STAFF REVIEW of Marooners (Xbox One)

Thursday, March 8, 2018.
by Royce Dean

Marooners Box art For as long as I can remember, the fantasy of being lost on an island has been an entertainment trope of sorts. What strikes me as interesting about this specific trope is that it falls into a category occupied by few. That is to say, people are entertained by its notion, but nobody actually longs to be in the characters shoes. Wish you were the superhero fighting crime? Sure, I’d bet there are loads. The doctor that’s equally good at surgery and being a smooth ladies man? Every dude over 35 is in line already. How about the professional chef with seemingly infinite knowledge of all the tastiest foods in the world and an equally infinite pantry to make it with? Half of the goddamn planet wants that.

There are only so many microwavable burritos a single person can take before they snap and become the next villain in “Gotham”...then you superhero dreamers can come save us. But, being stuck on an island with a ragtag group of misfits who will enviably turn on the fattest one in the group because they don’t have anything else to eat? Nah bro. I’m good. We’re all good. I can only go so long without a shower and my under-arm charm without starting to feel like a villain from “Gotham” myself. Yet, the lost on an island fantasy persists, and Marooners is one such example. Don’t worry though; it’s too cute for cannibalism.

To put this in medieval terms, each genre of games has a King. It is the one game, or games, as the King can change over time, that defines the genre as a whole. This is the golden standard to which games in that genre are held. For example, shooters have Call of Duty, MMORPGs have World of Warcraft, Action Adventure has The Legend of Zelda. Facebook has grandma accidentally putting her Google search into a status post asking why her TV won’t change channels when she presses the buttons...on her cell phone. As far as party games go, Marooners is the squire that shines King Mario Party’s shoes. With enough time and devotion it could become a powerful knight, but it’ll never be king. Marooners has all the makings to be a good party game, but it falls just short,, or even very short, in just about everything that it does. Let’s break it down shall we?

Marooners biggest problem is its general lack of content. Most everything that there is to be seen had rears its head only about an hour into the experience. The one exception to this rule is the level up system put in place, which manages to give the game some artificial legs. As you play mini-games you’ll earn experience and grow in level. Each level will grant you a new reward, such as one of four hidden characters (of which there are eight total) or different weapons for said characters to hold. While these weapons are plentiful, they are functionally identical and serve little purpose beyond visual appeal.

While bonking people with a fish is fun for the whole family, the fish itself doesn’t feel like a great achievement. Each of the games playable characters comes with a full set of colors to choose from, and while new palate swaps would have been just as superficial as the weapons, getting some additional variety of reward would have been nice.

Playing Marooners comes down to picking your game mode. While there aren’t an outwardly vast number of modes to choose from, you have the ability to mix and match both the type of game you’ll be playing, and how you go about switching from mini-game to mini-game. Unlike King Mario Party, Marooners isn’t structured like a board game. You’ll switch from game to game at a rather fast paced clip more comparable to the WarioWare series.

Your first option is “Linear” mode. When chosen, the games you play will be played to completion. A winner is determined and everybody moves on. It is, as it sounds, a very traditional way of doing things. The second switching mode is “Chaos”. Chaos spices things up by cutting the games off at an undetermined amount of time, effectively putting said game on hold and then starting the next one. This cycle will continue with the next game running for a certain amount of time until it is suspended and the next game is randomly chosen. This continues until all of the games are eventually completed and a winner is named. Chaos is an interesting mode as it keeps all players engaged in a way I haven’t seen party games do before. All players must be prepared to jump into any type of gameplay at any given moment while keeping track of which mini-games they may or may not still be a part off. You may also choose to play combinations of the Linear and Chaos modes called “Any”.

There are two, nope, hold on, three game types to choose from in Marooners. The third mode that I added at the last second, the “Any” mode, combines the other two modes much in the same way that the game switching function does. These two other modes are broken into the more distinct “Party”, and “Arena”. Party is the heart and soul of Marooners that gives the player that party game experience they would expect. This is where the stereotypical games hide, but ultimately I had more fun with Arena mode. Arena mode is a sort of king-of-the-hill mode that give players access to item blocks filled with weapons such as bombs and punching gloves. The goal is to be the last one standing in the arena. Combining the Arena game type with the Chaos switching mode was hands down the best fun I had while playing this game.

The variety of mini-games in Marooners is unfortunately lacking. Each party session lasts little more than ten to twelve minutes, and by the time I had made it to my fourth session it felt like I had seen all of the mini-games. Each of the mini-games offered manage to provide some fun though; examples of which are the game that drops boulders down a ramp in front of you and knock you into the pit of lava behind should you get hit. Another enjoyable mini-game is where an island made of ice slowly loses pieces as the timer progresses forcing the players to via for less and less space.

Some would argue that a great game is about the quality and not the quantity, and yes, that’s true and I agree. However, Marooners also lacks in one key area, and that is in its quality of control. The controls feel loose, which adds an element of difficulty to things that shouldn’t be as hard as they are. Many times I found myself crushed under a rock because I over turned myself when I didn't mean to.

Marooners is a game that allows up to six players to play, but it defaults to four unless you change it. Four is a good number though, as it’s the classic number, and it works. Six on the other hand is a visual explosion. Marooners is obviously a game for the kids with its bright colours and generally simple game design. The characters are small and cute, and when they bonk each other with their chosen weapon a tiny sound like a dog chew toy goes off. Maybe it’s because I’m becoming an old man, but the small scale of characters on the screen, combined with sheer volume of players, caused me to lose track of where I was on many occasions.

When new mini-games begin, they players starting location is randomised. Being unable to locate my character before the starting pistol went off resulted in my demise more times than any other thing. Feels bad man. While each of the player tags that float above the characters heads are color coded, the player characters themselves are a barrage of bright color which causes some level of sensory confusion. All in all the game looks okay, and it plays okay, but when the two are combined there is some weird interaction.

When I sit down with a group of friends, the point of the evening is to have fun. And while Marooners might provide some entertainment for a group of folks over a very short period of time, I have a hard time imagining a scenario where this little title ever makes it into the “party night rotation”. Marooners finds itself in a genre were there are already many other great games to choose from while doing very little to make itself stand out and above competition.

I think back to all of my all-nighters and sleep-overs of a time long past, where my friends would come-a-knocking with their Dr.Pepper and their Doritos, and we’d stay up until the birds came out playing all of the best multiplayer games you can think of. This is a role which I just can’t see Marooners filling for today’s kids. The sad truth is that if this game about a rag tag group of island bound treasure seekers were truly lost on an Island, I don’t think anybody would come looking. Better eat the caveman first.

Overall: 5.5 / 10
Gameplay: 5.0 / 10
Visuals: 6.0 / 10
Sound: 6.0 / 10


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