Over the years, Nintendo's Mario Party franchise brought friends together to compete across different game boards and mini-games. Now the series finally makes its way to the 3DS with Mario Party: Island Tour, which features a number of new locations and activities to enjoy.
The game features three modes to choose from: Party, Mini-Games and the new Bowser's Tower mode, which is basically a 30-stage mini-game against other AI players. The best place to go, as with any game in this series, is Party.
Clearing the Board
In Party mode, you'll tackle one of seven new game boards, each based on a corner of the Mario universe. One in particular was inspired by the Super Mario Galaxy series, with enormous Banzai Bills flying around. Others include the beautiful Star-Crossed Skyway, the Mario Kart inspired Rocket Road, and of course, Bowser's Peculiar Peak. Yes, Mario's arch nemesis received his own game board.
Along the way, you'll take part in a number of mini-games - and here's where the package feels mixed. Some of these events are fun to play, while others immediately wear out their welcome. These misfires require you to move the system around awkwardly, taking advantage - if that's what you want to call it - of its gyroscopic capabilities. One in particular, Point n' Shoot, has you manipulating the environment with your system, aiming at various targets. It just feels a bit uncomfortable swivelling around to certain targets, and it just left us wishing that Nintendo had focused on more games that utilised the touch-screen and/or 3D display.
There is the option to play the mini-games separate from the party board, if you need practice. Unfortunately, some of these miss the mark. For instance, there's one activity that asks you to mimic characters in the Mario universe the best you can. While certain people to have an advantage over others, making it a little unfair, the idea of watching Grandma try to mimic Bowser mirrors the entertainment found in a family member struggling at Charades or Pictionary at Christmas. There's also a surreal Mario Kart-style racing game, but it's too short to leave any sort of lasting impression. That, and the cars handle like bricks on wheels.
Another bothersome issue is the simplicity of the AI opponents. Some of these guys act like dullards when it comes to competition, guaranteeing you a first-place victory for the most part - until the final mini-games emerge and they suddenly get competitive. Some younger players probably won't mind this, but hardcore players are bound to get a little bit frustrated. It's like Mario wants you to win.
Where Mario Party: Island Tour really shines, though, is when it comes to bringing other players into the fray. The ability to give four people the chance to play on one cartridge is a generous move on Nintendo's part. It takes a while to download at first, but once you've got everyone in the match, it works surprisingly well. Just make sure you have three buddies within range.
This removes the bothersome AI problem that plagues the single player game, as you now have other players to go up against. These make the mini-games more tolerable, although the motion-based activities are still a headache. That said, when four people waving their Nintendo 3DS systems in a single room, it may look weird, but at least you're being weird together.
It Looks Like a Party
Mario Party: Island Tour won't win any awards when it comes to presentation. Although each of the seven game boards offer a pleasant amount of Mario-based design, they're hardly ground-breaking. That said, the game provides enough quality visuals to keep fans happy. As stated before, some of the mini-games look wonderful in 3D, and the boards are big enough to enjoy as you move from space to space, collecting stars and aiming to earn a first place victory.
The music and sound design are also typical for the Mario universe. They don't try to go beyond the usual themes, but they fit the Mario Party mold, with some pleasant tracks and familiar voice effects.
While there are some aspects to Mario Party: Island Tour that will annoy players -several mini-games in particular- there's more than enough to keep fans rolling the dice. The generous 4-in-1 multiplayer experience shines for the most part, and the presentation is colourful enough to keep players of all ages pleased for a while. Just don't expect the ultimate block party.
GAME's Verdict: 7/10
- Multiplayer lets four people play with one cartridge
- Board designs will please some Mario fans
- Some mini-games look fantastic on the 3DS screen
- Tedious motion-controlled mini-games
- The AI makes the single player game too easy
- More boards and characters would've been nice