Review: Mario Party: Island Tour (3DS)

Remember when people actually cared for new Mario Party games? Nowadays it's just "Oh... another Mario Party game...". So why doesn't the series attract as much attention as, say... Mario Kart? Perhaps it's because Mario Party relies heavily on local multiplayer and a lot of similar mini-games. Because let's face it, underneath all the different modes, Mario Party is very much a series based around friends. Most of the time it doesn't really matter what's going on on-screen as long as it's exciting and colourful because at the end of the day, it's about who you're playing the game with. And that makes it all the more difficult to judge fairly; play the game with people you hate (why you'd do that, I don't know) and it'll make for a much worse experience than if you play it with your best mates.

Let's start with the basics. Island Tour features a number of different options right from the main menu; there's the regular Party mode, Minigame mode, Bowser's Tower, StreetPass Minigames and Collectables.

We'll leave Party mode for last since that has the most content, natch. The Minigames section, as you smart readers may be able to guess, features minigames. Within the Minigames, you can choose one of three things. Free Play is one of them, in which you can play any minigame. In Time Attack, you are given ten minigames and judged on how quickly you can beat them all. Each minigame comes with a little bonus challenge, which is quite nice. Finally we've got Balloon Race. It's basically a versus mode; win minigames and your balloon rises, the first to reach the goal wins! Pretty standard stuff, so there's no reason to go into more detail. But while we're on the subject of minigames, I for one did enjoy them. For the most part, they're pretty inventive, featuring pretty much every 3DS control scheme; gyro, buttons, stylus... a couple of extra minigames also use the AR cards and the microphone. They're nothing to really get excited over, but if you're a fan of Mario related minigames, you should have a good time with 'em.

Bowser's Tower, now then. This is one of the game's only solo modes and is essentially a really long minigame gauntlet against bubble versions of Mario and crew created by Bowser. You're tasked with reaching the top of the thirty floor tower to reach Bowser, facing bosses along the way, including Dry Bowser and King Bob-omb himself. It's nothing too special, and will probably get pretty tedious pretty quickly... and it has to be done if you want to unlock the game's only hidden character. The bosses are nice but it's nothing more than a distraction from the rest of the game. Thankfully, you can save your progress every five floors. It's something that only really appeals once, mainly to unlock a new character.

Next up are the StreetPass minigames... yes, this game features StreetPass! The game asks for your favourite character, and if you StreetPass someone they'll be able to play against you to win Mario Party Points. That's really all there is to that, so speaking of Mario Party Points, they're collected by winning/playing various modes. You can use them to purchase Collectables, which aren't as exciting as they sound. You can buy character bubbles and memory bubbles; character ones allow you to listen to that character's voice clips and the memory ones (which are based on the game modes) let you listen to music. So... Collectables is just another word for Sound Test, apparently. Told you it wasn't as interesting as it sounded...

And last but certainly not least we have the titular Party mode, featuring seven different game boards which all include unique gameplay. First up is the Perilous Palace Path, a simple race to the end with a bunch of items and dangers along the way to spice things up. Developers Nd Cube have drawn from their own Wii Party for this board; it feels very similar to Board Game Island from that game. Hmm... board game... island? I see the connection, Nd Cube. Next up we have Banzai Bill's Mad Mountain; a test of courage, according to the game. As you race to the finish on this board, you'll have to duck into holes to avoid the Banzai Bill, which is shot from the cannon every time someone rolls a Banzai Bill on the dice. Simple enough stuff.

Star-Crossed Skyway is next and it uses the Mini Stars and Mini Ztars from Mario Party 9. This board is essentially split into four smaller boards and you're tasked with reaching a stage at the end of each section. Reaching the stage will reward you with a certain number of Mini Stars or Ztars. Tactics come into play here; you'll probably want to hang back and let other players take the Mini Ztars... or do you try to land on switch spaces to switch up the order of the Mini Stars/Ztars on the stage? It's one of the more skill based boards. Next up we have Rocket Road... which looks suspiciously like Rainbow Road and features cameos from Rosalina and the Lumas. Here you're riding a rocket; using boosters collected through minigames and landing on booster spaces, you can multiply your dice roll to travel even further. And yep... that's all there is to that one.

Kamek's Carpet Ride uses cards to move instead of the dice. Using cards you have to land perfectly on the goal; if you overshoot you'll be sent backwards. Not... not a whole lot to be said about most of these boards, come to think of it. Shy Guy's Shuffle City is an interesting one, as it is the only mode in the game that has to be played with human players; all the rest can be played with COM characters. This one's all about cards too, except here you're forced to trade them with other players. There's also a Bowser card... let's just say you don't want to be holding on to that one. That's where the trading comes in; since players pick a random card from someone else, the Bowser card gets passed around. This one's all about playing your cards right... and the luck of getting a good hand. Honestly though, I don't see why it can't be played with COMs. Strange...

And finally we come to the last board; Bowser's Bizarre Volcano, which can be unlocked by playing all the other boards (except Shy Guy's Shuffle City, because the game assumes you have no friends). This one is a little different; Bowser is at the end of the map, so whoever reaches him first loses. Losing in mingames here gives you an extra dice, so you'll be more likely to reach Bowser first. It's a nice mix up, but nothing spectacular. Something to note, just before I conclude, is that Island Tour can be played with up four human players. A pretty big praise I have for the game is that you only need one copy of the game; everything can be done with download play.

There you have it then, a very brief overview of Mario Party: Island Tour. Graphically it's a treat... I mean, who doesn't love to watch Waluigi spring around in full glasses free 3D? Oh, well I can think of one person...! The music's quite nice too, it includes some good new stuff and some familiar old remixed tracks. And that's basically everything I have to say. Island Tour is a fun game. If you're ever bored it's nice to jump into a quick round of Mario Party, and being a handheld title it's even easier. But of course, like every Mario Party game, Island Tour excels in its multiplayer capabilities. In that respect, the boards seem even more fun and full of life... but when it all comes down to it, does it really matter what's going on on-screen...? I'll let you decide. + Daniel Godfrey

7/10 - Island Tour features some fun and unique boards and game modes as well as a load of new minigames. It's best when played with friends though and doesn't offer a lot for solo players. If you enjoy the bright, colourful world of Mario, chances are you'll enjoy Island Tour.

Review copy funded by Nintendo Feed

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