Mario has been partying since the Nintendo 64 days over a decade ago, but his shindigs have mostly been contained to a television screen. Which makes sense when you think about it: you’re likely not going to be playing (least of all enjoying) a Mario Party game unless you’ve got some buddies to play with. Regardless, since the Game Boy Advance Nintendo has been releasing Mario Party’s for it’s handheld platforms, and the 3DS is no exception. Taking the shenanigans from the consoles and emulating it on up to four player’s 3DS’, Mario Party: Island Tour manages to recreate the mini-game mayhem the series is known for, albeit in a truncated fashion.
The crux of the series has always hinged on the minigames. While there are some duds amongst the collection, Mario Party: Island Tour has a great assortment of minigames to entice players to come back again and again. The neatest games were the ones that incorporated the 3DS’ unique abilities, and not simply using the touch screen for controls. Certain games have you moving the system to aim and shoot at enemies. Another had you spin the 3DS around to orient a character on screen to match a picture. And others simply had you use the touch screen to control, outline, and draw to come out the winner. I enjoyed most of these games because they felt different from past Mario Party games due to their unique nature. That being said, some of the more “traditional” games which didn’t incorporate anything 3DS-exclusive were still awesome (check out “Claiming the Cube” and “Tragic Carpet Ride”). On the whole Island Tour has a good selection of minigames that are fun to play.
That fun factor though is contingent on your play setting. The computer AI is ridiculously easy on the lower difficulties, and a bit unfair on the highest master setting. This comes out particularly well during more of the “Luck” based games, where it seems the beefed up AI has an advantage when guessing which clam has the most pearls…
Computer debauchery aside, the real limiting agent to your fun with this game will be whether or not you play with friends. Getting four players together to play is easily the brightest aspect of the game. Not only do living beings present more of a challenge than the computer, the game is wonderfully paced to allow for socializing during the downtime between minigames. I’ve already had a few great nights with a few friends and this one, and we’ll likely have some more!
Easily the best aspect of multiplayeris download play. With just one cart you can play with up to three other players. Besides being able to coordinate with your friends and only buy one copy of the game for you all to enjoy, you can also bring up random Mario parties when you’re on the go at any moment. I would have to say this is the most attractive feature of this game, and I only wish that more games would take advantage of this feature. So far I’ve only seen a Pac-Man clone of Mario Party that does something similar…
When you’re not having a gay ol’ time with your pals, you’re likely playing solo, which can be fun for a short while. Most of the game’s boards are available to play by your lonesome, but one feature is only available in single player: Bowser’s Tower. In this somewhat story driven engagement, you climb 30 floors with a minigame at the end of each, on your way to stopping the dastardly Bowser from encasing the entire “Party Island” in bubbles. Yeah, it’s nothing too crazy, but it can be fun. There are unique boss fights/minigames in this mode, but after experiencing those there’s really not much reason to go back. The other sole single player option is StreetPass minigames, which are just regular minigames but with someone you StreetPassed with taking on the role of the opponent. In short, and go figure, this game isn’t nearly as fun when you’re by yourself.
The handful of boards to play are noticeably shorter than past Mario Party games. Some stages take under 20 minutes to complete, while the longest takes a bit over an hour depending on how fast you complete your minigames and dialogue. Sadly, none of the stages are perfect. For each cool gimmick in a stage (like racing on rockets to the goal and picking up boosts that add extra dice along the way), there is something holding it back from greatness (a severe lack of any sort of gameplay). In my experience, the best stage was Bowser’s Peculiar Peak, which has you not wanting to reach the goal where Bowser is waiting. It was different enough and offered enough chances at minigames to make it worth several playthroughs. There are some wonderful ideas and changes to the regular Mario Party formula here, but they aren’t executed in such a way that makes me want to come back for much more.
Speaking of coming back, there really isn’t much of a reason to come back unless you want to play with your friends. It’ll take a few hours to play through each board, and a few extra to try all the minigames and small bonus modes. After that is completed, there’s little incentive to keep going. A throw-away unlockable gallery of artwork and character models can hold over completionists a while longer, but for everyone else the whole shindig will be over in a matter of hours. You’ll get some longevity from the game’s download play ability, but little else.
Mario Party: Island Tour is fun while it lasts. It is quite amazing that you can have just one copy of the game and play it with all of your friends, but that euphoria will not last. There are plenty of fun minigames to play, but there’s an equal amount of “blah” games as well. While that might be the case for games like this, it doesn’t help when it’s coupled with mediocre boards to play and little incentive to play by yourself. If you’ve played and enjoyed a Mario Party in the past then you’ll find some charm with the game from the get-go. Everyone else will likely enjoy the game for a weekend with friends and then move on to something new shortly after.