Mario Party 10

mario-party-10-coverAin’t no party like a Mario 10 Party!

 

OK, so there’s Mario Party 9, and the eight prior to that, but how often do I get the chance to reference S Club 7?

 

The fact I did suggests I’m probably not the target demographic for this game, and as such should probably pass this on to the kids to review …

 

“It’s great … can I have a biscuit!”

 

OK, so that doesn’t really constitute a review therefore I’d better add some detail.

 

Mario Party 10 is a dice-rolling board game that offers three modes of play.

 

The traditional Mario Party mode, and by far the best, takes a similar form to that of its predecessor, with up to four players sharing a vehicle to travel around one of five courses, the winner being the person with the most stars at the end.

 

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Stars are as much in the hands of the dice-rolling gods as they are won and lost in the 70+ mini-games, but there’s enough variety and surprises along the way to keep things interesting, and the ‘special dice’ add an interesting element of tactics even if the randomness of the final result can sometimes suggest otherwise.

 

Bowser Party mode adds a new dimension to the Mario Party series by allowing one player to take on the role of Bowser and pit themselves against the other players.

 

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It’s an interesting idea that makes great use of the gamepad, but with only a dozen mini-games, as good as they are, it soon becomes a little repetitive and in truth, promises more than it delivers.

 

And then there’s Amiibo Party mode, which is more in keeping with a traditional board game. Gone is the shared vehicle, replaced by individual characters like the earlier incarnations of Mario Party, and as the name suggests, utilises the Amiibo figurines.

 

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I still have a problem with Amiibo’s. They feel like something dreamt up by the Marketing Department, thrown at the game developers with a ‘do something with these’ note attached, and as yet no one has grasped what that ‘something’ should be.

 

In Mario Party 10 it means touching the Amiibo on the gamepad to role the dice. That’s it. To be fair, the kids love it, despite spending more time looking for their Amiibo than they do playing the game.

 

Personally, I’d be more forgiving of the Amiibo mode if it offered substantially more substance to the game-play. A lot of time can pass with very little happening, and when it does it just feels a little… underwhelming.

 

In addition to the three game modes there’s also a raft of bonus games that do feel like a genuine bonus, and in the most part are a lot of fun to play, especially the badminton mini-game.

 

Overall, whilst not being anywhere near a Mario classic there is still a lot of fun to be had. The graphics are as beautiful as you’d expect and it looks and feels every bit a Mario game.

 

It’s very easy to play, and when the boys nieces and nephews come round it’s the first game they put on.

 

If my review sounds a little ‘meh’, it’s more because Nintendo have set the bar so ridiculously high for the Mario franchise than because of any particular flaw in this title.

 

mario-party-sonny-and-lucaThe boys love it, but then again, put ‘Mario’ and ‘party’ in any sentence and you’ve already won their approval.

 

And I love board games. I’m not suggesting this is the reason I had kids but had I been in charge of filling in their birth certificates this blog might well have been called The Tales of Sonny & Player Three!

 

So as a family game, particularly if that includes young children, this is still one I’d highly recommend buying.

 

Personally I’d score it 6/10. The boys gave it 8/10. Neither of us would argue with a compromise of 7.

 

{I was sent this game for the purposes of reviewing. All words and opinions are my own}

The Look

It’s been five years in the making but I’ve nailed it. The holy grail of parenting. Finally, I’ve mastered ‘the look’.

 

I’ve been close for a while. As a grumpy, middle-aged cynic I’ve had the raised brow of indignation for longer than I can remember; that wind changed a long time ago.

 

For years, my world-weary posture has meant peering over the top of my glasses was never a problem either, I just needed to drop my chin by an inch.

 

But I could never hold a straight face when telling them off. It was the final hurdle at which I always fell. The Beechers Brook to my blind, three-legged donkey; which if you’ve seen me running for a bus isn’t that far-fetched an analogy.

 

Well, not any more. Not since ‘blah-gate’.

 

When it comes to discipline they’ve always held the upper-hand. They had an answer to everything, or if words failed them, an interpretive dance.

 

‘If you don’t get dressed you’ll go to school naked’ was taken not as a threat but a promise.

 

I’d still be quoting Band Aid lyrics long after I’d scraped their uneaten carrots into the recycling bin and given them the pudding I threatened not to.

 

Sonny has done a risk assessment and decided to take his nose-picking chances on his brain not caving in, and Luca had developed a pace of walking to bed slower than that of a dead sloth.

 

Even my ‘how many times do I have to tell you’ gets treated not as a rhetorical question but one to be debated. They’ve settled on twelve, in case you’re wondering.

 

But then came the perfect storm. My mood wasn’t great. My attempt at buying a second-hand car had left me exasperated and pondering who was this one careful lady owner of which every salesman spoke, and why did she have so many cars?

 

And then it happened. I was explaining something to Sonny. Something banal, and as is my want, most probably bullshit, but instead of paying lip-service as he normally would, or pretending he’d not heard me, he replied with,

 

“Blah, blah, blah”.

