A surprising aspect of Super Mario Party is that it includes two collectibles quests. While one is all about fun stickers, the other gives players the chance to earn five Gems by completing the party game’s following modes: Mario Party, Challenge Road, Partner Party, Sound Stage, and River Survival.
Collecting the first four isn’t too difficult. For example, beating each of the four Mario Party boards awards one, while trying out the three rhythm modes in Sound Stage grants that Gem. Where most players will likely hit troubled waters is in the River Survival mode. It’s not that the activity’s gameplay is hard any means, but the way it’s setup makes it almost impossible to earn its Gem during a single-player experience.
In River Survival, a team of four must race against a ticking clock and navigate down a raging river filled with all kinds of obstacles, like Bloopers, Cheep-Cheeps, and boulders. Along the way, the group will encounter branching paths, forcing a quick decision on which direction to take. There are also five different endings that players can discover depending on which paths they choose. As you probably guessed, River Survival’s Gem is obtained once all final paths are uncovered, so this is a mode that will take at least five runs to complete.
The repetition is manageable, but what sets this task apart from the others is that reaching these various end goals relies heavily on a combination of motion controls and teamwork. See, there are two characters to each side of the raft, with one pair rowing on their side to steer the raft left and the other in charge of steering right. To row, all you need to do is wave the Joy-Con in a downward motion, making navigating the waters a fairly simple process, especially when playing with three other friends locally. However, trying this alone with three computer characters just doesn’t work.
Whichever side you are put on in single-player mode is the only side that you can control. The other characters can just start or stop rowing without any way to guide them, including the partner on your side. This offers some frustrating but comical moments. Trying to avoid obstacles is hilariously futile, as it can seem like the computer players are going out of their way to run into walls and rocks. The anger sets in, though, when trying to go for the Gem by reaching the five end paths. There were several times I would try to steer toward one branched opening to indicate that was the direction I wanted to go, only to have the other side of the raft decide to row the other way.
I’ve tried a few different tricks to see if there’s a way to manipulate the computer characters, but there doesn’t seem to be a solution. Playing on the Very Hard difficulty setting does help slightly since the computer players seem programmed to avoid obstacles, but the same problems with picking a path still pop up eventually. You can even try furiously rowing if the other side tries to steer the wrong way, but two against one doesn’t work.
The good news is that with other real players, earning the River Survival Gem doesn’t take very long. Super Mario Party is intended to be a multiplayer experience, so I can understand why Nintendo included a mode that promotes ditching computer characters in favor of real friends. Still, it’s odd that one of the collectible Gems would be locked behind this mode. Players will want to earn all five gems, too, as a special prize is awarded in the end.