A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mario Party: Star Rush is a party game composed of dozens of mini-games for up to four local players, each with their own 2DS or 3DS (only one game card is required). Some mini-games involve mild cartoon violence, with Mario and his friends hitting fantasy enemies such as Goombas and Koopa Troopas with mallets or cannonballs to knock them off the screen. Most modes are designed to be played with others and make for a competitive but friendly social gaming experience. Characters show slightly exaggerated emotions when they win or lose, but they don’t gloat or get too angry. Parents should note, also, that a few parts are only a tiny bit harder than some of the others in the series. When playing the computer, kids may need to practice some mini-games before they start winning.
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What's it about?
As with other games in Nintendo’s popular party series, MARIO PARTY: STAR RUSH revolves around groups of friends playing a variety of mini-games. But the modes where the mini-games appear have been changed. They're unlocked gradually through play, and the only one initially available is Toad Scramble. Players choose a Toad character and pick a game board, then start rolling dice to move around and look for bosses to battle to earn stars. You can move anywhere you like on the game board, but it helps if you detour to cross paths with AI Mario characters who can provide help in boss mini-games. Another mode unlocked later called Balloon Bash is a bit closer to a standard Mario Party game, where players control a Mario character and try to earn coins in mini-games to buy stars that appear as clusters of balloons on the board. Other modes are meant for one player. Most modes come with their own set of short mini-games, with players performing simple tasks such as blowing into the microphone to power a sailboat, tapping buttons to swing hammers at goombas, and sliding the stylus in circles on the lower screen to make their characters slide up a pole to a finish line in a race. These mini-games can be played outside the main modes in an arcade.
Is it any good?
If you enjoy playing games with friends, and most of your friends own a Nintendo 2DS/3DS, then this game is a pretty safe bet. Despite including a couple of modes intended for quick solo sessions -- ideal for, say, a quick back seat ride to the grocery store -- Mario Party: Star Rush is at its best when played with a group of one, two, or three friends. Once each player has downloaded the "Guest" version of the game from the eShop (for free), they can connect with the player who owns the game card for full access to all the multiplayer modes. While these modes still have some of the series' well-known -- and sometimes frustrating -- end game bonuses that can take the lead away from a skilled player, the sense of competition remains strong throughout. Players will be sweating with intensity one moment as they tap buttons and slide styluses trying to win games, then laughing with their friends the next.
As is usually the case with Mario Party games, though, how much fun you have is tied to whether you like the new modes and mini-games Nintendo's designers have come up with. Die-hard franchise fans will probably appreciate that this entry includes modes that allow players to roll dice and move separately from each other rather than as a group. They'll probably also like that some of the new mini-games -- like a pinball-themed game that involves paddling Koopa Troopa shells to collect coins -- are refreshingly original. But the fact that much of the content is unlocked only through play is a bit of a drag, especially if a new mode you've just played a couple of hours to unlock turns out to not be much fun. That's the case for Rhythm Recital, which has terrific music but is otherwise just kind of blah. Still, the bulk of what we eventually gain access to is well worth playing -- especially if you can round up a few 3DS-owning pals to share the fun.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about screen time. Mario Party: Star Rush is broken into several modes, some of which are only a few minutes long, others of which could take closer to 45 minutes, but how long do you like to play a video game before moving on to something else? Do you sometimes find it hard to quit playing without being told to?
Talk about social gaming. Games such as those in the Mario Party series are generally best when played with and against friends and family, but do you prefer games that encourage you to get a group of friends together? Do you prefer the freedom of being able to play whenever you like on your own?
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