 

There was an eerie silence, broken only by an intake of breath from Luca as he put down his biscuit and paused the TV. This was a game-changer and he knew it. Were it a game of poker, Sonny had just gambled all their chips on a flush of blah’s.

 

It was a hand I couldn’t afford to lose, so I saw his back-chat and raised him an eyebrow. Called his doe-eyes and dropped my chin. Called his bum-waggling-in-the-air bluff and went all in with a straight face … and held it, for what felt like an eternity.

 

I’d won. Sonny knew it, I knew it, and judging by the look of utter contempt thrown at his brother, Luca knew it too.

 

The spell was broken. I’d taken back control. A parenting epiphany from which I would never look back … and I’ve not!

 

Refusing to go upstairs for a bath, I give them ‘the look’.

 

Fighting over the TV remote, I throw them ‘the look’.

 

Being too noisy, not after ‘the look’.

 

It’s chapter upon chapter of parenting books, abridged into just two words. A look to end all arguments. To quote He-man, “by the power of grayskull, I HAVE THE ….”, too far?

 

Sorry, I’m a little giddy with authority.

 

It’s by no means foolproof. If I don’t lock their gaze quickly enough they can still stomp away, but that’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes my straight-face still struggles against a muttered,

 

“No, YOU can’t go to school with underpants on your head!”

 

And to say it’s child specific is to admit I did find myself giving ‘the look’ to a long queue in Aldi. Unsurprisingly it had little effect.

 

But knowing ‘the look’ will pick up the LEGO when previous requests have failed is a wonderful thing.

 

Knowing a celery sword fight in Sainsbury’s can be instantly declared a draw with ‘the look’ has made shopping an altogether different experience.

 

But most satisfying of all is I’ve finally solved the riddle of what follows a three count. ‘The look’ follows a three count, and that’s nothing short of a revelation!

Post Election Blues

It’s been four days since the election and I still feel numb. To liken it to mourning is maybe overstating it a little, but the five stages of dealing with grief still resonate.

 

Stage One – Denial

 

Denial came and went as quickly as Sunderland counts its votes. Exit polls had been wrong before. They’d clearly not counted the votes from my Twitter timeline as they were 90% anti-austerity. Until the BBC canteen served up a sautéed hat to Paddy Ashdown or a deep fried kilt to Alistair Campbell there was still hope …

 

Stage Two – Anger

 

… or not …

 

By the time I was snoring on the sofa in a pool of my own dribble it had already turned to anger. Angry dribble, which sounds like a shit rock band from the 80’s but I digress….

 

I was angry with the pollsters for offering false hope and then getting it so spectacularly wrong.

 

Angry with each and every person who’d voted Conservative. Who’d witnessed the last five years and thought, ‘more of the same please, but without the handbrake of a Lib-Dem conscience’. Who’d put their own pocket before that of the most vulnerable. Or disabled. Or the NHS.

 

I was angry with Labour for offering such a pathetic alternative. With Ed Milliband for choosing a bacon butty when a cup of tea would have sufficed. For thinking a tombstone was a good idea and then compounding it by chiseling out sound-bites in comic bloody sans!?

 

Angry with a voting system that consigned millions of votes to the bin, and then angrier still that my preferred system of proportional representation would have returned 82 UKIP MP’s.

 

I was angry with Andrew Neil’s hair. With Jeremy Vine and his wanky graphics. And with Michael Gove for being, well, Michael Gove.

 

Stage Three – Bargaining

 

By the morning I’d reached the stage known as bargaining, or ‘what ifs?’

 

What if Milliband had accepted the SNP’s advances?

 

What if Caroline Lucas had led the Greens?

 

What if some pesky kids had ripped David Cameron’s face off and revealed the evil janitor beneath? Or Margaret Thatcher?

 

What if Hadrian’s Wall had been built just south of Stockport?

 

What if only those on Twitter were allowed to vote?

 

Stage Four – Depression

 

I’m not depressed, at least not clinically. I can’t afford to be. I’ve suffered a mental illness under a Tory managed NHS and it meant an eighteen-month waiting list for any sort of treatment.

 

But I do despair at what’s to come. Of just how bad it can get before a credible alternative surfaces. Of Osborne’s welfare cuts and haircuts. NHS privatisation and English nationalism. Scrapping the Human Rights Act and reviving the snoopers charter. Foodbanks and benefit sanctions. Of Michael Gove and Michael bloody Gove!

 

Stage Five – Acceptance

 

Bollocks to that, I’m still angry!

 

Not so much with those who voted Tory, at least not all of them. I know people who were previously staunch Labour voters but crossed over to the dark side. Who were as reluctant and heavy-hearted as they were shy. Who voted less by choice than by a lack thereof.

 

I’m no longer angry with the pollsters, who to be fair are now as redundant and irrelevant as the landlines they canvassed.

