Critical Play: Competitive Analysis

For my competitive analysis critical play, I played Nintendo’s Mario Party Superstars on the Nintendo Switch. The theme of the particular map that my group played on was Yoshi, but there were several other Mario-character-themed maps available to choose from. Mario Party shared a lot in common with Wii Sports Resort, where players compete in several sport minigames, gaining points from each. The staple, established theme of the Mario universe throughout the entire game separates Mario Party from Wii Sports Resort and other similar games. 

In Mario Party Superstars, users take turns rolling a dice and moving around the board, playing minigames along the way. Playing in a group of four, these minigames required both teaming up with the other players, as well as playing directly against them at times. Within the minigames, there were several forms of competition, including team vs team, unilateral competition, and multilateral competition. However, the overall game is a form of unilateral competition. Mario Party is a non-zero sum game, as players can win coins and stars without taking away from other players. The objective of this game is to garner the most stars of all the players. The resources are stars, items, and coins, which can be traded in for more stars. 

While there is a big focus on fellowship in some of the minigames, the game as a whole can be viewed as a competitive type of fun, as you are ultimately competing against everyone else to gather the most stars. One change I would make to Mario Party has to do with some of the minigames. I felt that too many of them focused on simply hitting a button on the Switch controller as fast as possible. It certainly is a skill to repeatedly tap a button as quickly as possible, but I felt that several minigames required only this skill, and some of the games felt exactly the same but with different graphics. The graphics were beautifully done, but I could easily see someone growing frustrated with the repetitiveness of a select few minigames. 

One mechanic that was more relevant towards the second half of our play was the use of items, especially to directly hinder an opponent. Earlier on in the game, we only used items that benefited ourselves. For example, one item added five to your dice roll for the turn, allowing you to move farther across the board. However, towards the end of the game, players began to exchange coins for items such as the “cursed dice”, which allows a one-time change of another player’s dice outcomes from 1-10 to 1-3, hindering their ability to navigate the board. If a particular player was rapidly approaching a star on the board, the other players would team up to use their cursed die, and prevent the star from being reached. 

An interesting dynamic came up after we started using items in an evil manner. Waluigi had a big lead initially, but we began using items to reduce this lead. Eventually, Waluigi had fallen down to third place out of four players, but the reactions from the player controlling Waluigi were so entertaining that we continued to sabotage his chances of getting a star. While these animated reactions were funny to our particular group of close friends, I could see how this could lead to abuse in a group less comfortable with each other, and it was not clear how Mario Party would handle/prevent a situation like this. 

Another mechanic that was prevalent in Mario Party was the stealing stars mechanic. Although the game my group is designing also consists of several minigames, I don’t think we’ll implement any mechanic that allows for stealing from another player. 


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