When you have a good party game on your hands, a friendly get-together can last hours. That's certainly the case with most of the entries in the Mario Party franchise. Over the years, it's done significantly well with its four-player mini-game madness on the Nintendo 64, GameCube or more recently, the Nintendo Wii with Mario Party 8 and 9.
Unfortunately, the handheld entries haven't done nearly as well, primarily because of system limitations. As fun as Mario Party Advance is, it couldn't live up to its console brethren. Fear not, gamers – Nintendo will make up for this next month with the arrival of Mario Party: Island Tour for the Nintendo 3DS and 2DS.
As with previous games, your job is to get around a game board with your character of choice before someone else beats you. You roll a dice, numbered one through six, and move your character around, landing on spaces and either accepting the reward or penalty, or taking part in a mini-game that features up to four players.
Each round offers something different. The seven game boards differ from one another, featuring such locales as Toad Road, a space level from Super Mario Galaxy and the debut of Shy Guy's Shuffle City, among others. You'll find plenty of spaces to land on, whether they're typical green spaces, penalty-inducing Bowser spaces or the mini-game event spaces.
Various characters are available from the Mario universe, heroes and villains alike. If you feel like a friendly match between Mario, Luigi, Waluigi and Wario, you can do it. There's no advantage, and everyone has a fair chance to win.
You won't spend too much time strolling on the game boards. Mario Party’s strength is its mini-games, and Island Tour continues the trend. Over 80 mini-games are available, some of which utilize the AR compatibility with the systems. This means taking pictures of things in the environment, or moving about and shooting enemies that Bowser throws your way. Most of the games are pretty basic, but there is some diversity.
These games vary, from running hurdle competitions to stock car races – think Mario Kart Mini – to the return of the Bumper Balls, but on a much bigger track. It helps to have skill, but sometimes, it's about the luck of the draw and being the last person standing; the more wins you get, the better chance you have of winning the round overall, especially with a high coin count.
Mario Party: Island Tour also utilizes the StreetPass feature, so you can pass along your data to friends, even if you aren't playing. Your Mii character will get compared with others, and you'll also be able to easily set up multiplayer matches.
Although Island Tour doesn't feature online play over the Nintendo Network, it does allow multiplayer in a couple of neat ways. First, it supports up to four players locally – which is always the best way to play something like this – so friends can easily connect with you and start a match. If only one of you has a copy of the game, not to worry – Download Play is available. This allows three other players to download the game temporarily to their devices, be it 2DS or 3DS, and compete with you. They have to stay in the vicinity to avoid losing the signal, but otherwise, it's a great way to spread the Party around without requiring so many copies of the game.
Island Tour also supports single player action, in case you can't find any available parties or want to practice before joining the next round. You'll have access to a number of boards and mini-games, adding to your ranks with your Mii character and eventually becoming a true Party pro. That is, until someone else gets your number later on in the match. Remember, there's always room for a comeback.
Even with the shrunken down format, Island Tour appears to be a great addition to the series, especially if you've got friends nearby. We'll see how wild this romp gets when the game arrives on the 3DS eShop and at retail November 22nd.