You just cant beat some good old party game madness. Nothing will ever stack up to the likes of Mario Party, of course, but that’s not to say that our favorite fat plumber hogs the genre spotlight entirely. We’ve seen the arrival of a few party game gems on Xbox One, such as the Jackbox series. On the flip side we’ve endured a band of forgettable titles too, yes, Knight Squad, I’m looking right at you. Party games are reliant on player engagement, putting extra pressure on the experience that each new addition houses. There needs to be a unique blend of content across a variety of diverse modes to garner some attention, and hopefully captivate gamers far and wide in the process. Marooners struggles to achieve the latter, and although it’s fun in short bursts and offers some interesting features, it’s ultimately forgettable and short lived.
The aim of the game is as straightforward as a party game needs to be. It’s easy to pick up and play, and the premise is equal to that. The story never really evolves past the initial stages of the game, but that’s forgivable given the genre. Players take on the role of one of several characters that are marooned on an island that’s filled with several activities. It’s a shame, however, that these activities never really prove to be as exciting as intended. In fact, even just after a couple of hours of playtime, you’ll have witnessed everything that the game has to offer. There’s only a handful of mini-games to play, each of which largely revolve around the same core mechanic, which is to say that you’ll be outsmarting your opponents and grabbing coins along the way.
Two overlaying modes can be selected from the get-go: Arcade and Party. Arcade mode arguably has the weaker structure, being that players will merely beat down the opposition as quickly as can be. Party mode, however, has you collecting coins and attempting to stay alive for as long as possible. The game offers seamless local and online play, supporting up to six players, with bot implementation for those that struggle to fill a game. This was a wise design choice, as I highly doubt Marooners will attract a strong enough following to see the game teeming with life in the long run. I should point out that the theme of the game is well set, but the execution and the format is far from commendable, which really does hurt what could have been a decent time chomper.
One of the most immediate flaws sits with the Arena mode. This mode feels not only unnecessary, but tacked on in such a way to make the game seem bigger and better than it is. Gameplay here remains the same throughout, which typically has you either knocking your opponents off the edge of an arena, or trying to blast them to smithereens. Players can pick up the occasional perk, such as a boxing glove to punch foes with, but these never turn the tides of a battle dramatically. Party mode serves up a better experience, but not quite as fulfilling as one would hope, and certainly not what I would describe as innovative. That being said, I did quite appreciate the level design and map variation, but again, this alone is not enough to save the game from its repetitive and boring nature.
Although the games in this section are better developed, many of them still lack a degree of quality, but let’s start with the dessert before getting to the veggies. Flower Falls is one of the best games on offer. Here, players will run across a bed of flowers that will fall once touched. It’s quite exciting and somewhat hilarious as you try to cut short the path of your enemy, but the game is over and done with in less than a minute or two. Crushing Chasm is fun too, the game has a giant slab of stone dropping from above, tasking players with standing in the stone gaps in order to survive being crushed. Rocky Road is another good addition that plays out like the Indiana Jones boulder scene. Then there’s Brimstone Basin, a game that relies more on speed and quick thinking rather than skill. Here you will simply need to collect coins while avoiding projectile shots from statues on the edge of the map. It’s straightforward, indeed, but still quite fun.
Now for the veggies. Despite some well thought out game types, there are far more cons than pros, overall. Several game types either don’t work or play out as intended (grouped with crappy AI), or they’re just not that interesting to begin with. Such as Crystal Cave, a game that sees you grabbing gems until someone wins. Simple, and pointless. Stonework Square, a game that tasks you with surviving an onslaught of dropping objects while you scramble around the map to grab coins. Simple, and pointless. Marooners just doesn’t excel where it needs to, and the price of admission for a few short (yet decent) games within a single game mode just doesn’t make it a worthwhile experience. It doesn’t help that the game lacks in content as it is, never mind that much of the content on offer is bland and dull.
Leveling up can be achieved by collecting as much gold as you can in each game. Characters and weaponry will be handed out like candy upon each level up, but that’s all that you’re gifted with. The progression system is a nice touch, but it’s not something that I thought was particularly needed. Furthermore, each new acquired unlock is merely cosmetic and does nothing to change-up the core gameplay. You can indeed kit your unlocks in different color schemes, which is good for those that like to spice up the variety to a small degree. Speaking of the visuals, Marooners is a passable title on this front. Despite some decent level design, the visuals barely do much to stand out. Which is something that could be said about the overall package. It’s a below average party game, at best.
Marooners isn’t anywhere near as exciting as a party game should be. Despite some well detailed maps and a few innovative game types, the overall package just doesn’t cut it. I have no doubt that this will please the younger audience, but there are better party games available on Xbox One that offer much more fun and longevity.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.