Release date: January 17 (Europe), Out now (North America)
Platforms available on: Nintendo 3DS
Developer: nd cube
As the thirteenth game in the series, Mario Party: Island Tour proves that Mario and his pals can party harder than the cast of geordie coast in a free bar.
Maybe years of loud music and late nights have made Mario hard of hearing and confused, though, because Mario Party: Island Tour is as laborious and luck-dependent as its predecessors – issues we seem to have complained about for years.
It’s really a shame, because the few times you meet them, Mario Party: Island TourThe minigames are some of the best we’ve played.
There are over 80 games to discover, testing players’ memory, rhythm, reflexes, speed and cunning.
From banging chords on a xylophone, rounding up bunnies, racing submarines to throwing bombs at each other, the games are easy to pick up and play, lots of fun and variety .
Unskilled guessing games such as “Helter Shellter”, in which players hunt for treasure by choosing shells at random, are thankfully rare, outnumbered by games that require a bit of skill.
- The minigame compilations are the most entertaining aspect of Mario Party: Island Tour, eclipsing the board games that are too brief, frustrating, or both.
There are even some bonus extras, like an addictive Dr. Mario/Tetris hybrid, as well as a really funny imitation game using the 3DS microphone.
Not all games are entirely original – how many times have we seen the sliding picture puzzle? – but there’s enough variety and charm to prevent feelings of deja vu from setting in.
If those are minigames you crave, they can be accessed from the main menu or through “Bowser’s Tower,” an endurance mode in which players attempt to climb a building by beating games.
Although not as developed as the party mode board games, players can also try to complete the best mini-games as quickly as possible via ‘Time Attack’, or compete against up to three additional players in ‘ Balloon Race’, where the goal is to fly to victory by accumulating victories.
Hidden away and accessible as extras, these mini-game compilations are the most entertaining aspect of Mario Party: Island Toureclipsing board games that are too brief, frustrating, or both.
Take ‘Perilous Palace Path’, for example. Not only is it slow, thanks to pages of pointless instructions, tips, and reminders, but it values luck over skill in overcoming obstacles and avoiding detours.
While it contains all of the series’ longstanding flaws, it’s still the best of a bad bunch, which doesn’t say much for the competition.
“Perilous Palace Path” offers at least semi-regular mini-games, items that offer real strategic advantages, and decent runtime – even if much of that time is spent reading text.
Banzai Bill’s Mad Mountain, on the other hand, is over in minutes, offers a series of mini-games at best, and requires very little strategy but lots of luck.
Likewise, “Rocket Road,” which sees players race to the end of the board using dice multipliers, features “event” spaces that are far less hectic than they look.
Instead of initiating versus games, event squares randomly transport players forwards or backwards to an opponent’s square by spinning a wheel, which isn’t clever or fun.
Minigames appear after three rounds, so it’s highly unlikely that you’ll play two of them in one game.
- There are things to see and have fun, but only if you are willing to wait.
Remarkably, despite being over in minutes and containing very little action, “Rocket Road” still feels plodding and tedious.
While we understand the inclusion of shorter, punchier board games on the 3DS handheld, it seems the development team forgot what makes the game fun in the first place.
If the devs are assuming that people will have less time to play, then why not remove the text, remove cutscenes, stop reminding everyone whose turn it is, and start putting in minigames?
With lovely, colorful visuals, plenty of Nintendo characters and references, great mini-games, and single-cartridge multiplayer, Mario Party: Island Tour has the potential to be a great portable party game.
In the end, though, it feels like riding around the island in a hot, cramped bus going 10 mph. There are things to see and have fun, but only if you are willing to wait.
Mario Party: Island Tour
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