Thursday, January 2, 2014

Mario Party: Island Tour (3DS) Review

It's SuperPhillip Central's first review of 2014! However, we still can't get away from 2013 because we have a game from last year to review. Mario Party: Island Tour is the third handheld installment. Is it better than Mario Party DS? Well, it's at least better than Mario Party Advance! Read the full details in our review.

Not a party worth having alone.

After a decade of minimal changes to the basic formula of the franchise, many critics and fans of the series alike were growing restless towards Nintendo for not changing up the Mario Party series enough. Then came Mario Party 9, and it seemed that many thought that the then-new Wii iteration wasn't enough like the old games. This type of reaction isn't exclusive to Nintendo's games and franchises, but it certainly seems like it happens more often than it should. That said, ND Cube, a company founded by several old members of Hudson, is trying their luck again, this time on the Nintendo 3DS with Mario Party: Island Tour.

Mario Party: Island Tour contains seven new boards for players to enjoy. However, unfortunately, only six of them are available to solo players. The odd board out, Shy Guy's Shuffle City is only playable with two other human opponents. This makes the absence of any online play all the more frustrating considering the majority of the boards are much shorter than what previous Mario Party games have seen. Still, if you have friends or family in your community, you can play with them with all of you only needing one game card to play off of. This is in contrast to games like Kid Icarus: Uprising where all players need a copy of the game to participate in any kind of multiplayer.

The brevity of most boards is a blessing and a curse for Island Tour. The blessing is that games don't take overly long to play, and it makes it perfect for bite-size gaming sessions. Also, if you're trying to win a given board and find yourself getting on the receiving end of an unlucky sandwich, the game will be over much faster than usual. You need not suffer for long! The curse here is that with how short most boards are, you will be done with them rather quickly, with little to persuade you to play them again besides boredom.

Those 47 spaces go by much
faster than you'd think.
However, there are much worse things than having to replay these boards. Unlike pre-Mario Party 9 iterations of the series, where players went around a board and the person who collected the most stars won, ND Cube's takes on the series have shaken things up considerably. While the popular opinion of Mario Party 9 was that the new vehicle system was a failed experiment, Island Tour's "different rules for each board" philosophy works rather well.

On this board, the goal is to collect
the most Mini Stars by the end.
Take Perilous Palace Path, for instance. Most boards require you to reach the end before everyone else, and Perilous Palace Path is no exception. The thing that makes this board interesting is the use of items, gained by landing on specially marked spaces. These items can do different effects like adding to the number of spaces you move on your turn, cutting the amount of spaces your opponent moves by half, or totally switching the locations of all players. Then there's the super-short Banzai Bill's Mad Mountain, where you play a game of risk vs. reward against a Banzai Bill. On this board there are multiple small alcoves that serve as safety points. When a Banzai Bill side of the die is rolled, the monstrous Mario enemy launches, knocking all players in its way that haven't found safety in an alcove back several spaces.

Someone set us up the Banzai Bill.
The variety of each boards' objectives and how you play them make for some very nice diversity. There's even a board where the rules of Island Tour stand on their collective head, requiring the winner to be the one farthest away from the goal. These rules shake things up well, but I can see how many want to see the Mario Party formula return to its star-obtaining routes.

From dodging Pokeys in Pokey Corral...
Depending on the board, mini-games show up at various intervals. First place through third usually get a bonus dice block to work with in addition to the die they regularly roll. Every mini-game featured in Party Mode is a free-for-all. Gone are 1 vs. 3 affairs or tag team contests. You might think this is a bad thing, but the cutthroat level of competition makes things more interesting. It also doesn't hurt that this litter of mini-games is one of the best in series history.

...To practicing your driving skills...
Whether you're pounding sections of an illuminated cube for points, solving tile-sliding puzzles with a stylus, competing in 3D tank battles, dodging electrified Amps, climbing ladders while avoiding stones that fall from above, or topping a cake with decorations, Mario Party: Island Tour has really great mini-games under its belt. There are still a handful of luck-based games in the rotation, but they're too few to really be bothered by.

...Mario Party: Island Tour's collection
of mini-games is one of the series' best.
There's plenty to party about in Party Mode, but what about a mode that isn't focused on multiplayer play? Unfortunately, this is an area where Island Tour falls a bit flat. While it's appreciated that one need not dread playing against a trio of cheating computer players just to unlock some new content like past Mario Party games, what is here is very brief, Bowser's Tower. Bowser's Tower is a series of thirty floors that has you taking on computer players in various mini-games.

A green Toad joins you in your
ascent of Bowser's Tower.
Every fifth floor pits you against a boss character in one their custom designed boss mini-games. These can be as simple as memorizing and inputting a button combination in time to making conveyor belts line up with the stylus. These encounters are pretty creative and fun to play through a few times. That's pretty the story of Bowser's Tower. It's fun to play through a few times, but then it has served its purpose and you've experienced all there is to see. Given the mode takes but an hour to and hour-and-a-half to complete, there isn't much for solo gamers.

Make a conveyor path from Wario to the cannon
to bring King Bob-Omb the boom.
Mario Party: Island Tour isn't the most technologically amazing 3DS game there is, but it looks serviceable and runs rather nicely. The game is suitably colorful, has plenty of things for the eye to be amazed by, and character models translate well to the small screen. Yes, there are a lot of jaggies to be found, but all in all Island Tour looks just fine. After all, you didn't come to this party for the eye candy, did you? As for the sound, the typical Mario cast and crew's cheers, moans, groans, and one-liners are fully represented in Island Tour. The music is what you'd expect from the series. It isn't fantastic, but what there is is pretty memorable or at the very least decent (i.e. not grating on the ears).

A Tox Box triple threat
Essentially, Mario Party: Island Tour is a fantastic purchase, given you have friends with Nintendo 3DS's to play with. (Remember that only one of you needs a game card. Awesome.) Otherwise, you might grow tired of playing the same six relatively short boards and even the masterful mini-games after a while. Overall, ND Cube's second offering with the Mario Party franchise in Island Tour is a superior effort compared to Mario Party 9. It's just a shame that it's so weak on the single player front. Online play-- even just to play mini-games with friends and strangers-- would have went a long way to making this game worth more than it is now.

[SPC Says: 7.0/10]

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