Mario loves to throw a party, it’s his 10th, in fact (counting his official titles in the series). As with all party games (and the real-life kind, of course) it’s better with more friends. Fortunately, Mario Party: Island Tour features Download Play which means others can join in without purchasing the game themselves – but without an online multiplayer option you’ll need three friends each with a 3DS, and unless you met your chums at Nintendo club that might be a struggle.
Playing a party game on a portable device naturally creates a different dynamic to sharing a console and a screen. For one, you won’t be able to shout and swear if Kamek swaps your position on the board from first to last while you’re sitting on the bus. Ultimately, it's this sense of shared competition that makes the interactive board game so enjoyable - the combination of skill and revenge, with a sprinkling of luck thrown in.
Though Mario Party: Island Tour doesn’t work as well when playing against computer controlled characters, it’s still a solid game for on the move. On a ‘Normal’ difficulty level rivals will offer absolutely no contest, and you’ll rarely lose. It’s better to up the difficulty, but do practice before changing to ‘Master’ level, as - shockingly - coming in last place every time can get tedious.
The different board games are categorised by length of play, and how much you want to rely on luck or skill. Presumably the luck-based levels are aimed at younger players, as these games (based purely based on random choices and hoping for the best) aren’t any fun at all.
All of the boards could do with adding more minigames throughout; everyone knows waiting for someone else to roll the dice and move along the board is the tiresome part of any game, virtual or not. Sadly, some minigames also don’t really have an effect on your position on the board, which defeats the point. It would also improve the game enormously if a difficult board was added, where the games were a little longer and more complex.
'Bowser’s Tower' is more about endurance with a platform-esque edge as it includes boss levels. Although holding down the right shoulder button speeds things up, climbing the tower in-between games lasts far too long. For extended games there is also 'Time Attack', or for straight mini-gaming without interruption go for the 'Balloon Race'.
As ever with Mario Party, some games follow a similar format to before, such as 'Tile Savvy' (sliding tiles to make the picture correctly), and connecting the dots in 'Starring Artist', and yes, a couple are rubbish – I’m looking at you ‘Color Me Fast’. But most are creative, have beautiful graphics, and draw upon different skillsets: timing, speed, racing, counting, reflexes, aim, balance, rhythm…the list goes on.
Mario’s party days aren’t over just yet.
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