Review: Mario Party: Star Rush (3DS)
Mario and friends have been involved in the Mario Party franchise for over 15 years. The journey has undoubtedly had its fair share of ups and downs. The most recent entries to the Mario Party series have often received criticism for leaving far too much to chance, an ‘everyone wins approach’ and tedious pacing. The main reason for this is the series primary formula; a delicate mix of minigames and innovative takes on classic boardgames, which mostly aren’t well balanced at all. The target audience is also a tough nut to crack as the minigames need to be accessible for younger audiences and not excessively dreary for adults. Fortunately, this time around it seems as though the team ND Cube have addressed a large portion of these snags in Mario Party: Star Rush on the 3DS.
Should you accept the invitation?
Firstly. My biggest gripe over the years has been the pacing. This has been changed dramatically regardless of which game mode you select. As a multiplayer-oriented game, up to four players take their turns simultaneously. This applies to both dice rolls and / or movement of the player aver the board. The boards are for the most part in a grid formation rather that a linear strips, which results in the gameplay feeling less like snakes and ladders and more like an actual modern board game presenting actual choices rather than the luck of a dice roll. This keeps all players interested in the game at all times instead of boring them to tears while waiting for other players to take their turn.
Starting off you are presented with a limitation of game modes and minigames. As you progress more content is unlocked. A lot more content. The ‘primary’ mode in Star Rush is Toad Scramble. Each player starts off as a different coloured version of the lovable (and honestly psychotic), Toad, as your vanilla character. All players are then made aware of the location of a boss character on the board/map. As a boss character is beaten another spawns in a different location potentially giving players that were further away from the previous boss a slight advantage. The advantage being that the first player to navigate themselves to the boss has some extra time to do battle and gain the upper hand. As the first player enters the boss level the remaining players tap away at the ‘a’ button to race towards the boss location on the board.
There are three different boss battles per game, each presenting their own challenge at the end of which the victor will be rewarded with Stars. At the end of all three battles the player with the most stars is the winner. In true Mario Party fashion players get rewarded with coins for different bogey prizes such as moving the least spaces throughout the game. Collect ten coins and it’s converted into a star – the player with the most stars wins. While navigating to a given boss battle there are a multitude of power-ups and obstacles to contend with. The most interesting aspect of this mode however is that each Toad can obtain an ally character(s). Each of the ally characters have abilities that are used during the game. Mario and Luigi can stomp on Goombas while Peach and Daisy can make bloom flowers as obstacles. Each of these ally characters can be found on random areas of the map and to make things just that much more frantic players can have more than just one ally. Lastly, and least surprisingly minigames are thrown into the mix allowing players to collect even more coins.
That’s the central mode in Star Rush. Others include Mario Shuffle, Coinathlon, Balloon Bash, Rhythm Recital, Challenge Tower, Boo’s Block Party and more. The overall content provides fantastic value for a handheld title. Whether it be the linear, amiibo compatible, Mario Shuffle mode or the Rhythm Recital which allows players to use different instruments to play classic Mario songs, there is certainly no lack in content.
Rush to your friends!
As with many other 3DS titles Star Rush features download play allowing players without the game to join you in three of the game modes. Coinathlon, Balloon Bash and Toad Scramble. If both players own a copy of the game the Mario Shuffle, Rhythm Recital and Boo’s Block Party will be available to play competitively. If you however don’t have someone to join you then try your hand at the Challenge Tower or simple individual minigames you’ve unlocked throughout the game.
Sadly, the minigames themselves aren’t as fun as those in previous installments and most of these simply make use of basic navigation and a single button input. While there is an abundance of minigames they won’t keep players captivated for more than a few rounds at a time. That isn’t to say that they are all terrible but overall they have been better in the past. Taking that into consideration Star Rush offers a solid staple of game modes with many of the series faults being addressed, something that hasn’t happened in ages. If you and your friends still regularly play your 3DS then Mario Party: Star Rush is a fun entry to the handhelds library, but won’t keep your interest for a prolonged period of time.