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Mario Party: Island Tour
Mario Party: Island Tour
Published by AlloftheAbove
Author review
Average N/A%
Smilie Waluigi Mario Party: Island Tour

I am a staunch believer in giving everything a fair go. Without such an attitude, I wouldn’t have seen the strategic merit in playing a game like Style Boutique. Wouldn’t have realised that recent LEGO games are actually getting better. So when Nintendo announced a portable Mario Party game, while their home console was faltering, I was pretty perplexed by their decision. Regardless of this, it would be unfair to judge Island Tour purely on opportunity cost that has been forgone by the decision to release it on the 3DS. But even then this party isn’t particularly worth attending or even bothering to RSVP to.

There are three major modes in Island Tour. Party, Minigames and Bowser’s Tower. Each of these modes provides different ways to play – Party mode is the traditional mode most players know and love from previous Mario Party games. Minigames strips away the board and its related pleasantries to offer minigames with a custom “goal” – for example players can choose how many minigames a player must win in order to be declared winner. Bowser’s Tower is a laborious attempt to provide a single player campaign to what has ostensibly been a multiplayer franchise.

Party mode does make some changes to the formula, though most of these are more of a return to form. Players now all take separate turns and don’t move together like in the major change in Mario Party 9. Each board provides a unique objective – eschewing the traditional race to collect the most stars within a certain number of turns. This works and doesn’t work for the formula – as most of these modes are more or less determined by the roll of a dice and luck plays a considerable role in deciding who will emerge victor. It’s even possible for someone to roll their way to the finish of a board without ever seeing a mini-game. Some games are designed in an interesting manner – such as encouraging players to stay away from the finish point, but this is also determined by the roll of a dice at the end of the day.

It seems unfair to criticise Mario Party for being so reliant on chance to determine its winner, but Island Tour just takes this too far. Previously, players would have to only rely on luck to get to Toad, buy a star, and then win minigames to get ahead. But by shifting the focus of some boards to being the simple “get to the finish” objective, the entire game is now based around how quickly (or how slowly) you can roll a six. It just doesn’t seem right – as if the balance of the entire meta-game has been knocked off. At least previous Mario Party games almost gave players the illusion of skill being a factor in deciding who wins, by shaking things up with interesting minigames and the like. But Island Tour doesn’t – it almost celebrates luck as a winning mechanism.

The minigames themselves are particularly boring too, which is disappointing but also not surprising since we’re on roughly the twelfth instalment of the franchise. Most of the traditional games you expect are here – along with others which make good use of the 3DS functionality. This comes with one caveat, however, and that is the fact that these games use the touchscreen in ways that could’ve easily been accomplished on the DS. There are some games controlled by the gyroscopic sensor, but they’re incredibly hard to play properly and break the 3D effect. Quite frankly – the minigames are boring and disappointing. They barely innovate and barely keep the players attention.

Which brings me to the final mode – Bowser’s Tower – and the problems associated with it. Bowser’s Tower is much simpler than Nintendo would have you expect; essentially players pick between one of two minigames on each floor, play against humdrum computer characters, and then repeat ad nausea. The game does break things up with boss battles – which themselves serve as interesting puzzle-like encounters, but these are too few and far between and are way too short to save Bowser’s Tower from being anything more than a slapdash single player mode.

Island Tour’s biggest problem is that it really just seems to be completely at odds with itself. It attempts to provide an engrossing single player experience, but makes players sit through the turns of three CPU characters (though you can reduce the number of players too). It attempts to create a unique way to play by yourself; either in Bowser’s Tower or the minigames mode, but is let down by uninteresting minigames themselves. It creates new opportunity for strategy to be applied to players’ approaches to a board, but still undermines said strategy with game design largely based on luck. It’s just perplexing how poorly designed Island Tour is for the solo player.

Island Tour’s saving grace is its good use of download play – where four players can enjoy a game with their friends when only one cartridge is within your circle of friends. It’s a great touch and something that should be commended – favouring convenience over the financial bottom line. This unfortunately doesn’t save the minigames from being uninspired – and said monotony is amplified as there are no more team games (2v2) or solo “underdog” games (1v3). There isn’t any online play either – though considering how enjoyable Mario Party is in an actual room with actual people, this is one of those rare occasions where I agree with Nintendo’s attitude to online play.

Presentation is also quite a disappointment with Mario Party. The game runs at 30fps, which doesn’t feel right for a game like this where previous games have managed to run much smoother on older hardware. The 3D is used to minimal effect too, and doesn’t seem to affect the frame rate when it’s on or off. In terms of design, the boards are quite uninteresting and are nowhere near as memorable as those we’ve seen in previous games. Most players can name at least one or two boards from each Mario Party game they’ve played in the last decade or so – but with Island Tour the designs are so uninspired it’s hard to say anyone can or will remember these designs.

Mario Party: Island Tour is a disappointment a blemish in a franchise that Nintendo really needs to go back to the drawing board with. All of the changes that are made here would be legitimate ways to shake up the franchise and put more of an emphasis on player skill rather than luck – but without fixing the underlying mechanics they just feel superficially implemented. It’s an age old metaphor – but there’s no point in fixing the house until you fix the foundation it’s laid on. And the ground Mario and his friends have been partying on for over ten years now is starting to show its cracks, and is in dire need of a renovation. Skip the party and approach the tour with caution.
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By Mable on 04-07-2014, 06:20 AM
It seems like they're changing things in all the places that didn't need to be, and neglecting the gaping holes that are in dire need of improvement. Good review though. I'll give it a miss. Handheld Mario Party titles are lacklustre at best.
Last edited by Mable; 04-07-2014 at 06:25 AM..
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By Brandyn on 04-07-2014, 08:36 AM
That's sad to hear this game stinks. As someone who retired from Mario Party after 6, I actually really liked the one on the original DS. Even though people complained about how stale it has been getting, these gimmicks they have been doing lately are worse. Guess I will stick with 4 and 6.
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