Take the Tour. See the Sights. Feel a Little Cheated.
Mario Party seems to be a shindig that Nintendo never wants to end, as the virtual board game has seen several entries over the years. For the most part, the party never changes. It’s the same rules, the usual suspects of Mushroom Kingdom partygoers, and a bevy of minigames that are (for the most part) too short and too poorly designed to enjoy. In Mario Party: Island Tour , all these elements remain, except in one respect–the boards. Gone is the typical goal of being the player to collect the most stars by the end of a designated number of turns. This one variation gives the first 3DS Mario Party a breath of fresh air. The downside is that, despite your overworld exploits, the gameplay is still rooted in the mini-games, and they just don’t make me smile anymore.
Nintendo did make one smart change from Mario Party DS , which has to do with how much time you have to play. Being a portable version of the party game, you’ll likely want your game session in quick bursts over lunch or during recess, and Mario Party: Island Tour has you covered. While making your selections in the menu, every game mode and board is boldly plastered with an expected playtime, allowing you to make a calculated choice based on the amount of time you have available. If you only have a few minutes to spare, the Free Play mode and Hot-Air Hijinks allows you to play single games or a small handful, respectively, taking only a few minutes of your time.
Every mode you partake in–even a single mini-game–rewards you with Mario Party Points. The points can then be used to purchase collectables, such as character showcases and music tracks from the various game boards. Also in the collectibles area are the top scores you have achieved. These records are more than mere bragging rights to inflate your ego. The mini-games showcased here are also saved to the system in order to be shared via StreetPass (at your discretion, of course). Passing near another Mario Party: Island Tour owner while in sleep mode will transfer your data, allowing them to see your total play time, how many games you’ve won, and the fill percentage of your collection. But most importantly, you’ll be able to pit yourself against the other players score in certain mini-games, possibly giving you a challenge to pursue the next time you load up the game.
The single-player campaign is a good idea that could have been, but sadly is more bluster than substance. It consists of a thirty-story tower created by Bowser out of spite for not being invited to the “party,” with progress to the next level attained through the victory of a mere mini-game. Every five levels holds a boss mini-game, but those are easier than most of the general mini-games. With no adjustable difficulty, you’ll likely tackle the tower one time to unlock everything, and then forget about it.
The meatiest piece of Mario Party: Island Tour is by far the Party mode (and is definitely best with a few friends). The series is still without an online mode, but at least the full roster of boards and games can be played locally with a single cartridge. For those who hate being cheated out of victory through chance, each game board has a skill and luck rating. But, most importantly, each board has different parameters.
For a lightning round, try “Rocket Road”–a twenty-five-space sprint where you collect rockets to blast yourself quickly to the finish line. Got a little more time to spare? “Perilous Palace Path” will burn about an hour, with a more traditional feel, including item blocks that provide power-ups and debuffs, as well as plenty of obstacles along the trail. If you’d like luck to decide the fate of the match, try “Banzai Bill’s Mad Mountain,” where each turn you can decide whether to hide from the giant Bullet Bill and avoid being launched back to the start, or stay exposed and hope he doesn’t show up on the die roll. The goal of each board is to be the first to the finish, however, Bowser’s level does the opposite–you’ll want to be the furthest from his wrath. There are seven game boards in all once unlocked, and each has some interesting features.
Compared to Mario Party DS , this entry is much better looking. However, when put beside other 3DS games–even Mario games– Mario Party: Island Tour doesn’t do justice to the brand. The mini-games are functional, but lack any extra touches that could have added at least visual appeal to the mostly bland gameplay. The game boards have more pop, but unfortunately, they’re broken up too often by the stale mini-games. And the 3D effect is more in line with what amateur developers put forth–an eye-straining experience that does little to enhance the experience.
The music was a surprising breath of fresh air. I expected rehashed tracks from the Mario archives, but instead was greeted with completely original orchestrations. It is all still appropriate in the Mushroom Kingdom, but with a perky new sound. Of course, the character vocal spots and environmental effects are all the expected fare, but I guess some audio elements must be left alone.
The Mario Party series has been around for a long time now, yet even after so many iterations, it doesn’t feel like each subsequent entry is a departure from its predecessor. In some cases, that is a good thing, but in Mario Party’s case, it needs more than new music and a spin on game boards to evoke a sense of innovation. The mini-games must be more than simple variations of past offerings or lackluster uses of system features (like the touch screen and microphone). And the series absolutely needs online multiplayer, no exception. That said, I still had fun with Mario Party: Island Tour , and it was nice to have a brief but satisfying match while out and about.
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 3.0 Graphics
Not very current compared to what we’ve seen from other recent entries. Mario should know better than to get stingy with visuals. 3.7 Control
For the most part, you won’t feel cheated out of a win because of the controls. The touch screen and tilt mechanics could have been more innovative. 4.2 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Wonderfully light orchestrations that had me humming new tunes. Everything else in the audio (vocals and effects) is the same regurgitated fodder. 3.4 Play Value
A nice variety of game boards to play. But the single-player campaign is a throw-away, and there’s still no online multiplayer. 3.5 Overall Rating – Good
Not an average. See Rating legend below for a final score breakdown.
|Review Rating Legend
|0.1 – 1.9 = Avoid
|2.5 – 2.9 = Average
|3.5 – 3.9 = Good
|4.5 – 4.9 = Must Buy
|2.0 – 2.4 = Poor
|3.0 – 3.4 = Fair
|4.0 – 4.4 = Great
|5.0 = The Best