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Mario Party:  Island Tour – 3DS

Mario Party: Island Tour – 3DS

Mario Party: Island TourPlatform:  3DS

Developer:  Nd Cube

Publisher:  Nintendo

Release Date (NA):  November 22nd, 2013

Genre:  Party Game

Nerd Rating:  6 out of 10

Alright, I’ll be the first to admit that I probably enjoy the Mario Party series a little more than I should at 28, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting this release ever since I first heard of it sometime back in the summer.  Nd Cube is the company responsible for the marvelous Mario Party 9 and I was expecting another swath of greatness with Island Tour.  Does Mario Party: Island Tour live up to the higher standards set by its most recent predecessors? It’s a question that I don’t have a concise answer for.  In some ways Island Tour delivers in areas where other titles in the series have fallen short.  It also simplifies the gameplay by removing countless tangential diversions but in the process dampens some of the charm.

Mario Party: Island TourThe objectives on the boards are as simple as they’ve ever been, mostly involving reaching the end first (like an actual board game) with a throwback to Mario Party 9 thrown in where the player aims to collect the most mini-stars.  Normally I’d find myself praising this level of candor, but it’s almost a little too direct.  Roll the die (or use cards that function as dice), play mini-games for bigger dice (or better cards), get to the end, the end.  The often unbalanced mixture of strategy and luck presented in prior games has been replaced by a more refined system of gameplay focused heavily on board movement rather than the gathering of items such as coins, stars, or other items such as candy and dice blocks.  In the whole of Island Tour there are in fact no coins or any other system of currency, no stars or equally important items to acquire except for one board, and nearly every advantage gained is the direct result of playing mini-games rather than the blind luck of landing on harmful or beneficial spaces (of which there are very few).

Mario Party: Island TourThe increased reliance on skill will make Island Tour less accessible to younger children but it should sill remain easy enough for tweens to wipe the floor with their parents.  Some may see the increased focus on board movement as substantially less interesting and accordingly “less fun,” but plenty of enjoyment still remains, there’s just less going on and a lot less time spent on tasks that ultimately have little bearing on the game’s outcome.  It doesn’t feel like the Mario Party I’m used to and it isn’t quite the Mario Party that I expected, but I do appreciate the reduction of incidental and filler activity.  Island Tour might feel a little more familiar if it was busier, and it could be a tough sell for Nintendo’s younger demographic.  However, older players and those more experienced with Mario Party as a whole will respect and understand the changes even if they don’t fully accept them.

Mario Party: Island TourOn aspect worth noting is Island Tour’s development for a handheld.  The 3DS is known for boasting some of the most accomplished and enjoyable games of the current generation, but the Mario Party franchise has had a dubious relationship with handheld systems over the years. Mario Party Advance on the GBA is an entry in name only in most regards and Mario Party DS is a particularly tedious installment with several fundamental differences from its brethren.  For all its deviations from what many would expect from the successor to Mario Party 9, I can’t help but to be moderately forgiving when I think of Island Tour alongside Advance and DS.  It is by far superior to the DS entry and retains the basic feel of console versions that Advance  largely ignored (still a cool game though).

Mario Party: Island TourNow we come to what most Mario Party fans are interested in:  the mini-games.  Undermining Island Tour’s emphasis on skill, the majority of the mini-games are grossly simplistic.  I won’t say I didn’t have fun playing them (because I did) but my jaw was left on the floor once I’d seen how easy many of them were.  Variants of traditional mini-games are abundant where the player needs only to push the correct buttons or push a particular button very quickly.  Several others make use of the touchscreen although the tasks are numbingly simple such as touching a correct picture to match another, drawing straight lines for various purposes, and dragging puzzle pieces around.  Many of these could’ve been designed with increased difficulty, but they weren’t, and as it stands the same younger children deterred by the main game will perhaps be the only ones who will stay interested in most of the mini-games after repeated play.

Mario Party: Island TourWhile it would be easy to almost dismiss the mini-games altogether at this point, I can’t.  What’s left is exceptional and generally makes full use of the 3DS’ plethora of features.  More than a few are wildly clever and inventive in their approach, and tactics using the unit’s features that would seem gimmicky and out of place in a full-length game are perfectly suited to these short, intense bursts.  One mini-game entails rotating the Circle Pad to find the correct frame in an animation.  Others have the player tilting the handheld to move their characters similar to mini-games using the Wii Remote.  One of my favorites, “Xylophone Home,” has the player tapping one of three “bars” in rhythm to falling notes, a la Guitar Hero.  There’s even a slew of mic-based games.

