Whether people consider themselves a casual or hardcore gamer, most love a good party game. The feeling of huddling around the television with a group of friends remains unrivaled from youth to adulthood. I will always associate party games with Nintendo; from the classics on the 64 to Mario Party to Wii Sports. While the rise of online play has pushed couch co-op aside somewhat, every serious gamer needs a good party game in their catalog. With a lost island theme and adorable characters, Marooners makes an admirable attempt to be your go-to party game. With fast and furious action for up to 6 players both online and off, not to mention a budget price, they may have a case. Did I consider Marooners a tropical paradise or a shipwrecked catastrophe? Stick your toes in the sand and catch some rays with this review.
Depending on the game mode, it’s you versus your friends or the AI (or a mix of both) in fast-paced minigame action. After choosing your character and settings, a map will appear and zoom in on various minigames that are symbolized by locations. In chaos mode, a quick flash of the objective will appear, and you have just a few seconds to try and outlast your opponent. You might have to knock them into a fire pit or be the last survivor while avoiding falling boulders. Coins are scattered across each level, with a large treasure appearing for the last man standing. Marooners chaos settings will keep switching mini-games every few seconds until you have a winner in each one. You can adjust these settings to liner, which lets you finish each game before switching or a mix of both. By the end of 5 random mini-games, the total coins collected are tallied and you have an overall winner. New characters and weapons are unlocked as you level up, with leveling tied to your gamertag, not an individual character.
The way you play Marooners depends highly on which game you are in and whether you are playing in arena or party mode. Arena mode is very simple, use your weapon to knock all other characters off your platform to win. Item boxes will randomly appear that might give you a speed boost, bomb or super punch, but there is less of a focus on coins. Playing solely this mode gets old pretty fast, mostly due to lack of variety in the objectives. If you choose the game mode “any”, you get arena matches sprinkled in with the party games, which feels less repetitive. Party mode contains the most variety and puts the focus on collecting coins. I will go more in-depth on each game a little later, but some things remain the same throughout. You are always armed with a melee weapon, usually something like a club, trident or sword. They don’t have stats or anything complicated, but they quickly move from traditional to very odd (pool noodle, baguette, etc). There are over 70 weapons and roughly 16 characters to unlock as you level up.
With about a dozen party games, I thought Id give a brief rundown or what they are and how I enjoyed them:
Icy Isles: A solid block of ice quickly begins to crack into smaller pieces while players try to collect coins and fight the strong winds. This game never lasts long but it’s very fun while it does.
Stonework Square: Stone blocks fall from the sky and you must avoid their shadows to not get squished. Lighter color stones can be broken to create paths while darker ones cannot. Last one to not get squished wins. This one is enjoyable and quickly becomes chaotic as space becomes scarce.
Twin Temple: Players at first want to hold this statue/time bomb because it gives coins at first, the fuze then becomes lit and it becomes a hot potato pass to avoid the explosion. I don’t like this game as much because bumping into others to pass the statue sometimes works precisely and sometimes does not.
Brimstone Basin: Players fight to stay on a rotating platform while collecting coins and avoiding fireballs that are being shot by surrounding statues. This is probably my favorite mini-game as it has potential to give a lot of coins and just enough action to not feel overwhelming.
Avalanche of Agony: Another one that never seems to last too long. Players move across a horizonal plane as boulders roll towards you. Their movement gets diverted from rising pegs, similar to the game plinko, which makes it difficult to judge their direction. This game is especially fun at the end when gigantic boulders make for little or no chance of escape.
Crushing Chasm: A giant circular wheel crushes down on the players, who must stand in light created by holes in the wheel to survive. If you are anywhere else when the wheel falls you will die. This is probably my least favorite game because I never earned many coins and it was more frustrating than fun.
Flower Falls: All players stand on elevated leaves, which quickly disappear and take a few seconds to reappear. The players are all running around trying not to fall until inevitably one person is left standing. This game is one of my favorites because it relies on timing and never feels unfair.
Mines of Mayhem: It’s a race to the bottom as players must break stones and try to get their opponent caught by the moving screen edge. This one gets frustrating because I had a hard time making simple jumps into spaces I should have fit into. I also never knew where the final treasure would appear and I usually ran out of time before reaching it.
Rocky Road: Race towards the screen, don’t get squished by flying boulders. I didn’t care for this one because it’s hard to avoid the boulders and you don’t earn many coins.
Devil’s Drop: Players must choose a side of a platform, not knowing which will drop. The winner gets a lot of valuable coins. I played the game for hours grinding out wins and this game hardly showed up. I’m not sure why but I wish it came around more often.
Crystal Cave: Rising lava forces players to race to the top of a temple using jump pads and other ledges. You must avoid fireballs and there are lots of coins to collect. The jump pads are very unpredictable and caused a lot of unintended deaths.
I tested out the online play with another reviewer who lives in South America (I’m located in North America) and I found things to run smoothly for the most part. It was obvious that there was slight lag in Brimstone Basin because I would clearly see him get hit by fireballs and not die. He told me he saw the same as well for me. I’ve also heard of very bad lag between reviewers when one player was in North America and the other Australia. Since the game is unreleased at the time of this review there aren’t many people online to test this out. But my suspicion is that players of similar regions should find the experience relatively smooth.
Marooners has a colorful art style that will appeal to all ages, and it’s all tied together by the lost island theme, although some liberties are taken. Yeah, I expect to see a Tiki warrior and a pirate, but some characters are somewhat out of place like the caveman and deep-sea diver. But with support for 6 players at once I would much rather have more characters than less. The music is memorable but gets repetitive with time, so much that I can practically hear the songs in my head for each stage if I try hard enough. I really liked how quickly the game loaded, and I’m still using the original Xbox One model. Characters were easily distinguished by their bright colors and there are plenty of girl and boy options to choose from. Marooners is priced perfectly at $9.99 USD, which will easily pay for itself in one quality game night session with friends. The achievement list is balanced nicely with a mix of points dedicated to playing a number of games locally and online, winning a number of games and collecting certain amounts of coins. Overall, for a budget release Marooners presents itself better than many games price themselves higher.
After earning all the achievements in most games, I typically uninstall them and rarely play again. Marooners and other quality party games are different because it’s inevitable I will need them at some point. My kids might spend more hours playing than I ever did, earning coins and unlocking new characters. It’s just an enjoyable party game that is nice to have in your collection when the mood strikes. The low price means there isn’t much risk whether you put 2 hours or 200 hours into it. Despite some flaws and a couple of dud games, Marooners is the type of island getaway where I enjoyed my stay and can see myself coming back.
A press code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review.