Another Party, another coin in Bowser’s stolen piggy bank.
Mario Party is one of those franchise games that everybody always seems to make fun of, yet they keep getting made and purchased. At this point I’m convinced that everyone with a Nintendo console owns some variation, as otherwise, how could Big N have made so many? It’s reached the point of Mega Man in that I have no idea how many there are anymore, and going by the number on the cover doesn’t help.
But now, we have a fourth (FOURTH!) portable incarnation of the series in Island Tour for 3DS, capable of play solo or with up to four local players (still no online play), complete with a new selection of mini-games and boards to choose from. Mario and the gang are back, this time with the new Bowser’s Tower and no discernable storyline from what I can gather. Previous entries had some semblance of why you’re playing these games, or what each board is meant to represent, which this one completely abandons... which is fine by me. The whole point of the series is to be an interactive board game, so why bother trying to wrap it up with a pretty, little bow and all that “story” nonsense?
For Island Tour let me start with the most major new item: Bowser’s Tower. The whole point is to get through winning every mini-game—thirty stages in all—over Bowser and his minions, only stopping for the occasional boss battle mini-game. The common games are the standard fare, though now some take advantage of the 3DS orientation capabilities like Buzz a Fuzzy (a bow-and-arrow game where the goal is to hit as many Fuzzies with a single shot as possible) and Spin The Bubble (turn the bubble to line up the inside figure with the top-screen figure). Many of the games are completely luck-oriented still, even on the more “skill”-based boards, which is irritating when I hear there are skill-based boards. It's still easy on most of the boards to lose to the likes of Waluigi and his lucky bastardry (oh, how I hate Waluigi).
Being portable yet again means most of the boards are geared toward speedy games with few rounds, like a quick hit of game adrenaline And these are definitely quick ones… almost every round is a “reach the finish first” game instead of a Mini-Star collection goal. I wish there were more of the traditional Mario Party boards with their looping configurations (maybe with a “pause and play later” option?) instead of the six, just six, “reach the end” boards. There are only five if you don’t count Bowser’s Peculiar Peak, which is a “don’t reach the end first” board, which I do still count because I feel like it.
After finishing a game, players earn coins to use in the “Collection” part of the game, which is relegated to unlocking character voices and a gallery of “memories”... all of which are collections of music and voices. No new modes, no new options, just listening to the voices of players in the game that you can listen to without having to play any more mini-games. Seems more than a little pointless, if you ask me. If I really wanted to hear the music from “Star-Crossed Skyway” again, why wouldn’t I just play the board? And why, oh why, would anyone want to hear Bowser Jr. talk... willingly?
For a quick fix, the solo boards really aren’t too bad, but at the same time they’re not much to write home about. Board game enthusiasts will find themselves bored quickly, the average player will only break it out when there are friends around—which is the point, and I guess with friends the skill-based games aren’t too bad—and Party aficionados will be able to scratch that virtual itch. For everybody else, unless you’re really planning on playing with others on the go, there aren’t many mini-games here worth playing more than a few times, so be aware of what you’re getting yourself into. Then again, Mario Party is a series that’s been on six different consoles (N64, Gamecube, Wii, GBA, DS, 3DS), so if you’re not aware of what’s going on by now, I can’t say I feel sorry for you.