TUCSON, Ariz. — If "Animal Crossing: New Horizons" was the perfect pandemic game, "Mario Party Superstars" is just right for the vaccinated era.
The collection of minigames is meant to be played in person in big groups. Although online play is available, the game truly thrives in group settings.
Contrarily, it's just as dull and unsatisfying to play a solo game of "Mario Party Superstars" as it is to watch someone else grind it out in "Animal Crossing."
Leaning heavily into the nostalgia factor, the dev team unearthed several classic diversions to fill out the 100-minigame slate. Five boards from the 1998 Nintendo 64 version make their grand return. Just about everything you do helps you rack up coins to acquire stars in the mainline Mario Party mode.
Each game uses one or two buttons and works just as well on an attached Joy-Con as it does on a shell or Nintendo Switch Pro controller.
While many games are based on luck, and just about all of them have an element of rubber band A.I. geared to tighten the gap between winners and losers, all of the rigged aspects of the game are in the name of keeping things fun, interesting and competitive for players of all ages and skill levels. As a consequence, skilled players are punished for their success, making it easy to be frustrated with the hypercompetitive set.
Just as with "Animal Crossing: New Horizons," the online suite has been decisively expanded from what was available in the past. Offerings deep and involved, and attached to every mode. You can fill out a profile card with your favorite games, boards and modes, and online matchmaking — though rickety in the initial release version of "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" — is serviceable and works for those who don't have a crowded living room of players.
Even though friendly competition is the name of the game, free play mode allows for practice or standard time-killing. There is plenty to see and do, and nearly every game bursts with power-ups and personality of the Mario squad of heroes, villains and Wario-style rascals.
"Mario Party" games are either love 'em or hate 'em affairs of shallow, thin games built more for accessibility than involvement. "Superstars" is by far the most robust iteration the franchise has ever seen, but there is still little here to satisfy the urges of hardcore players. This one is built squarely for families and drinking games. The amount of fun you can have corresponds directly with what you and your group bring to the affair.
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