Hurray for mini-games!
Players have been cursing dice rolls, ending friendships, and breaking controllers for fifteen years now, all courtesy of the infamously addictive Mario Party franchise. With twelve party games already under their Mario’s belt, Nintendo is gearing up for lucky thirteen with Mario Party: Island Tour. The 3DS game utilizes all the bells and whistles of the system, and promises to be a fun, yet insanely competitive race through new boards and clever mini-game designs.
The previous two Mario Party installments released on handhelds have all had special gimmicks added to distinguish them from their larger counterparts, and Island Tour is no different. The most notable difference for these releases have been the time it takes to finish a board, as it is assumed players on handhelds prefer a shorter game to fit with the portable nature of their device. Island Tour appears to keep the linear style of Mario Party 9, but with more of a focus on racing to the finish line with shorter boards and a return to individual turn-based gameplay.
Most of the game takes after the previous installments: die rolling, mini-games galore, single and multiplayer modes, a mode to play the 81 new mini-games outside of the board games, and many of your favorite characters to play as (with the new addition of Boo!). However, the game strays from the ordinary with the use of AR cards, gyroscopic controls, and a StreetPass feature which will allow players to battle in mini-games against shadowy ghost characters from other partiers. The game even spices up dice rolling a little bit, allowing players to shake the die on the lower screen before flicking it up to the upper area, adding in a bit of control to your character’s movement.
AR cards will be utilized in games such as Ka-Goomba, detailed in our Impressions, or a race-to-the-top style game where players climb a tower sinking into lava. Gyroscopic controls are a little more straight forward, being used for steering in Slip Not and changing item orientation in Spin the Bubble. Drawing pictures on the bottom screen and utilizing the microphone will make a return from Mario Party DS. During our hands-on demo of the game, it was discovered that microphone usage in Choicest Voice relies on an amplitude envelope rather than pitch matching, so don’t worry about practicing characters’ voices of the opposite gender; the playing field is even.
Island Party features seven boards, five of which have been shown so far. Banzai Bill’s Mad Mountain brings to mind the age old question “do you feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?” Banzai Bill will shoot out over the playing field if his picture is rolled on the die, knocking players off the cliff to the previous areas of the board below. On each turn players need to consider the wise words of Dirty Harry as they decide whether to move forward, or hide out in a nearby cave. Another board, Shy Guy’s Shuffle City, utilizes special playing cards to help players strategically find their way to the end. Other boards include a village reminiscent of Toad Town in Paper Mario that contains special dice block items, a grasslands/woodland area with Chain Chomps, and a space themed board that channels Super Mario Galaxy complete with special rocket spaces on the board.
Download Play and Local Multiplayer will be the game’s most important features as Island Tour has no online multiplayer options. A new single player mini-game tower mode will give players more to do when friends aren’t nearby, as they battle their way up multiple floors. And to expand gameplay even further, Mario Party Points can be earned throughout the game to unlock collectibles like voices, music, and character illustrations.
This is the second Mario Party developed by the relocated Hudson Soft folks down at Nd Cube, but after the critical success of the recently released Wii Party U, it will be interesting to see what new mini-game madness they come up with. The game has been delayed to early 2014 for PAL regions, but will release on schedule in other regions (November 22 in NA and Winter 2013 in JP). We’ll be partying our way through all the boards and mini-games, so be sure to check out our upcoming review of the game this month!