CGR Undertow – MARIO PARTY: ISLAND TOUR review for Nintendo 3DS

So…what’s the point? That’s what I asked in 2005, when Mario Party made its handheld debut. It’s what I asked in 2007, when the series returned to handhelds with Mario Party DS. Any time Mario’s thrown a party on the go, I’ve always asked the same question. The joy of Mario Party, what’s made these games so special for so many years…is playing them with friends. It’s that magical combination of pizza, television…and friends. Take away the television and the friends, and…well, what’s the point? So fair or not…for me, a game like this starts off with something to prove.

Sure, there’s multiplayer, but you need multiple consoles and wireless connections…it’s not the same immediate and all-encompassing appeal. So it’s, inherently, not the same party. Even a great handheld Mario Party…would still have to answer that question, for me. Not only does this one not do that…it’s not a great handheld Mario Party. Island Tour brings Mario Party to the 3DS with a simplified take on the long-running series. It’s got three modes. You can play a board game, you can play the minigames individually…or you can take on Bowser’s Tower, which is like a campaign mode. A really boring campaign mode.

Anyway, it’s par for the course, otherwise. It’s minigames. Fun with friends, utterly pointless on your own. So I mentioned it’s simplified. That’s because the objectives aren’t quite what you might be thinking. In past Mario Party games, you had to collect stars, right? You could earn them in the minigames, or they were scattered around the board. And the player with the most stars won. Well, this time…it’s just a race. The player who gets to the end wins. So it’s a much more streamlined and simplified take on the Mario Party formula. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, I think it’s a nice change of pace. Now, on the other hand…that also means an even greater emphasis on luck. Especially on certain boards. You can win all the minigames, gain the most spaces…and still lose. That was always the case, but this time, even more so.

And you know, again, I do like that approach. And it works because the board designs are mostly really well-done. This Bullet Bill board, for example. On every roll, you have to choose whether to push your luck and take a few extra spaces…or sacrifice a few to move to safe cover. And you might need that safe cover, because…if someone rolls a Bullet Bill? You’ll wish you had played it safe. And that kinda stuff is what Mario Party is all about. That’s multiplayer gold. But for me, that’s also where I lose interest in these handheld versions.

If you want to get the most out of Mario Party: Island Tour, you need three friends who have a 3DS. And obviously, that limits your prospective opponents big time. What I love about Mario Party is handing controllers to anyone…playing these games with an entire room of people. With Island Tour, you just can’t do that. And I realize that’s not the game’s fault—it actually has some great wireless options, including the ability to play the full game without a cartridge. Even that, though…I don’t know.

It’s just not the same experience. And to me, that experience is Mario Party. There’s room for more objective criticism, however, when it comes to the minigames. This is kind of where a Mario Party sinks or floats, and sometimes, it’s a matter of taste. Some Mario Party games have great minigames, and are therefore great. Others do not. Island Tour falls somewhere in the middle. A lot of it’s pretty familiar…the same kind of stuff that’s been in Mario Party for years. But then you get some that are actually kind of inventive. Especially the ones that use the features of the 3DS.

There’s this awesome constellation game, for example, that uses the touch screen really well. There’s also some that use the gyroscope, for motion controls. Those tend to be when Island Tour’s minigames are at their best, and most memorable. When they actually feel like they were made for the 3DS. If you have a bunch of friends you can play this with, it’s kind of an easy decision. In fact, you can actually just buy one game. Like, have everyone pitch in for one group copy. Because of the download option, that’s all you need for the multiplayer. And that’s awesome. But if you’re lacking the sufficient friends with sufficient hardware…don’t worry about it. Honestly, you’re not really missing much. Mario Party: Island Tour can be fun, but only because it’s Mario Party. Not because it’s a great Mario Party.

As found on Youtube

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