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Mario Party: Island Tour (Nintendo 3DS) Review

Review for Mario Party: Island Tour on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Mario and friends return to the virtual board-game scene in the latest instalment of the popular Mario Party series for Nintendo 3DS. Colourful, bright worlds and mini-games are calling out to player's palms in 3D, but can Nintendo put on a good show this time round after a mixed reception for Mario Party 9?

Don't be confused by the title - at first glance, Mario Party: Island Tour embodies what a hypothetical Mario Party 10 would feel like; another in the long list from the début Nintendo 64 outing, the first GameCube offering (Mario Party 4), through to the initial Wii version, Mario Party 8. In fact, if there's a new Nintendo console afoot, imagine a new Mario Party title gracing the machine at some point. Such is the case with the Nintendo 3DS.

The Mario Party storylines, if they can be called that, swing one of two ways: the parties held are either the result of fierce competition between the beloved Mario characters (an exception is the fight between Brighton and Twila - the sun and moon respectively, in Mario Party 6) or an instance where Bowser feels left out, neglected and enacts some feeble act of revenge in Mario Party 7. In this case, he's imprisoned the fun worlds inside bubbles in a bid for Mario and friends to shift their plans towards Bowser Towers. It's up to the Mushroom Kingdom gang to party down as usual, face their liquid doppelgangers and stop poor old Bowser from his evil scheming.

Screenshot for Mario Party: Island Tour on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

However, there are differences, both in the aesthetics and gameplay when compared to Mario Party 9. The boss battles become a recurring theme, where the player has to solve puzzles in order to thwart Bowser's minions. The process becomes even more casual than before, and that's a major feat in this franchise. Games are now grouped according to time limit, skill, luck and so on. It's a good move from Nintendo in that the portable nature of the 3DS makes the game compatible for a quick play on the bus, Tube or train. Mario Party boards can often drag on and on, especially when the person in question is facing off against three computer opponents.

Despite having solid single player content, there is a limitation when it comes to multiplayer. There is the option of the one game card for local multi-play, but there is no online connectivity. It would be feasible, and indeed a great optional extra, to lift the franchise that little bit more, but it's not the case this time round.

Onto the gameplay and visuals...Island Tour is colourful, saturated and cheerful (apart from the obligatory Bowser levels), as expected from such a game. There is the long forest path with luck being the biggest obstacle (there are many forks in the road, which can lead to a comfortable ride or the off-road onto the rugged track). If bad luck prevails when it comes to dice rolls, the board won't come as such a pleasant surprise, no matter how many wins are racked up during the mini-games.

Screenshot for Mario Party: Island Tour on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Strangely enough, the game that emphasises the luck quotient is, in fact, not the most reliant on luck itself. "Rocket Road" is a brief encounter at best (the game states 10-20 minutes in duration) and the aim is simple - players need to get to the end first.

This seems to be the case in a lot of these boards - being the fastest, and often luckiest, is the only requirement. There are no bonus stars at the end of the game to reward skills in winning the majority of the spoils in mini-games, buying items or hitting question mark squares, which feels a great shame. However, winning mini-games entitles the victor to a booster, a larger second dice roll, or a choice of specific card. In Rocket Road, the winner receives a prize of boosters that can multiply the dice roll. With only a few spaces in the game, it can be over very quickly, but it's the addition of a possible zero roll that helps to set the session's pacing. After all, it is possible to boost the dice roll up to five times, but five times zero is, of course...zero!

Skill-based boards include "Kamek's Carpet Ride," which enables the player to think more strategically about their trajectory. Winning mini-games allows for the first pick of specific cards - either a loose card that scrolls between a certain set of numbers like one to three, or a "precise" card, where the number is determined. With tricks scattered along the board and the need to end precisely on the last space to win (like the solo mode in Mario Party 6), this particular stage becomes that bit more rewarding.

Screenshot for Mario Party: Island Tour on Nintendo 3DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Most of the other boards run on a variant of these formulae. The mini-games are half luck, half skill, with some good ones in there, but nothing really jumps out. Examples like rounding up the rabbits and claiming spots on the Rubix Cube are relatively fun, though. The gyroscope controls in some of these can be a bit of a pain, but they are not too detrimental to the play(ish).

The music is cheerful enough and fits the themes well, whether they are bouncy and light to the familiar menacing tunes of Bower's Tower. Rocket Road is a particular highlight, with a mixture of a Lylat Wars-esque soundtrack with snatches of Super Mario Galaxy's Gusty Galaxy.

If there's a desire for something quick and not too mind consuming, then Mario Party: Island Tour can provide a quick diversion from the stresses of everyday life - until they are converted into the stress of annoying dice rolls, seemingly cheating computer players and the terribly broken item system (they no longer need to be activated within contact - a character can send a rival back by either selecting with or without roulette). Gone are stars to earn, useful items to purchase and versatile boards, in favour of linear and repetitive experiences. In an effort to try and revitalise an ageing series, Nintendo has stripped back what made the Mario Party franchise so successful to begin with, leaving elements of what series fans have found frustrating in the past.

Screenshot for Mario Party: Island Tour on Nintendo 3DS- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

Gameplay

The gyroscopic controls can be irritating - particularly in the mini-game where a capsule is manipulated with a Mario character toy inside (it will often go on autopilot to the detriment of the player). Other than that, the games use the stylus and the gyroscope relatively well. The item system is rather broken, though, unfortunately.

Graphics

It's colourful, cheerful and it does the job. The character animations on the results screen are rather delightful, especially Luigi and Yoshi's animated tantrums.

Sound

Better than expected - the familiar meshes of previous Mario franchise games are well chosen and will crack a smile. The tracks fit the atmosphere well and some of them are memorable.

Value

Mario Party: Island Tour probably won't be as long-lived as the other games in the franchise. The Bowser Tower may help to provide some variety in the mix. The game may linger in a 3DS for a quick play now and then, but it's hard to imagine the game providing a particularly worthwhile or prolonged diversion.

Cubed3 Rating

6/10
Rated 6 out of 10

Average

About this score

Want to play a title where there is no guarantee of winning, no matter how good a player's skill level? Then Mario Party: Island Tour is something to pick up. Fun is there to be found, in small pockets of good mini-games (although not consistent or regular), but - as a big fan of Mario Party in general - this isn't the greatest of games.

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01.02.2014

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Developer

Nintendo

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Party

Players

4

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  4/10 (1 Votes)

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Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

That's a real shame! I quite enjoyed MP9...Was this done by ND Cube as well, like the Wii Party games (i.e. the former Hudson staff Nintendo snapped up)?

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Adam Riley said:
That's a real shame! I quite enjoyed MP9...Was this done by ND Cube as well, like the Wii Party games (i.e. the former Hudson staff Nintendo snapped up)?

It is indeed, but it doesn't feel at all like the past Hudson efforts - as soon as Mario Party 8 hit, it went downhill from there imo. Felt 9 was completely a dumbed-down version - no really skill involved, just linear boards and boss battles - having all characters moving at once did help speed things up, however.

As with 9, I think these boards should have been extra ones - a separate mod for shorter play sessions, keeping the main game with the original grab-stars formula.

Cubed3 Admin/Founder & Designer

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