Articles

Bad Game Design – Super Mario Party

October 16, 2019


Almost one year ago, it seemed like the Mario
Party series was making a triumphant comeback. After a couple underwhelming titles that changed
too much of the core appeal, fans were excited to see a return to form with individual movement
across boards and lots of new characters that each had their own unique dice blocks. Not to mention they advertised online play
with friends for a franchise first – it seemed like a slam dunk! But now, not only is Super Mario Party gathering
dust on the shelf for most that bought it, it seems to be forgotten by Nintendo itself. How could such an easy win fall off people’s
radars so quickly? Welcome to another episode of Bad Game Design,
let’s talk about it… I’ve put way more hours into Super Mario
Party than I expected to. I even bought an extra set of joycons to make
sure all my friends could play, and at first it really was a smash hit. The minigames are excellent, and the addition
of HD Rumble made for some really cool concepts that could only be possible on the Switch. They also added a ton of different features,
like the co-op river run, a rhythm based concert mode, and challenge road for the single player
experience. The problem is that the more you play, the
less enjoyable it becomes and the flaws start to take center stage. Obviously the main attraction is Party mode,
but right away you notice the game only has 3 maps with one more unlockable over time. If that seems low its because every other
title had at least 5, sometimes 6 from the very start and more you could unlock eventually. So immediately the replayability and variety
is greatly reduced compared to past entries, but to add insult to injury, the online play
they boasted about is only for 1 particular mode where you face off against 5 minigames
and declare a victor. No boards, no other game styles, just Mariothon. Yikes. But the biggest gripe, and probably the most
curious one is that there has not been a single peep of upcoming DLC for the game. Launching with limited options is one thing,
but unlike other less popular titles such as Mario Tennis Aces or ARMS, without any
free updates or even paid additions to make the game more interesting, it starts to make
sense how Super Mario Party could be dead in the water. Actually, I should say it did receive ONE
update back in March, but it was a simple bugfix to make sure information was showing
correctly. But I can’t pretend that lack of support
was the only thing wrong here – adding more boards or new minigames couldn’t save it
from the other issues I had while playing countless matches with friends. Having 4 maps wouldn’t be the end of the
world if they were diverse and interesting to play, but after a single match of each
you realize they don’t have a lot to offer. They’re very linear and more or less revolve
around one main path with little to no shortcuts. Whomp’s Domino Ruins is a giant loop with
tiny smaller loops along the way, there’s really only one direction to go. Kamek’s Tantalizing Tower is a straight
line with almost no deviation and the star is always at the top, so high rolls are objectively
going to be better here – very little strategy involved. Megafruit Paradise looks the coolest, but
is just 4 smaller circles with little ability to travel between them. And King Bob-Omb’s Powderkeg Mine is probably
the best one, but only because it offers a single exit on each side through the middle
– you still need to go around the big outer ring most of the time. Looking at past board layouts, two things
are clear to me – they used to be much more intricate and complex in the choices you can
make, but they also were a lot bigger! Simple and small is the name of the game here,
and it makes sense when you account for the fact that each player’s dice roll is reduced
to a max of 6 now, but this brings a whole new set of problems with it. Having dice go from 1-10 of course is fitting
when you have more ground to cover, but it also increases the likelihood of getting a
decent roll that makes you feel like you’re progressing. Now, between a 1 and 6, the chance of barely
moving along feels unavoidable. There are ways to increase this with items,
but they only bump your dice by 3 or 5 at most, so getting that lucky combo of a massive
roll and dominating the board is no longer possible here. You might say, “but hey Snoman, each character
has a special dice remember? So you can get a 10, you just need to pick
the ones who have it available to them.” The issue here is that to compensate for a
higher roll, the rest of the dice is reduced to zeros or affecting your coins which is
also a zero. So if you choose Donkey Kong for example,
while yes you could get a 10 every time, the chance of that happening is very low, and
instead you might sit on the same space for multiple turns and lose any momentum you may
have had. There are allies to increase your roll by
1 or 2, but you have to land on their spaces to receive them, otherwise you’re out of
luck. This combined with the long linear nature
of the level layouts means that a star might spawn right behind you and it’ll take 10
turns just to reach it again. It’s hard enough to land on the right islands
in the fruit stage as it is, but eventually the sand bridge goes out, so if you’re here
and the star spawns over here, you’d have to go all the way around and through 2 pipes
to reach it. And by then someone else will probably get
it and move it over there again! The result is a game mode that feels very
slow – and that’s probably the single word I would use to describe Super Mario Party
as a whole. Getting a star is grueling because you have
to sit through this lengthy cutscene, and then watch Toadette lazily drift over to her
next location. Every single time. I have no idea why they chose to do this,
