Mario Party is one of my all-time favorite spin-off series of the Mario franchise. Mario Party is the kind of game that you would bring along with you to college, along with Mario Kart and Super Smash Brothers. I know the majority of gamers have picked out their favorites of the series, and think lesser of the more recent Mario Party games, but in my opinion, I don’t think there is a truly bad game among the ones that I have played. When I heard that Nintendo was making another Mario Party game, I was excited. I was then a little nervous about the game, when it was announced to be on the Nintendo 3DS and 2DS. I always thought certain Mario spin-off titles worked better on either the home console or the handheld console, but Mario Party has always been a home console kind of game to me. That is just my personal opinion. Let us dive into this world of giant dice, mini-games, and an assortment of Mario characters, and review Mario Party: Island Tour for the Nintendo 3DS.
Just like in my previous review of Mario & Sonic at the Sochi Olympic Winter Games 2014, there really isn’t much of a story. The closest thing you get to a story mode in this game is that Mario and the gang are having a most joyous day on the Party Islands. That is, until Bowser throws a hissy fit because he didn’t get invited to the party. Sounds like he and Maleficent from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty should get together sometime. Anyway, just forget about getting something story-oriented in a Mario spin-off game unless it is one of the Mario RPG games.
Island Tour is designed very much like any other Mario Party game to come out. You have your main mode where you play against three other people on different boards with their own gimmicks. There are only seven boards, and they all have one goal: get to the end of the board. This means you do not have to worry about getting the most stars, coins, or gaining extra stars. Instead, you will want to win each mini-game to get a better dice to roll alongside the normal dice that you get with each turn. Items are still around, but they only help you go forward, or push the opponents back a few spaces. The seven boards each have a unique gimmick to them and some of them need to be tackled a different way. For example, one board has you collecting star bits to win. Another board requires the player to not reach Bowser first to win the game. The mini-games, of course, range from memorable and creative to the usual duds that are forgettable. They will use everything from the stylus to the gyroscopic controls. Some of them work well with these controls, but some of them are a little clunky. Outside of the boards that can be beaten within 30 or so minutes each, there are a few other modes. There is the mini-game mode where you can either play any of the mini-games you have unlocked, play 10 mini-games and see how fast you can clear them, or compete against others to see who can win the most mini-games. Another mode is Street Pass mini-games, where you can challenge people all over the world in different mini-game challenges. In my opinion, the best mode is the Bowser’s Tower mode where you go through a multitude of floors competing in mini-games while having to deal with Bowser’s bag of tricks. There is only local multiplayer so don’t expect to play this game online with friends. There is a decent amount of content to keep you coming back, and I can see some of these boards with their gimmicks getting chaotic when playing with friends.
The graphics are nice and colorful. They are nothing visually new, compared to games like Mario Party 9. That shouldn’t come as a shocking revelation since this the same subsidiary of Nintendo who made Wii Party U and Mario Party 9. The music has its charm and can be catchy, but it is basically the same fun quirky music you hear in a lot of Mario Party games. There really isn’t much to talk about in the presentation department besides the overall presentation looks solid.
Unfortunately, this party game has some issues. Like I said above, I had my concerns about this party game being on the 3DS. I know this shouldn’t be the case since Mario Kart 7 works great as a handheld game, but I just feel like party games like Mario Party work better on a console. The overall streamlined experience was really off-putting to me at first. The boards are linear, and you don’t have to worry about stars or coins. I can understand why these design choices were made, since the stuff that is usually in Mario Party games would have just slowed things down in this version that was made for quick gaming on the go. I guess it was just jarring to me since I am so used to home console Mario Party games. Even with these changes, it is still odd that, due to how fast games can be finished, there is no online multiplayer. It took me about 30 or so minutes to beat one board, and I can understand that not everyone has a multitude of hours to play games. But since online multiplayer isn’t here for this game, when the game was obviously made for multiplayer experiences, it is just peculiar. It just would have been nice to have some kind of mode that could bring back classic Mario Party mechanics and boards so you are not left just with what you get when you buy this game.
Before I finish up, I just want to say that I love Nintendo and a lot of the things they do. With that said, I think this game is solid, but not the best game in the spin-off series. I like what it did to be a more fast-paced handheld party game on the go, but I still feel like something was missing. I know this will be available the same day as Super Mario 3D World and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, and I think it might have sealed its fate for that reason, but I think it’s worth checking out. I still think there are more Mario games that are on the Nintendo 3DS worth checking out first, like Mario & Luigi: Dream Team and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon, but maybe when the price drops on Island Tour, I would pick it up. It’s a good game, and I can see this title being a worthwhile and enjoyable companion while you are travelling or waiting for something. Heck, the Bowser Tower will keep you occupied for a while, but I can see why people might skip this title until a later date. At least it isn’t as awkwardly designed as say Sonic Shuffle on the Dreamcast. Check it out if you have friends with Nintendo 3DSs and if you love Mario Party, otherwise, I would personally say get it later.
This game gets a 6 out of 10.