Toad Scramble is fun, in the end, and that’s fortunate as it’s the first mode unlocked. Your copy of the game essentially has a profile and ‘Party Level’, with activities and successes building up XP to level up. A number of modes and characters are unlocked this way, but it’s nothing to fret over – we found that unlocks came along relatively quickly, so it won’t be long before you’ve accessed all of the content on offer.
Next up is Coinathlon, which is our favourite mode for dip-in solo play. Each round has you racing around a simple board by collecting lots of coins across three minigames. This mode has its own batch of coin-centric games, and though the ‘campaign’ necessitates clearing a lot of rounds you can save progress and return any time. A typical round, depending on the number of laps, should last between 3-8 minutes, ideal for quick portable play.
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Though you’ll get overfamiliar with the limited number of minigames in this mode, they’re some of the stronger examples in the game and the heat of the battle is rather addictive. Dishing out and being on the receiving end of disruptive items adds to the tension, and in some rounds there are even Bowser interventions (an idea partially borrowed from Mario Party 10) where the participants scramble for survival. This mode is certainly a standout, especially for short single player sessions.
Balloon Bash returns to more standard Mario Party fare, and is also the best mode for playing the broadest variety of minigames. A few different boards are available and the formula’s simple – pop balloons, win coins, fight it out in minigames and try to trade those coins for Stars. Though the maps are small, encouraging players to crossover and occasionally have brief ‘duels’ on the same square, this feels closest to Mario Party of old, albeit with that benefit of everyone rolling the dice and moving at the same time.