Review: Mario Party: Island Tour

Mario is always in for a party. Mario held several parties throughout time, including the Mario Party games. The biggest problem with Mario Party games is that not all of those mini-game collections are fun to play. Mario Party: Island Tour for Nintendo 3DS brings some innovation to the franchise but needs to be played with others. If you play the game alone, you’ll have to have a lot of patience.

The Mario Party games always remained rather the same. You pick a character of the Mario universe and play against three others on a classic board-game map. While advancing on the board you can activate traps to slow down the others or start a mini-game at the end for nice bonuses. Island Tour features seven of those playable boards and all boards are different and offer different rules, so there’s the innovation!

In older Mario Party games the winner was the one who gained the most stars or coins at the end but now those rules are different. Every board has its own rules and own ways of winning.  Perilous Palace Path is for example a very straightforward board, in order to win, you need to arrive as first over the finish line. Other boards like Banzai Bill’s Mad Mountain offer more originality and let you summon a big bullet to shoot back the other players a couple of places. Ending first over the finish isn’t always the way to win, on Star-Crossed Skyway the player who collects most mini-stars, wins. Those specific rules for specific game-boards result in more variation and the different boards are really different for the first time. A step in the right direction without a doubt.


What’s even better is the fact that everything you want to know about the board is displayed before you select it. You see the time you’ll need to complete it and even see how much is based on skills or luck of the players. Thanks to this system you know exactly what to expect and how long you’ll be playing. This is some crucial information since you’re playing on a handheld this time. Because you’re playing a portable game, the boards are a bit smaller than the console versions but they remain fun to play nevertheless.

As said in the beginning, the boards are fun to play if you play with friends. Nintendo was kind enough to offer download play for this title. Only one of the four friends will need the actual gamecard while others can play together using the download play. It takes a while to stream the game to the others but once it’s done, the party can get started! Download play works great and really is what this game needs. If you don’t have friends to play with, the other characters will be controlled by the computer. In all honesty we have to say that playing with computer controlled characters is plain boring.


Fun to play with friends but rather boring alone.


The reason why it gets boring is the long time you have to wait after your turn. The computer characters all need to roll the dice, advance places and activate special blocks after you. There’s no way in skipping those actions made by the computer so you just sit and watch until it’s your turn again. This concept simply doesn’t work. It didn’t work in other Mario Party games and Island Tours isn’t different at all. When playing a board-game on your own, you’re sure to have far less fun than you would have with friends.

To compensate this for the lonely gamer, Nintendo did add a new mode called Bowser’ Tower where you can fast-forward the action. Bowser’ Tower is meant for the solo player who searches fast action. The goal of this mode is to reach the top of the tower. To do so you need to win several mini-games that are located in the tower. You play those against Bowser’ evil minions. You can select the mini-game you want to play out of some set choices on each level. Once the mini-game is selected, it’s your job to win. To make things even more challenging, the difficulty level of the minions will increase the higher you get. Bowser’ Tower is a nice add-on to the main gameplay and offers a campaign-like challenge for those who want to play alone.

As you might have guessed, mini-games are the beating heart of this game. Just like in the older Mario Party games, Island Tour offers a wide variation of mini-games. You play those in the main game, during Bowser’ Tower or you can play them separately in the mini-games mode. In which mode you play doesn’t really matter, they remain the same but one thing’s for sure, they offer a lot of variation.


Of course you’ll face the more traditional mini-games where you have to collect something, dodge things or knock down the other players. Those aren’t really innovating and may remind you of the mini-games you played before in Wii U Party. On the other hand however, the game features mini-games that take full advantage of the 3DS hardware.

Aside of the buttons, touchscreen and stylus controls, some mini-games are controlled with the microphone or gyroscopic motion. Without spoiling the game for you, it’s safe to say that those mini-games or the most fun to play. Winning thanks to the microphone or gyroscope simply is more fun than winning thanks to regular controls.

Although Island Tour features a lot of mini-games, not all of them are that great. Some of the mini-games are based on luck only and that’s a shame. The player with the highest skills therefore doesn’t always win the game, which can result in a high level of frustration. Beside those luck-based mini-games some of the others aren’t fun to play thanks to inconvenient controls or lack of innovation. It make sense that not every mini-game offers the same amount of fun but it’s a shame you can’t pick the mini-games before starting the board-game. This means you’ll have to play the ones you don’t like as well.

All in all we can conclude that Mario Party: Island Tour isn’t the best in the franchise but still remains a fun portable game. It offers some great innovations such as the different rules on the different boards and the 3DS hardware controls. On the other hand, not all mini-games are that fun to play and there isn’t much fun at all when you play on your own. Island Tour isn’t a game for everyone but if you’re looking for a great portable game to play with friends, this is just what you’re looking for.


Got interested in games since I could read. Started with Nintendo but evolved into an all-round gamer. I love all kind of games; triple A games to Indie. If the vibe is right, I'll enjoy playing it.