While I’ve mainly favored Mario Party’s older console offerings, this latest handheld entry intrigued me with its “always your turn” design. Come to find out, this greatly revitalizes the familiar formula. Coupled with several other advances, and more of a focus on bona fide strategy, Mario Party Star Rush has regained footing for the franchise.

Toad Scramble is the biggest mode in Star Rush, and one that took a while to win me over with its all-Toad cast. But watching the screen fill as Mushroom Kingdom allies pair with each team culminates in some crazy madness, especially during the boss encounters. I’ve also really come to appreciate the ability to brainstorm your own route across the playfields! Speaking of, Balloon Bash mode (though not as open) still has a less linear design thanks to various pathways. This helps compensate some for its smaller number of maps compared to the worlds in Toad Scramble. Bash plays closest to classic Mario Party, and really shows what a positive difference moving in tandem is. Less waiting equals more fun.

There’s other modes also, varying in strength. Coinathalon is a rapid-fire affair, with its own unique, random minigames. Unlocking free play to choose specific minigames makes it even more amusing! Mario Shuffle is straightforward, tasking you to move three characters opposite a horizontal board faster than your opponent. It’s surprisingly challenging, albeit more of a toss-up when vs. the COM. Rhythm Recital is a cute time passer, though you’ll likely only play until you’ve unlocked all the classic tunes. Boo’s Block Party is a match three3 type puzzler. A little too familiar, I didn’t find it worth the late unlock. Last is Challenge Tower for those going solo, but of course Mario Party games are best in multiplayer.

Thanks to the Party Guest Edition, it’s quite easy to enjoy Star Rush with as many as three others. This free download gives nearly complete game access so long as somebody has a full copy. It runs very smooth as well. The Mario Party games are still among the best for local multiplayer, as you laugh and talk trash with your friends while playing minigames! There are over 50; admittedly much less than its predecessors 80+. As they tend to be less based around random chance however, it’s likely a case of less being more. Divided by category, it’s a cinch to pick and play favorites. The minigames juggle the need to be aggressive, multitask, be observant, and have good timing.

I’ve been playing Star Rush with my 3D slider cranked to max, and genuinely enjoying the colorful visuals. The Character Museum lets you view all allies (and more) that you’ve met up close. Regarding that, I wondered if amiibo compatibility would be limited to figures launching alongside the game. I’m glad to say my concerns were unfounded, as my Donkey Kong amiibo/Skylander hybrid worked fine, giving me a character stamp, and other cool little bonuses.

The more you play it, the more Star Rush really picks up steam. Its assorted changes and tweaks make for an assuredly fun time, and the Mario charm comes through once again. With high multiplayer replay value, fans will get their money’s worth here by far. Hopefully Mario Party Star Rush will prove to be an evergreen Nintendo title for the 3DS.mario-party-star-rush-banner