but whenever you start a new game and look at the map for the first time, it automatically
makes you watch the Toad Tips of where the different routes go and how to get around. Helpful, yes, but please make it optional,
now I just avoid clicking the map button for fear of triggering it. You also can’t avoid the final 3 turns schpeel
that drags on and on, you gotta see the standings, have a guest judge say who’s gonna win,
turn all spots into plus or minus 6 coins, and watch Kamek turn bad luck spaces into
very bad luck spaces, ooo. This all would be okay if you could skip or
speed it up, but there’s no way to do that – so the longer you play, the more agonizing
this becomes. You can skip other cutscenes or choose not
to have the rules explained, so I don’t know why they made these mandatory. And that’s truly the nail in the coffin
for me – there are virtually no option menus or ways to adjust anything. The oldest entries in the series had tons
of ways to customize your experience – Mario Party 3 had handicap stars and custom number
of turns from 10 to 50, In Mario Party 2 you could turn bonus stars on or off, heck even
the first title had individual difficulties for computer characters and the ability to
skip minigame instructions or speed up text. None of those features are present here – you
have to have 2 bonus stars at the end, there’s no way to add handicaps, and you can only
play 10-20 turns, with a minimum gametime of 60 minutes, which is twice as long as the
original games. Look, I’ll be the first to admit that as
the series progressed they did add more and more mechanics that slowed down the overall
gameplay, Mario Party 7 being a particular culprit, with Bowser minigames, dueling, shy
guys all over the place, but at least they had interesting things happening! Say what you want about the desert map adding
a mirage star that disappeared when you reached it, I’ll take that any day compared to Super’s
bland designs of digging for coins, or rolling a boulder to push you back yet again, THANKS
MARIO. There’s so many questionable choices, like
lowering the coin requirement for a star from 20 to 10, but then also changing minigames
so that every player gets a handful, not just the winner. So as a result, everyone has a boatload of
money by the end of the game, and with movement being so sluggish, this really only leads
to one viable strategy – farming golden pipes. They only cost 10 coins and take you straight
to the star, without fail. Golden pipes are very OP, and super uninteresting. Now to be clear, as I said, the minigames
are phenomenal, in fact the last several times I’ve played, that’s all we did – head
over to our favorites list and have a grand ol’ time. But even with other modes thrown in as valiant
efforts, there wasn’t enough meat on the bones to hold our attention. The bait and switch of the online play was
a glaring missed opportunity, but the lack of any new content being added is the biggest
head-scratcher of all. There was enough outcry after Mario Maker
2 tried a similar tactic that they quickly changed their stance and will add true online
with friends eventually, so I’m blown away that while other games have gotten loads of
post-release attention, Super Mario Party, despite its promising elevator pitch, has
continued to get the cold shoulder. Now you could definitely make the argument
that they’re probably working on a sequel – there’s clearly no shortage of other entries
on the same console, so maybe they’ll fix these complaints in a new title. And that could very well be true, but at least
for now, a year after its initial release, we’ve heard no news on any front – sequel,
DLC, anything. So instead we’re wondering why they left
a half-baked release untouched, just to tease us enough to wet our whistle but not enough
to have a full experience. To wrap up, if they do end up creating a new
entry instead, let’s talk about what they could do to alleviate some of these issues. The obvious answer is to simply add more boards,
but I don’t even think they would need to reinvent the wheel here – what if they took
the Mario Kart approach and threw in classic maps from the original games? It would be awesome to see the same clever
layouts with an updated look and a few tweaks to make them even more enjoyable. The charm of Mario Party 2, complete with
outfits and ending cinematics fitting the theme, is yet to be matched in my opinion. I would also love to see way more options
– let me skip annoying cutscenes, customize my game settings, maybe even add specific
bonus stars instead of just turning them on or off, that could add special challenge objectives
in addition to collecting the most stars. I don’t even mind the idea of having unique
dice for each character, but they should definitely add more ways to travel farther – bigger and
more complex maps are preferred, but on top of this it just feels more enjoyable when
you’re actually making progress and have multiple ways to reach your goal. At the end of the day, the minigames are arguably
the most memorable part of Mario Party, but I think we look back at them so fondly because
the whole package complimented those heart-pounding game nights with friends. No matter where the series goes from here,
I hope they remember that all the pieces have to fall into place to stand the test of time. If you could create the perfect Mario Party
game, what elements would you include? Did I miss anything that would really complete
the experience in your eyes? Let me know in the comments below and let’s
talk about it. Thanks for watching another episode of Bad
Game Design, I’ll see you guys next time. Stay frosty my friends! If you want to help support the channel and
get a ton of awesome rewards in the process, you can chip in at patreon.com/snomangaming.

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