As someone who hasn’t been to any of his parties yet, I was intimidated popping Mario Party: Star Rush into my 3DS. I was worried that there may be some kind of through line, or light hearted story that I had missed. The good news is that it’s an arcade title with no lore to worry about, so numpties like me don’t have to feel bad about having missed the boat.
As the title suggests, the game is focussed around multiplayer. To its credit, you can play some modes with four 3DSs and one game cartridge; your friends simply download a small app from the Nintendo store. Other modes require multiple copies, but unfortunately it’s all local, meaning you must be in the room with the other players. With no online multiplayer and one 3DS, I was unable to test this function out, but it’s worth being aware of.
The modes in Mario Party: Star Rush involve a lot of dice rolling, and are easily one of the most annoying elements. Every time I hit a bad streak where I rolled zeros and ones and the AI players got fives and sixes it seemed like the game was cheating me. That was probably a touch of paranoia, but it wouldn’t seem as cheap if other real players were hitting great streaks regularly.
Added to this is the occasional Bowser challenge, where Mario’s nemesis randomly moves around a grid hitting designated areas. A couple of times he seemed to keep following me until I lost. Not being in first place, it appeared to be either be a bug, or unfortunate random chance. In the latter case, its frustrating having your success or failure being tied to luck.
The mode that you will likely spend your first few hours playing, Titled Toadstool, is one of the more complicated board games. You and three other players roll dice and move around the board. You collect items, coins, and allies, and engage in mini games when you land on the same space as an opponent. Rounds end when players land on a boss square. Once each boss has been beaten, coins are converted into stars and added to those that you’ve already earned throughout the match.
From there the modes tend to get simpler. For example, Balloon Bash has a determined number of dice rolls where you need to collect what you can in that time. Then there are modes that don’t involve mini games, like Mario Shuffle; a terrible mode where you roll dice to move your three characters along a lane, knocking your opponent back by landing on them, or stunning them by travelling over them. It’s a boring game of chance. Then there is Rhythm Recital, which is a rhythm game with no variety; you hit the touchpad at the right times to classic Mario tunes. Getting it perfect is hard and boring, which isn’t a great combination.
But the stars of Mario Party: Star Rush are the mini games dotted throughout. From an associated menu, you can play through any mini game that you’ve encountered. While the freedom of choice is great, you’ll be forced to play other modes to unlock new content, as the mini games barely contribute to your progression.
The mini games are quite varied, from Mario-themed versions of Snake and Pacman, to more traditional platforming and memorisation ones, as well as boss fights. These present some great variety, and most them are enjoyable.
Mario Party: Star Rush is a tight collection of mini games which are fun even in single player. It’s just too bad that the main modes which encapsulate them aren’t entertaining at all. If you can overlook the grind, then it’s worth playing for the mini games. If you can’t, I’d look for a party elsewhere.
Blair received a physical copy of Mario Party: Star Rush from Nintendo Australia for review.