 

I’ve even forgiven Andrew Neil’s hair and Jeremy Vine’s green screen. Just.

 

But I’ve not forgiven the Labour Party.

 

I’m as stereotypical a Labour voter as you’ll get. Northern. Working class. A socialist at heart with an innate social conscience. And yet I didn’t vote for them either. I wasn’t prepared to choose between two shades of blue.

 

For what it’s worth I voted for the Whig Party (www.whigs.uk) because they offered a genuinely positive alternative, and I live in a safe Labour seat, but mostly for their positive alternative. You should check out their manifesto. No really, you should!

 

When my anger does finally recede I can’t help feeling it’ll only be replaced by despair. Already the in-fighting has begun. Do they go left or centre. Centre or left. To me, to Umunna. To Umunna, to me. It’s like a tragicomedy performed by the Chuckle Brothers.

 

And whilst all this is going on the Tories will continue cutting welfare, dismantling the NHS and widening the gap between rich and poor. Unopposed and with an ever increasing mandate.

 

But I’m also angry with myself for not knowing what to do about it. Armchair activism clearly isn’t the answer, and it’s not like I could stand myself, I’d be an expense scandal waiting to happen.

 

So I’m left twiddling my thumbs in a political wilderness, albeit with Clegg, Milliband and Farage for company. Which in a game of snog, marry, avoid would be in that order. In case you were wondering. Which you weren’t.

 

Think I need a lie down.

What Price an Apology?

That’s not a rhetorical question, they’re currently trading at 10p.

 

You see, I’ve introduced the boys to pocket-money. In part to teach them the value of money, but mostly because I’m a fool.

 

It all began in Sainsbury’s. Tired and distracted, I took a wrong turn and found myself in a cul-de-sac of toys, my escape blocked by a double-buggy. Sonny spotted a Spiderman action figure he just had to have. Luca concurred. I panicked.

 

“You can earn it by doing chores”, I suggested, in hope more than expectation.

 

They thought long and hard.

 

“OK”.

 

Just like that.

 

Stand-off averted we made it to the checkout with nothing more than we’d come in for.

 

I even allowed myself a sympathetic, if a tad patronising, smile to the mum whose child was mid-tantrum. Well, it’s a tricky business this parenting malarkey … if you don’t know what you’re doing!

 

Sonny helped pack my smugness in a carrier bag. Luca offered to carry it home. It felt good.

 

Two weeks on and the boys have their action figure, earned through blood, sweat and tears. All of them mine.

 

Because unbeknownst to me,what I’d actually done was spawn a capitalist monster.

 

You see, everything now has a price. And I mean EVERYTHING!

 

It began when they got out of the bath that night.

 

Sonny: “I’ll dry my own feet. Shall we say 5p a toe? 10p for the big one, yeah?”

 

Luca: “I’ll read the bedtime story for 10p! S…e…c…r…e…t, secret. s…e…v…e…n …. ”

 

One sentence/hour later …

 

“Psst, Luca. Kick your covers off! … DADDY! I’m going to tuck Luca back in. You can pay me in the morning!”

 

And then, come the morning,

 

Luca: “I only got up in the night two times, that must be worth something?”

 

Sonny: “I’m going upstairs to brush my teeth without whingeing, you can get your wallet out while you’re waiting”

 

I was facing bankruptcy. We needed to discuss what constituted a chore, and for that we looked to the dictionary.

 

Chore;
A routine task, especially a household one.

A tedious but necessary task.

 

We decided to write a list …

 

Sonny: “How much do I get for an apology?”

 

Me: “Nothing”

 

Sonny: “But apologising is routine AND tedious. Fine then, I’ll put down 10p, but only if I mean it”

 

Luca: “What does he get if I don’t accept it?”

 

When your dining room becomes the trading floor of a sorry stock exchange it’s time to admit defeat. I didn’t. Instead I narrowed it down to household chores only.

 

Now, whoever said many hands make light work clearly didn’t have an extra four limbs in a sink of dishes.

 

They’d never tasted a cup of coffee made by a four-year old.

 

They’d never seen a five-year old spill a bowl of blueberries, then pause while he negotiated a price per blueberry to pick them back up.

 

They quite obviously didn’t have children!

 

So when I say they earned their action figure, they did, but I’m ashamed to admit that in the end I paid them not to help.

 

Because when you’ve spent a week tiptoeing round the kitchen doing dishes by stealth, under the guise of going for a poo.

 

When you’re cleaning up their spilt dinner by hand because the sound of the hoover has become synonymous with that of a free cash machine.

 

When you’re hanging out the washing at midnight under the cover of darkness.

You soon realise life is too short. That there’s no place for capitalism in a house of the under 6’s. And in hindsight, £12.99 for a Spiderman action figure was in fact an absolute bloody bargain.

 

Now if you’ll excuse me, I can hear an argument brewing and I can’t afford another apology payout today, especially if it’s a sincere one. Worse still, I think Luca might just be in the mood to accept it, too.