Saturday, January 18, 2014

Mario Party Island Tour Review

For years, Mario Party has been a sacred tradition for many gamers. In the beginning, there was the original Mario Party. It was a game that destroyed friendships. It was a game that left those with the strongest of wills a weak shell of what they were. It was a game that physically hurt people. Since its inception in 1999, it has been a yearly tradition to release a new Mario Party game. Some of them were quite good, like Mario Party 2, 3, and 7, while others were regarded as terrible games. But in 2008, the series vanished off the face of the Earth. No one knew whether it would return or not, and were instead content with the memories of previous games. That is until 2012, when the false prophet appeared...Mario Party 9. It was called a Mario Party, but it had none of the soul of the original games. It was a travesty, and now more than ever, people claimed the series was dead and gone forever. Until last November... with the release of Island Tour. Join me, and I take a trip on the dreaded Island Tour. 

Hour 1: I arrived with my friend on the island and began to contemplate what exactly to do. Ideally, I would have loved to get two more friends so we could all fully explore the island, but that sadly was not in the cards. It was just him and I. There were six possible locations that we could go to, so we started off on the one that looked the simplest and most easiest to navigate, ironically titled the Perilous Palace Path. Upon leaving for the palace, I couldn't help but notice how nice the island looked. Everything was lush and serene, and had a sense of life to it. There were Mario characters aplomb there, and all of them looked so cartoonish and fun. It was once we reached the path did we realize exactly what we had gotten ourselves into.

The path was a very linear board game! We were stuck just moving in a straight line to the same goal! There were no stars, no coins, or even any boos that we could come across! It was just a straight line to the goal. To say I was confused and disappointed was an understatement. This was an island with the title of Mario Party, yet it had no traces of its genetics in it? The one thing we discovered about the path was that after each of our respective "turns" to move (this was a very weird island), we were forced to compete against each other in outlandish minigames. I shall return to the minigames momentarily, once I have played more and can fully describe them.

A Thwomp in its native, luck-based habitat
Hour 2: We had reached the end of the path, and while it was very simplistic, it was actually a rather enjoyable little trek. It wasn't as good as previous treks I've taken, but it was fine. From the palace, my cohort and I boarded a rocket ship that took us into space to meet a woman by the name of Rosalina, whom I have been seeing a lot of lately in one form or another. She welcomed us to her board, Rocket Road. It was simple easy, and we completed it in 10 minutes. All we had to do was make it to the end of the board, which was 25 spaces, but while we were forced to move 1-5 spaces a turn, if we acquired boosters, we could multiply our rolls five-fold. After I amassed several boosters, I blasted my way to the finish line without a care in the world. Minigames were also reduced to once every three turns instead of every turn, which built up tedium for myself and my friend.

From there, we landed in a location called Kamek's Carpet Ride and were thrown a rather pleasant little twist. Yes, it was another linear board, but we moved by playing cards! The cards could either roll dice, move and exact number of spaces,or have you move forward while everyone moved back. I'm actually quite surprised to say this, but it was a legitimately good idea. Strategy was needed in order to win, and after each minigame, players were able to collect a card of their choosing from a set of four. Depending on your position in the minigame, you were able to get first dibs i.e, first place chose first and last place got whatever was leftover. Analysis on minigames to follow soon. The board ended relatively fast, about a half hour or so, but it was the most fun I had with the island so far.

Our trip along Rocket Road was not exactly a pleasant one
Hour 3: I'm beginning to realize how luck based this island is. Every single location is somewhat based on luck, for better or worse. For some boards, it makes it much easier for anyone to win and makes it more competitive, but at times there were points where I lost solely because I had poor luck. Take the worst of all of the boards, Banzai Bill's Mad Mountain, a board that is solely designed around luck. My comrade and I had to reach a little tower that was barely 20 spaces away, but we had to be aware if a Banzai Bill would be shot at us. If it was, we would go to start. How is a bill shot though? Why if you're unlucky enough to roll it or your die! There was no strategy to it and was much more focused on risk and reward, because you could hide away to protect yourself if the bill went off at the cost of a space or two. It was shallow and we reached the tower in 15 minutes, only with me in last place.

In all honesty, this is growing tedious. Describing each location and its unique challenges are proving to be taxing. Our next board, Star-Crossed Skyway, is an exact repeat of what the false prophet, Mario Party 9, used for its entertainment. Anything relating to the heinous 9 was a strike against me. Mini stars were used as points, and whoever has the most mini stars by the end of the board wins. My companion actually was winning fro a while, but that changed rather quickly. Not based on luck mind you, but because mini ztars could reduce your overall total of mini stars. He got several mini stars by the end.

By now, I've been able to play a majority of the minigames and I feel prepared to document them. This island takes the idea of minigames and uses them in a weird, but somewhat nice way. There are only four player minigames, disregarding the previous 2v2 or 3v1 games, and instead places to focus solely on 4 player games. Each of them are very well designed, and do offer a lot of fun to be had. There's variety in each game and only a few stood out as being underwhelming. Also, to compensate for a lack of coins, whoever ranked the highest in each minigame would receive a better reward, as I began to illustrate with Kamek's Carpet Ride. Each board played the idea differently, like moving turn order, giving first choice at items, or even changing mini star amounts. The mini games, I'm shocked to say, were damned good and some of the best minigames the series has produced in years. When I return, I'll have to put further study into this.

Minigames of all types were included and done very, very well!
Hour 4: We have reached the final destination that we could access today, Bowser's Peculiar Peak. And peculiar this was, for the only way to win was being the farthest person from the end. Why? Because the first person to reach the end met Bowser and was promptly ejected from the island. The peak actually had a great concept behind it, but was sorely lacking in depth, as could be said for the entire island. When the island works, it really does work. But each location is on a set path and has an expectation on when a person would complete each location. For example, we were told before going to the peak that it would take us around half an hour to beat it. Sadly, that is true. If there was a way to extend the peak and make it longer and more challenging, I would love it. However, because I'm not God and can't change the terrain of an island, let alone the top of a mountain, that's sadly just a fantasy.

I'm writing from the comfort of my fireplace now. I do not know where my friend is, for he is still likely on the island. I left the island because I was unfortunately the first person to meet Bowser, so he shot me off the island in a grand and infinitely painful fashion. And so, here I am recounting my tale. My breif, very brief, 4 hour adventure on the island. Sadly to say, in those four hours, I saw almost everything the island  had to offer. There was one location that I couldn't get to though, because I could only gain admittence if I had a party of three or four for some reason. As it stands now, my time with the island was a brief, but overall, decent one. While the damage from the false prophet has left an impact on the series, the island tour could be deemed as an apprentice to the heinous 9; taking many of the same cues from it, and ignoring previous descendents in the family. I wished beyond all belief that the island tour could recapture the same glory as its predecessors, but it instead takes mostly from the heinous 9. There are element to it that work out beautifully, but this is the end of the Mario Party we all know and love. Reflect on your memories and former conquests, because that is all you have now. The series is stuck in its present footing, and there's no signs of changing. I give my experience on the island a 3 out of 5.

Sincerely yours,

Jesse Lab

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