Mini game collections can be difficult to review. Do you base your score on the quality of the games? Do you set your standards lower because it’s a mini game collection? We all know Mario Party has been done to death, so what’s changed in Island Tour for the 3DS?
There’s no story here. Mario and his pals are having a party on some floating islands, Bowser has his hand in ruining the fun, there are mini games and a weird bubble motif. Mario decides another round of Mario Party is needed.
One of the biggest complaints regarding older Mario Party games is the tendency to get screwed over by the game in the last few turns, resulting in gameplay that was truly and infuriatingly luck based. Sure, there are strategies, but it’s clear that Mario Party was never about skill based gameplay. Island Tour shakes up the formula by having no stars or coins to collect. The aim of the game is simply to get to the end of the board first. The reward you get from winning mini games is different on each level as part of the theme, but they all help you progress through the board faster. For example, the first board I played ‘Perilous Palace Path’ coming first in a mini game meant an extra dice block to my next turn.
This works way better then any Mario Party Game I’ve played. Winning mini games is crucial now, it’s not a measly ten coin reward, it can totally change the game. The exception is ‘Star -Crossed Skyway’, where you collect mini stars on the way to the goal and whoever has the most wins. But even then it works because you’re heavily rewarded for winning mini games. Although it’s still lucked based, it definitely makes it feel more balanced and fair.
The simplified objectives allow for a easier digested experience, which is important for a handheld console. There are some interesting variations too. ‘Bowser’s Bizarre Volcano’ for example plays in reverse, so whoever gets to the goal first loses. Then subsequently whoever is furthest away from the goal at that point wins. The variations on the norm can end rather abruptly, allowing for some quick games.
There are a total of seven boards, each with a different play time in regards to their length and difficulty. Along with the standard party mode, there is also ‘Bowser’s Tower’ which is basically just a mini game endurance round to reach the top of the tower. There’s also time attack, where you play 10 mini games and try to clear them as fast as possible, and Balloon race, where you play mini games in order to take off in your balloon first. There’s also streetpass mini games that allow you to play mini games with other people you meet on street pass. There’s a decent amount of variety here to keep you busy.
The difficulty and balancing should be noted as this is a game intended for children. The CPU difficulties range from easy, normal, hard, very hard, and master. Easy and normal are an absolute joke, while very hard and master will kick your ass. I found that players on the hard difficulty gave a good challenge without downright cheating. Some balancing rules like letting the person in last choose the mini games and getting an extra item or two are a nice touch. Overall, playing with SPU characters was a decent single player experience.
The multiplayer aspect is ultimately the strongest component of mini game collections, or, at least it should be. Download play is available for up to 4 players and it is a lot of fun. Maybe it’s because I haven’t played a Mario Party in years, but it still held up with the people I played it with.
The mini games are the most lacklustre part of Island Tour. There’s a lot of ‘click on this thing first!’ or ‘click this specific button the fastest!’. The more enjoyable mini games are the platforming and dexterity challenges where finesse in controls is required. Some use the gyroscopic sensors in order to control something on screen, or in the more annoying mini games, the camera. They take a back seat to the more enjoyable board-play and strategy.
Playing mini games and boards add to your Mario Party points, which can be used to unlock ‘memories’ and character bubbles in the collectables menu. Unlocking the character bubbles unlocks a sound test of their voices and the memory bubbles are the background music for the courses, which is a odd thing to put into a game nowadays.
The graphics are your typical colourful Nintendo fare. The 3D is effective and does not drop the frame rate at all. Of course one would be wise to turn the 3D off during gyroscope enabled mini games due to the 3D needing you to be face on with the screen.The sound is again, your standard catchy Nintendo ditties, which isn’t a bad thing, but be prepared for annoying and repetitive character voices.
Perhaps it’s my total ignorance of Mario Party since Mario Party 2 on Nintendo 64, but Island Tour was a pleasant surprise for a franchise in need of a refresh. Whether or not it’s worth full price to you is totally dependant on how much multi-player you plan to play.