Mario Party: Island Tour is the newest installment in Nintendo’s long-running zany and wacky party series. True to form, Island Tour is just as wild as its predecessors and successfully rectifies issues of more recent installments while rediscovering the charm that made its ancestors so loved.
As with any Mario Party game, the boards and mini-games here are the hallmarks of gameplay. However, the boards take a particularly center-stage focus here. This is because each board has a unique gimmick about it and requires a variety of different objectives en route to becoming the Superstar. Choosing a board is no longer just a choice of scenery: what board you choose determines how exactly you need to think and play in order to win. Among some of these map gimmicks include collecting the most mini stars, running and hiding from banzai bills, and playing on a cards table while avoiding Bowser. Most maps boil down to an objective of making it to the finish line, but because the maps’ themes and gimmicks are so variant, players will hardly even be cognizant of this fact and will play each map as a unique experience.
However, before selecting a map, players will see a brief table which details the amount of success in skill, luck, and mini-games might be expected in order to attain victory. The issue with this is that luck is recognized as a significant factor toward victory. Often enough, however, this luck feature isn’t limited to just how well you do when you roll a die. Indeed, many maps are dependent upon both your luck as well as the luck of your opponents, which can often set players way back on the board. This is disappointing because it leaves players open to the mercy of elements they can’t control, which is often both a disheartening and frustrating experience. This is certainly not the first time the series has been criticized for necessitating too much luck (note: the criticism here is not that there is luck involved, that’s natural and expected for a board game, but that there is too much luck at work), so it is disappointing that the series’ developers seem to simply be ignoring these remarks.
Island Tour boasts an impressive 81 brand new mini-games. As has often been considered the most enjoyable portion of the series, the mini-games here do not disappoint. Accordingly, the developers put clear and notable effort and innovation into the ideas for mini-games. While there are simply too many to discuss, the mini-games vary widely and make use of just about all of the 3DS’s features. Including, but not limited to, the touchpad, the handheld’s tilt, microphone, camera, and simple directional and button commands from both the circle and d-pad. Indeed, it rarely feels like players are forced to play a different variant of the same game, and there are more than enough mini-games to keep them from feeling tired and recycled.
Aside from the standard Party mode, the game is host to a few other neat modes and features that allow you to enjoy the game without feeling restricted to the tried-and-true Party. Naturally, players may opt to play mini-games in standalone fashion and not commit to a Party that may take more time than players have. A nifty StreetPass mini-games mode will allow players to enjoy mini-games using Mii characters rather than just the featured Mario characters. Additionally, in a fit of jealous rage over not being invited to the Party, Bowser creates a large tower where he tries to capture all the other maps in bubbles, and players will have to climb to the top in order to stop him. In order to climb the tower, players will have to win mini-games, which, while making it little else than a mini-game marathon with a plot, the prospect will certainly appeal to younger audiences.
Lastly, from being successful in Party mode, players will accumulate points that serve as in-game currency that will allow them to buy and unlock bubbles of various maps and characters that can be heard, viewed, and otherwise enjoyed in the gallery. Unfortunately, the unlockables are pretty weak, and are generally pretty unsatisfying. You can amass plenty of points from Party mode, but the rewards are ultimately lackluster and are limited to a more streamlined way of viewing and hearing images and sounds that you’ve already experienced in standard gameplay.
Overall, Mario Party: Island Tour is a fun little game that doesn’t try too hard to accomplish what it recognizes is generally simple and fun gameplay. While the game will likely appeal more to younger audiences, it is a game that all audiences can enjoy, especially for those looking for a simple and casual experience.
[+New, creative maps][+Plenty of fun minigames][-Too much luck][-Unsatisfying unlockables]