Ever since its emergence back on the N64, the Mario Party series has spawned a dozen iterations, with each of Nintendo’s consoles released since the N64 receiving at least one version of the colourful party game. Not being one to break a trend, Nintendo have brought the series to the 3DS in Mario Party: Island Tour, in a version that brings some of the series’ frantic minigame action while making the game more accessible for play on a handheld.
Rather than simply updating one of the previous Mario party games with a few new boards and mini games, Island Tour plays quite differently to the Mario Party you may remember, thanks to several key changes to the Mario Party formula. In the latest iteration, 7 boards await, each one lasting anywhere from 15 – 60 minutes for a play through. Where you would normally play on a board for a set amount of turns, going around and around the map while collecting coins & stars, Island Tour’s boards have a definite beginning and end, with each game being a race to the finish between the players. Each board has a different gimmick attached to it, which will affect how you’ll play. One board has you evading banzai bills being fired from both ends of the stage, triggered by rolling a 6 on the die, while another sets you in a rocket-fuelled kart.
This change in how the boards play make the games more manageable for playing on a handheld, especially if you’re trying to get a quick game in with friends during the lunch break, but the reduction in side and restricting it to a specific goal point on the board removes a fair amount of skill you would usually use in the previous titles to navigate a board’s branching paths, purchasing items and halting the progress of other players in their pursuit for stars. The new board styles also reduce the amount of minigames you’ll see during a game by restricting when they occur. No longer are you guaranteed a minigame at the end of each round, you’ll need to wait a set number of rounds before you see one, unless someone lands on a vs space on the board and triggers a bonus minigame. With the minigames showing up less frequently in party mode, more of the game will involve taking turns rolling the dice and moving spaces on the board, occasionally triggering events or gimmicks that may help or hinder your progress. It seems like several of these gimmicks rely mostly on luck which could become problematic when you’re sent back several spaces after a bad roll.
As always, the minigames are a huge part of a Mario party and Island Tour is no exception. containing 80 games, you’ll be able to play these in the standard party mode during your race on the boards, and once you unlock them you’ll be able to play each one again at your leisure in freeplay. There’s a mixed variety of games, with some using the face or shoulder buttons and circle pad, and others utilizing the 3DS features like the touchscreen, gyroscope, microphone and camera . When the games aren’t trying to force the ‘innovative control methods’ of the 3DS onto you and stick with the standard control scheme, they can be quite enjoyable. A new mode called ‘Bowser’s tower’ has you scaling the tower to reach Bowser at the top. With 30 floors, and a choice between 2 different minigames you need to win to advance, this mode provided a nice, straightforward way to dig in to a bulk of the minigames on offer against CPU opponents that increase in difficulty as you get closer to the top. I preferred this mode overall as it has a lengthy playlist of the minigames you’d want, with none of the waiting around on the board that you’d see in party mode.
When you want to have a break from the other modes, you can always check out the collectibles you can unlock using points you earn while playing the game. There’s not really a lot to get excited about though as it mostly consist of a few voice clips, some figures and music from the boards. For some strange reason, the game’s staff credits are included as a collectible for you to purchase and unlock, which makes you wonder if they ran out of interesting things to include as unlockable items.
When playing against a few friends via local wi-fi, playing island tour can still be almost as fun as a numbered mario party title, mainly due to you being in the same room as your opponents and being able to talk smack while waiting for the next minigame to come around. Streetpassing gives you another way to play against other players’ profiles, which can help you receive certain collectibles if you win.