Sunday, 9 February 2014

Mario Party: Island Tour

Nintendo are having a hard time right now. After blowing the competition out of the water with the original Nintendo DS and dominating the “casual” market with the Wii, sales remain positive but modest for the Nintendo 3DS while so far they've lost $205 million on the Wii U. This isn't good and things don't seem to be looking up for them. But if there's one franchise that technically should increase sales, it's Mario. Always has and always will. I mean, kids love that mid-50's Italian sweaty plumber, and he's back with yet another Mario Party title. You would have though we'd have had enough of these games, but I guess Nintendo needs to eat and, you know, prevent death/bankruptcy and such. Then again, if Nintendo do go away maybe we'll have seen the last of Kirby? Oh well, a man can dream.

The first Mario Party game on the Nintendo 64 was a pleasant breath of fresh air. While the console was already brim full of cutesy and classically Nintendo titles, Mario Party invited your friends or family to take part in the action. Boasting 56 mini-games to take part in, the game was a huge success and effectively ensured the longevity of a new spin-off franchise. 10 Mario Party games later and the latest instalment has been released for the Nintendo 3DS, Mario Party: Island Tour.

First off, while the game can be played solo, Island Tour was built with multi-player in mind. Now sadly online play hasn't been implemented here, and considering it's something that was expected, it's pretty disappointing to see it in the game. Instead it can only be played locally with other 3DS users. While it's a bit of a pain to get set up, if pulled off it makes the best of what the game has to offer. In fact, during a three person multi-player session I had flashbacks to how I felt when I first played Mario Party on the Nintendo 64 with a couple of mates. That's something that doesn't happen too often, and while Island Tour is far from perfect, it can deliver some great little moments.

Like the rest of the games in the series, Mario Party: Island Tour takes place on various levels that resemble a typical Monopoly-like board. Though objectives can vary from board to board, the player usually tries to reach the end of the board before everyone else. This is achieved by simply rolling a dice, with the number you roll being the amount of spaces you move on the board. However, along the way you'll need to take part in many mini-games and collect items. Mini-games take place after every round of dice throws with the winner gaining certain perks and advantages over their competitors.

There are 81 mini-games packed into Island Tour, with some of them using the 3DS' AR technology to superb effect. That said, overall they're extremely fun and varied, with some of the best mini-games being Match Faker, Tile Savy and Spin the Bubble- a game that requires the player to rotate the entire 3DS according to the image on screen. Like Spin the Bubble most games try and use every little bell and whistle the 3DS has to offer. The huge list of mini-games, which also include Boss battles and Puzzles, are a lot of fun.

But while there are plenty of mini-games here, they aren't many actual boards at all. There's around 7 on offer, and while the actual mini-games are the focal point of the game, the boards during a second play through get pretty damn boring. It stinks of a rushed game because of this, and considering the fact that Nintendo need to make money now, I think that's exactly what it is. Perhaps if Nintendo put more time into developing it, Mario Party: Island Tour could have been up there with the original game, but they didn't and it isn't. A shame

Still, there is fun to be had here particularly if you can play it with a few friends or family. It can often stir up a unique multi-player experience; one that doesn't involve shooting people in the face, and for that, at the very least, it should be enjoyed. It may not be perfect, but it's a decent Mario fix.

Mario Party: Island Tour abandons Princess Peach to be eaten alive by Bowser with a passable 7/10.

Denis Murphy

Mario Party: Island Tour at CeX

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