Nintendo puts out another lackluster minigame collection, this time for the 3DS, with Mario Party Island Tour. The game is as cookie cutter as one might expect albeit with a couple appreciative features. The removal of the game board style levels causes Island Tour to lose the majority of any strategic elements in turn for more luck-based gameplay. It is really great to have a good use of download play with this game but there’s no real meat to keep you playing for very long.
The most unfortunate aspect to Island Tour is that there really isn’t anything interesting to be found here. In fact, there really isn’t anything ‘island’ related at all and only surfaces in how the menu options are spaced out onto different landmasses. The standard game board layouts from the main Mario Party series are gone and replaced with more linear pathway-like levels (very similar to Wii Party U). This is quite depressing since it forces a lot of the strategy out of moving your character around. There’s never an option of doubling back since everyone is constantly moving forward. Each stage does have a unique element to it that adds some variety but games tend to finish rather quickly so they’re a fleeting positive. It would have been great to see some of the more unique elements explored further in order to add some real character into the level design but instead they come across as short, one trick-ponies.
All of the levels do have a ranking system in place that is evident when selecting what you wish to play. This is an extremely welcomed feature since it shows how much skill, luck, and minigames are within each. As someone who greatly dislikes the luck based maps it was very helpful in order to avoid the ones ranked higher in that category. One downside though is that even the more skill-based ones don’t really represent this since the stages are all so short. Getting items to use can be fun on your friends but if everyone is playing well enough you wont have much time to use them. Along with this the menu will also display an estimated game time so you can gauge how long a play session might take. Having this information surfaced is really helpful and great to see.
The minigames themselves are all pretty disappointing as none really stand out and shine. The library of choices is big enough to ensure you can avoid duplicates for a while and a lot of them make use of the 3DS’s specific features. You also have the option to turn off microphone based games if you would rather not deal with shouting at your handheld - a welcomed gesture. One major annoyance though is that the game will display rules for each game beforehand along with which control scheme is required (whether it be the face buttons, the stylus, the analog stick, etc.) but then proceeds to repeat the control information again every time. It’s a minor annoyance but reading through the instructions and then proceeding to get an addition screen with duplicate information gets really irritating. It’s sad to see that there aren’t any real standout minigames to go back to.
The best inclusion that Island Party has is that is supports download play for up to four players. As long as one person owns the game, you can play other people using separate 3DSs. This is definitely a great addition since playing solo with computer opponents is the definition of boredom. It is odd though that there isn’t any online play considering the turn-based gameplay of each stage. Even with the risk of any lag disrupting some of the games I can’t see people being too upset over losing a minigame. The game is obviously much better with friends and even though you are forced into local play at least it doesn’t require multiple game carts.
Island Party also contains the Bower’s Tower option which is similar to a campaign mode. In here you will have to play through thirty floors of minigames (one per level) as you climb. Every five stages there will be a boss encounter which is a more complicated minigame - and arguably some of the most interesting content in the game. Bowser will often impede bad luck upon you that will usually make you have to replay a level of two before being able to proceed again. A nice feature is that you get the option of two different minigames to play in each stage. This is helpful if one of the choices is a game you dislike or are terrible at. The mode also allows you to save at various points throughout the climb in order to return later as opposed to tackling it all in one go. It’s a nice addition that adds a fun twist to what is basically another collection of minigames to play through.
Mario Party Island Tour is nothing special. You are looking at a standard minigame collection with no real high points to make it stand out. It’s nice that navigating the game’s levels are easier and download play does offer more multiplayer opportunities. However, you won't be playing this game for long as there is nothing of great interest to hold your attention.