Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Mario Party: Island Tour

I just got done dumping on the new Mario Party for the 3DS, but I want to stress that I actually do like it.  It isn't the same without the "standard" board game that I'm used to -- the one where you race around to earn coins and buy stars -- but I do like what they've done here.

The different gameboards remind me a lot of those novelty board games I used to play with as a kid.  You know the kind.  Mechanically, they were kind of straightforward and unimaginative, but they disguised it with lots of colorful plastic pieces and gimmicks that made them look a lot more exciting than they were.

The Perilous Palace Path is positioned as the centerpiece -- at least it has the largest selection button in the menu.  Like all of the games, it's a simple race to the finish line, but it has some of the trappings of the traditional Mario Party.  There's a minigame every round, and extra dice are awarded based on proficiency.  There are items to speed yourself up and slow down your opponents.  And just to even things out a bit, there are four obstacles along the path that have a random chance of slowing you down, just to keep the game from being decided completely by high rollers.

Banzai Bill's Mad Mountain is an interesting game that puts more emphasis on actual board game play and less on the minigames.  As you walk up the path, you have the choice to spend your entire roll on forward movement or to sacrifice some of your move to hide in a safe spot.  If any player rolls the Banzai Bill -- a 1 in 6 chance -- anyone who's not in a safe spot is moved backward, either to Start or to the halfway point.  Minigames only appear every three turns, and although they can sway the game a bit by moving you forward, they won't decide the game nearly as much as your luck and how far you're willing to press it.

Star-Crossed Starway is interesting in that racing to the finish is kind of a secondary goal.  There are checkpoints along the board, and you collect mini-stars based on whether you're the first, second, third, or last player there.  But the order that the bonuses appear can change based on the spaces you land on, so sometimes it's advantageous to come in later.  Mini-stars can also be won from mini-games, but those only happen if someone lands on an appropriate space.

Rocket Road is probably the most straightforward of all the games.  You're just trying to race to the end.  Along the way, you can earn boosters that give a multiplier to your die roll.  You can use them one at a time, or stack them for larger bonuses.  The kicker is that the die is labelled 0 to 5 -- roll a 0 and you waste all of the boosters you used.

Kamek's Carpet Ride is maybe the most strategic game.  The object is to reach the end of the track by exact count.  Instead of rolling dice to move, you play cards from a hand of three.  Some cards move you forward by a random count, but most of them move you forward an exact number of spaces.  There's a mini-game every round, and the better players get to choose a new card from a pool of four before the others.  There's still some luck involved, but there's more room for strategy than in some of the other modes.

Bowser's Peculiar Peak is sort of an inversion of the Perilous Palace Path.  The first player to get to the end loses, and the winner is determined to be the player who stayed furthest away.  There's a mini-game every round, and the losers are saddled with bonus dice that increase their roll.

As I said, these are kind of silly games, and there's really not much to them.  One time down the Perilous Palace Path, and the obstacles are going to lose their appeal to anyone over six.  But it's cute.  The different boards actually feel like different games, not just the same game played on different boards.  And I admit, I have a sort of nostalgic fondness for these kinds of kiddy board games.  Having the opportunity to stick six of them in my pocket is no bad thing.  But unless that's your thing, it's probably safe to give it a miss.


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