Developer: nd cube
In line: StreetPass
Mario Party, as a series, is largely random to me. The last Wii entry, Mario Party 9, wasn’t my cup of tea. And the first 3DS entry, dubbed Island Tour, isn’t much of an improvement. I was happy to see the board game elements return to individual player movement, dice rolling, and a move away from the shared vehicle aspect of MP9. I also appreciated the attempts to diversify scenes a bit more than what MP9 did. But everything else here feels like a step back, with bland minigames, awful motion controls, and the unfortunate lack of an inline component once again.
The minigames aren’t entirely awful, but there’s more harm than good here. A lot of the minigames look like they’ve been simplified for a handheld platform, but I feel like Nd Cube could have gone a bit far. Also, pretty much every mini-game involving gyroscope controls was either non-functional or not fun to play. Mario Party: Island Tour will warn you that if your system is not responding properly, you may need to calibrate it, by placing it on a flat surface. But by the time you realize things have gone wrong, you’ve already started the movement-requiring mini-game, and now is not a good time to try to calibrate your system.
Fortunately, pen input minigames and traditional face button games fare better from a control perspective. You’ll get a pretty good mix of the two, and the movement-based ones aren’t the majority. But still, I found most of the minigames played to be pretty bland whether I’m playing against the AI or a real person.
Speaking of which, you won’t want to pick up this game unless you have someone around who owns a 3DS. On the plus side, they don’t need to own Mario Party: Island Tour, as the game supports download play for up to 3 additional players. But the lack of an online connection, especially on a platform that’s not as ideal as a home console for local play, is an unfortunate omission. I’m not particularly surprised Nintendo hasn’t shown much interest in introducing online play for the series in the past, but it’s worth noting for potential buyers.
As I mentioned above, one of the best things about this Mario Party entry is the actual stages, or boards, that you’ll be playing on. There’s a wide variety to choose from, and I was happy to see each stage labeled with leaderboards for skill, luck, and mini-games, as well as expected time to play. There are also inventive gimmicks for different boards, like the Bowser stage where you’ll want to stay at the back of the pack for as long as possible to win. Then there’s the Bonzai Bill stage which lets you play chicken against Bonzai Bill, choosing to move forward as you move or duck into caves in order to hide and not get hit. In total, you will have the choice between 7 different stages, which can take from 15 to 60 minutes.
Outside of the traditional party mode, you can experience the various minigames individually, and there’s a StreetPass feature that will tag your favorite character and set you up to play minigames against people you’ve come across in StreetPass. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to try out this particular feature, which is kind of the norm when it comes to StreetPass in my area.
Finally, there’s the new Bowser’s Tower mode, which pits you against Bowser and his minions through 30 stages, engaging you in randomized mini-games in order to advance to the top. It’s probably the longest mode in the game, and it feels like it was designed to provide a better single-player experience than the traditional party mode. It can be fun, but it entirely depends on the minigames you come across, and again, most of them aren’t that hot.
So overall it’s not the best Mario Party experience out there. It’s a shame that Nd Cube actually missed the ball by taking over the reins from Hudson Soft, and if they continue as the developer for MP, I hope to see some major improvements down the road. That doesn’t even hold up against previous handheld Mario Party titles, and it’s one of the few titles released by Nintendo that you can safely skip this holiday season.
To note: C+