Another party to pass up.
Mario Party was one of those franchises that made a lot of sense. A virtual board game tied together by a slew of minigames was the recipe for party enjoyment and my brothers, friends, and I all enjoyed a lengthy round on the N64. Though Mario Party 2 and 3 ultimately brought about some improvements to the formula, the initial appeal had already begun to wear out.
Fast forward to the 12th game in the series and it’s no doubt that the series has lost most, if not all of its appeal to gamers that have played any of the previous 11 iterations. Along the way, we’ve seen modifications to the formula from the addition of microphones and waggle controls to handheld versions on the Game Boy Advance and Nintendo DS and even a new direction with Miis instead of Mario characters. Mario Party has finally reached the Nintendo 3DS (and inevitably the Wii U) but can It create appealing gameplay to win over a jaded gamer such as myself who wonders if the series should have stopped after the first few?
Handheld Mario Party has always seemed like it was marketing an experience apart from what has always made Mario Party appealing: the ability to have a lengthy 4 player experience with 3 of your good friends. Playing a game that mixed both skill and luck led to many a hilarious moment and being in the same room made it work. Smack talk and rivalry works most effectively in person and Mario Party made it fun and chaotic all in the same.
The problem with the first handheld title, Mario Party Advance was that it really was nothing more than a 1-player game. This defeated the entire point of Mario Party and though I was originally excited about the prospect of a game more focused on adventure, I was nonetheless disappointed by the end result. I can’t speak much to experiences with Mario Party DS but online gameplay was still not in the game’s repertoire and playing in person with 3 other people just seemed silly compared to playing on a console.
The 3DS offers a similar experience to the DS version with local wireless play and a lack of internet play. Locally, up to four people can battle it out with only one cartridge (which is a big plus as not everyone needs to purchase the game). I can see local multiplayer being enjoyable but again, if we’re all in person, it just makes more sense to play on a console (there aren’t enough unique features on the 3DS to warrant playing it over other versions).
As with all offerings of Mario Party, gamers can choose to play it by themselves with 3 computers at a range of different difficulties; and as usual, solo gaming falls short. To entice gamers to continue playing on their own, Mario Party: Island Tour awards you with Mario Party Points for everything you do in the game that can be used to unlock artwork, music, and figurines (though game modes or boards a la Advance Wars would have been much more enticing). Ultimately, playing with computers just feels a little lonely compared to the full experience of playing with other people.
There are 7 game boards in total in the standard mode of the game, each of which has minor changes to the formula. Perilous Palace features a standard, lengthy game board where players can collect items to increase their dice rolls or decrease those of their opponents. Banzai Bill's Mad Mountain is a short, highly luck based board where players ascend a small mountain and have the chance of being shot back if they don't take cover. Rocket Road is an equally short race that rewards players with multipliers to their dice rolls. All of the boards are inherently different but again, the same standard gameplay is in place with players moving around the board and playing minigames to break up the gameplay.
Unfortunately, game boards in this game feel even more dependent upon luck than in previous iterations. I happen to be quite good at videogames and have also excelled at both Mario Party and its numerous minigames. Yet, even with computers on low difficulties and winning every single mini game played, I lost on 3 out of the first 4 boards I played on. The luck of the dice is far too important in Island Tour to be consistently fun.
There are some unique features to the 3DS that make this game stand out from previous versions of the game but nothing fundamentally built into the game’s mechanics. Of the 3DS exclusive gameplay mechanics, players can utilize Streetpass to play against a virtual ghost given from the opponents’ best times. Also, AR cards can be used to play in a few minigames that utilize AR gameplay.
Time attack is an option to play through a number of minigames in a row seeking a fast time and players can be rewarded with lower times by doing specific tasks. Hot-Air Hijinks is a race to 3, 5, or 7 wins in minigames. Bowser’s tower is a 1-player mode featuring 6 successions of 5 minigames in a row followed by boss battles. There are 30 rounds in a row until you reach the top and face off against Bowser (though it sounds interesting from the surface, the mode felt like a generic repetition of playing through the minigames with little extra incentive).