Mario Party: Island TourThe most impressive mini-games are saved for the boss battles encountered during the 1-player mode and some of them feel more like a novelty level or boss fight from Super Mario Galaxy 2 rather than a mere mini-game.  The depth and length of these battles rival any others in the series and are one of the brightest spots in this 13th installment.  There’s even a life bar for both the character and the boss.  Against the huge snowman, the player must use the stylus to roll a growing snowball down the hill while avoiding ice and the enemy’s projectiles.  The end of the hill terminates in a ramp, and the idea is to hit the snowman with the biggest snowball possible.  The final showdown against Bowser is notably lengthy and involves collecting ammo and dodging multiple attacks by an airborne King Koopa all while on a moving platform.  At regular intervals, the character has access to a cannon and a chance to use their ammo.  The 3DS is used to aim, with the player having to physically position the unit in order to move the cross-hairs.  Bowser doesn’t make it easy either, and the player is forced to take factors such as speed and direction into account. My favorite is the confrontation against King Bob-Omb where a series of movable paths must be aligned to send active bombs back to the boss within a few seconds.

Mario Party: Island TourSingle player mode against computer opponents is done well enough and players should be satisfied, especially with everything from “easy” to “super hard” available from the onset.  The exclusive one player mode, Bowser’s Tower, is essentially a tour of mini-games against easy computer controlled characters. Most of these will be a breeze to complete and even the ones that aren’t will only take a few tries. Unfortunately I haven’t dug into the multiplayer aspect yet, and there’s an entire board reserved for either 3 or 4 human players, no COM allowed.  I find this a little distressing since finding more than 1 person with a 3DS who has the time devoted to a full game unlikely.  To top it off, Online Play is not supported making my chances of ever playing this board next to nil.  Download Play is the only way to get other humans in on the action.

Mario Party: Island TourHaving an engaging single player mode or structuring the game in such a way as to keep facing off against computer opponents from becoming either too easy or too challenging is something that many entries have struggled with.  Previous handheld versions have approached this matter in different ways to some success, but it’s here where Island Tour falls a bit short.  While it certainly feels like a more appropriate installment with its leanings towards past console releases, it could use a little something extra to keep single players occupied longer.  Handhelds such as the 3DS are geared more towards portable and solitary play by nature and getting multiple players in on the action isn’t nearly as simple as gathering around a console.  Though Advance and DS may have been a little offbeat, they did address the issue and it doesn’t look like nearly as much effort was put into making Island Tour a substantial one player experience.

A fair number of unlockables are available as in most other Mario Partys, but they’re mostly for decoration or for collection’s sake.  The two important “secrets” are an extra Bowser board and Bowser Jr. as a playable character.

Mario Party: Island Tour

Island Tour’s soundtrack may not be as memorable as recent music in the series, but it is serviceable.  3D is used well, though as usual I merely flicked it on every now and then and did not spend extended periods with it.  Overall the graphics are what we’ve come to expect from the 3DS; crisp, bright, and well defined with great attention to detail, particularly mesmerizing colorscapes.  Everything is clear and smooth throughout and there’s really nothing to complain about.  There are no absolutely stunning visuals, but what’s there is handled quite well.

Mario Party: Island TourI suppose I’m more disappointed than surprised, but the jury’s still out on this one.  I’ve been through most of the game twice but only time will tell how well it holds my interest.  Some of the mini-games are truly the most unique that the series has ever seen though the effect is diminished by many of the simpler ones.  A lack of a differently styled one player mode is also one of my major complaints.  Veterans might be put off by the relatively new approach but perhaps we’re seeing the beginnings of a different sort of Mario Party for the future.  There’s so much potential for these games due to their erratic nature that it’s hard to say what should and shouldn’t be done.  Focus on the board game being played is a good thing, but so is the hyperactive nature of gamepaly that keeps it from being more than just a board game turned into a video game.  At the very least however, it looks as though Mario Party 8 and will remain the gold standard until we get a proper Wii U installment.

Mario Party Series
Main Series
Handheld

Written by The Cubist

The Cubist


Co-founder, Head Author, & Site Technician

Find out what these ratings mean and how I rate video games.

I collect as much video gaming paraphernalia as I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to hardware. With over 40 systems including oldies like the ColecoVision and Intellivision, obscurities like the CD-i and 3DO, and the latest and greatest including the Wii U, PS4, Xbox One, 3DS, and PS Vita, I get easily overwhelmed. Most of the time you can find me firmly nestled sometime between 1985 and 1995 when it comes to my games of choice, but I’m also having a great time seeing what the 8th generation has to offer.

Currently in love with: Mortal Kombat

Email me anytime, about anything: thecubist@nerdbacon.com

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2 Comments

  1. Man that’s a shame this game isn’t better. LOTS of potential with the multiplayer aspect. Looks fun enough though!

     
  2. I thought I was the only guy in his late 20s who loved Mario Party, it’s disappointing about the lack of skill required for the mini games though. I hate it when my own kids can beat me, lame.

     

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