It’s 2017, and in walks the beautiful Nintendo Switch. It’s decked out to the nines, with Mario Kart and Mario Odyssey, but missing is a familiar face. You see all these controllers and an air of multiplayer shrouds the room, but where is Mario Party? UNANNOUNCED. What is up with that right? I mean this is the on-the-go dream for quick multiplayer sessions, so where is one of the best multiplayer series of all time in the picture? Who knows, but for now, the fine people at Mastiff and Teyon are trying to fill that Gamecube sized whole in our hearts with their latest title Party Planet, exclusively on Switch.
Party Planet is a single and multiplayer party game, which features 30 minigames to partake in. All 30 are playable in single player, with some being exclusively so, and 18 of which are available in multiplayer. Most of the games are their take on other standards in the industry, like Snake, Air Hockey, Joust, Asteroids and more. At the start, you are granted access to only a select few. After trying your hand with a few of the games, you will notice that there is a progression system. Each game you play, whether solo or with others, earns you a bit of points towards a level system. At first, I did not mind this, but the more I played the more I realized what a grind it was to get every game unlocked. Some games seem to give random points, and after a while if you got bored of your current line up, you really just had to tough it out and play over and over again. Some good titles to grind on were Cups of Truth, Bear Battalion, and Frosty Hockey, which thankfully are among the game’s best offerings. What would have made this grind less of a nuisance would have been a better structured multiplayer mode. How the game presents the mini-games is the issue, which is just a free for all list. Pick the one you want to play, and go ahead and play it. This is fine and all but would have been better supplemented by a traditional competitive mode, one that randomizes the order and length of the mini-games with the end game being someone being crowned a winner. Without this, competitive sessions can grow a bit dull after a few mini-games. Though everything does not have to be competitive in the multiplayer sessions, as some games can be done in cooperative team modes, which adds a different perspective to some games.
I won’t talk about all 30 games in detail, but I will highlight a few of the best (and worst for that matter.) One of my initial favorites was Mystical Totem, which is a game very similar to the smart phone hit Timberman. This game is fast and frantic, and fun in bot single player and multiplayer. Some other favorites played better in multiplayer, those being Space Rockets and Frosty Hockey. Frosty Hockey is easily approachable, as it is just an air hockey style game, where you can split into teams of two. In single player, it is not as fun, but 2 v 2 with real people is pretty entertaining. Space Rockets on the other hand is one of the more unique across the line up, playing out like a space mining form of darts. Players shoot missiles into a moon, taking turns one by one, but need to try and avoid hitting other missiles on the rotating moon or the whole thing can blow up. Single player wise, I really preferred Hex Eggs and Bear Battalion. Hex Eggs is a puzzler where you must build lines from end to end on a grid to get points until you no longer have any moves. Bear Battalion on the other hand is a fast paced game where you punch incoming bears by moving up, down, left or right. These titles stood out in the crowd for the right reasons, but the next bunch left more sour tastes in my experience.
My first major gripe is with Block the Bug, a puzzler of sorts where you must strategically lay our rocks to stop a bug from escaping your grid. It controls poorly, and is equally poor in structure, revolving in a boring and seemingly unfair experience. They could have made room for another multiplayer experience by squishing this single player snooze fest from the line-up. Another boring, single-player puzzler is Hi Tech Lines, which suffers the same control issues, and is just a passable and only slightly different version of the actually fun Hex Eggs. The last one I want to single out is more disappointing then anything, because it could have actually been a welcome entry in the lineup. That is Lava Golf, their 2D take on minigolf. What does not work here is the controls, along with an overly long line up. I would have preferred some kind of randomly generated courses, with maybe three being playable per session. Instead, you play a full game of poorly controlled gold with a scheme that makes sense for the joy cons but otherwise does not translate for fun and accurate play. While a good amount of the games are not bad, this bunch stood out for better or for worse.
So obviously, not every game controls well. Some work just fine, and others are a little rough around the edges. There is more to the functionality issues beyond that though. For one, it would be a lot better in multiplayer sessions if you got to pick a color to designate all future sprites to make it easier to keep track of where you are on the screen, but sadly you pick each game, which can sometimes get confusing. To counter that with a positive however, this is one of the few games I have played that let other players pick their profiles when they join in AND saves their progress/scores. Another positive note is that you can tag certain games as favorites, in addition to being able to categorize by just multiplayer. This makes things easier to navigate when you want to play a choice few games. Outside of that, the game looks and sounds decent for the most parts. Some games like the Asteroids and Joust clones are noticeably dull, and not like a cool retro aesthetic dull, but rather just bland. Others actually have some solid colors that pop, and some good looking character sprites to top things off. The sound and music direction isn’t much, but again, not horrible.
Party Planet is not an awful game, but not stellar either. At $40, it is going to be hard to convince many adult gamers that they need this on Switch, unless they have some kids at home that often travel with them. That may balance the scales in a different favor, as I had fun playing it with my younger siblings (10 and 11 year olds). They enjoyed it, but its attention holding power is much lesser the older you get it would seem. You can use a single joy-con for all games too, which works pretty solid in my experiences, and will definitely make that portable party factor an easier reality. At a lower price, it would be easier to recommend, but as it stands right now it’s hard to sell it as a must buy. For what it is worth, it is fun at times, and can be fun with a group in short bursts. The character and party feel is there, but the ratio of pros and cons is too close to call to make it the go-to party game at your next get together. Some more incentive and less solo-centric games would have made for a better overall package for sure.
*Note: A copy of the game was provided by Mastiff for the purposes of the review
Final Score: 6/10
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