital, and as the name suggests it’s a quick rhythm game that uses classic Mario series music. After choosing an instrument, the goal is to keep the rhythm by tapping A or the touchscreen. There’s no difficulty settings, and I found it quite easy. Although the tune selection is good: Mario 64’s Slide music, the main theme of Super Mario 3D Land and even Gusty Garden Galaxy can be played. It’s just that once you do it, there’s not a lot of challenge involved in replaying.
Mario Party: Star Rush's other modes showcase some neat ideas. I enjoy what Coinathlon and Balloon Bash bring to the table, but some of the other modes – Rhythm Recital especially – could have used some additional time in the oven. That being said, I am enjoying the package as a whole. Toad Scramble is still a ton of fun, and I have the feeling there may still be more to do. Thankfully, I should be able to answer that question in short order. Mario Party: Star Rush launches on October 7 in Europe, so expect more information very soon.