A pleasant party game that's a little lost at sea.
The title of multiplayer party game Marooners might be an injustice since it tells you nothing about what it actually is and plays only loosely into its island themes. Across a series of maps and a few different modes, you compete to either be the last player standing or collect the most treasure. No matter the objective, you are accumulating points across five different maps, and the winner is the person with the highest total at the end. Does Marooners have the staying power to keep you busy on a deserted isle?
Party games live and die by the quality of their mini-games. These bite-sized challenges have to be compelling enough to keep a group of friends entertained for a sustained amount of time. For Marooners, the variety is decent but not overly impressive. In Party Mode, you compete with up to six players to see who can collect the most coins and gems, but you always want to survive as long as possible since a big pot of riches appears when there’s only one person left. In Arena Mode, rather than collecting loot, your aim is to knock other players off the stage or destroy them with bombs to earn points. You’ll also get points gradually just by staying alive. At the end of either game mode, every player’s points are totalled up and a winner is declared.
Party Mode might be the better option since the stages have more varied obstacles and challenges to deal with. The Arena Mode levels mostly leave you to your own devices, with item boxes that pop up and give you boxing gloves and bombs to lob at your opponents. You also have a basic weapon slash, but neither it nor the short jump feels very satisfying to use. Similarly, movement also feels a little plodding. The fun, then, comes from the random levels in each set of five and the revealing of the winner at the end of each set, but once you’ve gone through each mode a handful of times, it’s likely you’ll have seen most of what Marooners has to offer.
As you play, the winner’s points accumulate and unlock new weapons and characters, but both seem to be purely cosmetic. While they do give a reason to come back to the game, the mini-games themselves and the overall lack of options don’t. You can’t choose which stages you play or how many stages are in a set. The option to randomize the set as Party or Arena mode doesn’t seem to work, either. Another tweak you can make is to between Chaos and Linear: the latter allows each mini-game to end before moving to the next; the former randomly switches you from mini-game to mini-game and back again in the middle of each one—it’s about as fun as it sounds.
While the simple visuals and art work well enough for a party game, the activities and modes that comprise the gameplay are fairly shallow and lacking in options. Fans of the genre will find some enjoyment here, but it’s a tough recommendation for a more general audience. There is online play, which could add some longevity, but I wasn’t able to find anyone online leading up to the game’s release (I’ll update the review after launch with some brief impressions). The sound effects and music add little to the overall experience, and the customization aspects are only skin deep. Additional modes and options would go a long way to increasing its value, but as it is, Marooners is just okay. There are much more compelling multiplayer experiences on the crowded Switch island.