Blistered hands, friction burned palms and broken analogue sticks, these might not sound like the types of casualties one would expect to endure whilst playing a video game but back in the late 90s, these kinds of injuries occurred all around the gaming world and all thanks to just one N64 title. Developed by the now defunct Hudson Soft, the culprit was the original installment of the long-standing party game Mario Party, the first of which required players to aggressively shake their controller joysticks with more vigor than hands we made to continually handle. Regardless of the above effects though the title sold millions of copies when it was first released, sparking a long-standing series, which has since produced 12 games over the past 16 years. Mario Party: Island Tour is the latest installment in the franchise and whilst it utilizes the capabilities of the 3DS machine excellently, there’s still a few flaws that lurk over this enjoyable yet cracked product.
Like the Mario Party games of yore, there’s not much of a story here with Mario and his crew being invited to yet another party far away and them once again obliging. Of course not everyone is asked to attend the event, with Bowser’s party offer seemingly getting lost in the post. Annoyed at his lack of inclusion, he decides to create an alternate party at the newly erected Bowser Tower, which acts as one of the four-playable game modes in Island Tour. Spanning 30 floors of mini-game goodness, you’ll be asked to choose between two of these on each floor, whereby you will face three other COM opponents, all of which are ghastly apparitions of characters from the Mario world. Additionally, a boss will pop up every five levels and along with everything else in your path, you’ll need to defeat these big meanies before you can reach the top and claim your prize of a new playable character.
A difficult task it is not, Bowsers Tower isn’t very challenging and even if you wanted to demonstrate your mini-game abilities by cranking up the toughness of your foes, the game doesn’t actually allow you to adjust the settings in this mode. As far as evil shindigs go though, Bowsers Tower is an amusing one and with a 90-minute lifespan, it’s one that will initially keep you entertained for a good portion of time. You can also save your progress here, unlike other modes in the game, which comes in handy for when the vertigo starts to kick in. Once you’ve grabbed that ever-elusive mystery character however, the replay value of the above does take a quick swan-dive south, especially as there’s nothing waiting at the top of the tower for you but an angry Bowser waiting to boot you back down to the bottom floor.
As for the other modes there are StreetPass Mini-Games where you can gain special prizes by battling the ghost data of people you pass by, there’s Mini-Games where you can choose from any of the 69 mini-games available and aim to beat your times or scores and there’s also a Collectibles modes where you can use your in-game points to buy things such as character illustrations, which you can view in your gallery. The Big Daddy mode in Island Tour however is of course Party. You can either play with up to four friends or three COMs or fly solo, choosing to take your opponents down the easy way or the hard way, with Master being the most difficult setting.
Seasoned gamers however who choose this option will most likely find their gaming skill superior to that of the COMs, with losses coming down to luck rather than a lack of talent. Boasting seven boards, all of which have their own unique style and ways of winning, play-through time for each of these aforementioned boards ranges from 10 to 60 minutes, with computer chosen mini-games taking place during each. When asked to, you will compete in these for a variety of rewards such as boosters, cards or extra dice, all of which are designed to aid you on your road to victory. However, being a bit pants at these mini-games isn’t the end of the world as the luck of the draw can take you all the way on some boards, Rocket Road being an example of such.
A fun and charming experience, Island Tour’s Party mode is the best of the bunch, bringing with it a competitive edge and it’s during this mode that we get to see the full use of the 3DS potential when coupled with this Mario Party game. Using both the touch screen and motion capabilities of the console, these device qualities are utilized during some of both the board decisions and mini-games, dice rolls, boat rows and picture un-jumbling being just a few of the inventive features that the game possesses. A great and seemingly effortless conversion, Island Tour is overall presented in excellent fashion via the Nintendo handheld, which combines a graphically vibrant look with a strong and constant sense of accessibility.
For all its pros however, this recent Mario Party series addition does have more than one drawback. For one there’s no online mode, which limits the replay value of Island Tour in a big way. If you’re planning on playing this with friends then it may not be as much of an issue for you but for solo players, not being able to compete online will always limit how much you can and will return to a game. Island Tour is no exception to this and for the gaming beasts among you, one or maybe two days is all you’ll need to get what you can out of this titles party gaming pours. Of course that doesn’t mean you won’t pick it up again after a month or two, but without an online function, continuous gaming will not be being had with Island Tour. Then there are the mini-games themselves. Boasting just under short of 70 mini challenges with which to sink your teeth into, only half of them are actually worth your time, whilst many of the rest end up being over so quickly that you barely have time to enjoy them.
Mario Party: Island Tour isn’t the most challenging video game in the industry, nor is it the most consistent but there is a charm about this title that you can’t deny. Whether it’s watching Waluigi run like a demented man on stilts or witnessing an opponent being forced to swap places with your losing self, there’s an endearing quality about Island Tour that keeps you coming, albeit sporadically, back for more. Overall though the game falls in just above the average mark but fails to reach any real greatness due to its more than occasional short-comings and whilst the admission price for this party is worth paying if you’re an ardent fan of the series, for the occasional gamer of the Mario Party franchise, perhaps it’s best to wait until the entrance fee for this particular gathering goes down.
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