Developer: Nd Cube
Mario Party, as a series, is largely hit or miss for me. The last Wii entry, Mario Party 9, wasn’t my cup of tea. And the first 3DS entry, dubbed Island Tour, isn’t much of an improvement. I was happy to see the board game elements revert back to individual player movement, dice rolling, and dropping the shared vehicle aspect of MP9. I also enjoyed the attempts at diversifying the stages a little more than what MP9 did. But everything else here feels like a step back, with bland mini-games, awful motion controls, and the unfortunate lack of an online component once again.
The mini-games aren’t entirely awful, but there’s more bad than good here. A lot of the mini-games feel like they were simplified for a portable platform, but I feel like Nd Cube might have taken that a bit far. Also, just about every mini-game that involved gyroscope controls was either non-functional or not fun to play. Mario Party: Island Tour will give you a heads up that if your system isn’t responding properly you may need to calibrate it, done by setting it on a flat surface. But by the point you realize things have gone wrong, you’ve already started the mini-game requiring motion, and it’s hardly a great time to try and calibrate your system.
Thankfully the stylus input mini-games, and traditional face button games, fare better from a control perspective. You’ll get a pretty good mix of both, and the motion based ones don’t make up the majority. But still, I found most of the mini-games played to be pretty bland, whether I was playing against the A.I. or an actual person.
Speaking of, you’ll not want to pick this game up unless you have someone around that owns a 3DS. On the plus side, they don’t need to own Mario Party: Island Tour, as the game does support download play for up to 3 additional players. But the lack of online again, especially on a platform that isn’t as ideal as a home console for local play, is an unfortunate omission. I’m not particularly surprised, Nintendo hasn’t shown much interest in introducing online play for the series in the past, but it’s worth noting for potential buyers.
As I mentioned above, one of the better things about this Mario Party entry is the actual stages, or boards, you’ll play on. There’s a solid variety to choose from, and I was happy to see each stage labeled with rankings for Skill, Luck, and Mini-games, along with the expected time to play information. There are also some inventive gimmicks for different boards, like the Bowser stage where you’ll want to stay at the back of the pack for as long as possible in order to win. Then there’s the Bonzai Bill stage that effectively has you playing chicken against Bonzai Bill, opting to advance when moving or ducking into caves in order to hide out and not get hit. All in all you’ll have 7 different stages to choose from, which can take 15 to 60 minutes to complete.
Outside of the traditional party mode, you can check out the various mini-games individually, and there’s a StreetPass feature that will tag your favorite character and set you up to play mini-games against people you’ve passed in StreetPass. I didn’t get to try this particular feature out unfortunately, which is sort of par for the course when it comes to StreetPass in my area.
Finally, there’s the new Bowser’s Tower mode, which pits you against Bowser and his minions across 30 stages, engaging in random mini-games in order to advance upwards. This is probably the lengthiest mode in the game, and feels like it was crafted to provide a better single player experience than the traditional party mode. It can be fun, but that’s entirely reliant on the mini-games you’ll run into, and again most of those aren’t that hot.
So all in all, this isn’t the best Mario Party experience out there. It’s a shame that Nd Cube has effectively fumbled the ball in taking over the reins from Hudson Soft, and if they continue on as the developer for MP, I hope to see some major improvements down the road. This doesn’t hold up even compared to previous portable Mario Party titles, and it’s one of the few Nintendo published titles you can safely skip this holiday season.