Party games are, with the right crowd, great fun. Offering a short, fast paced gameplay for you and all your mates. Enter then Marooners, a party game that manages to feel both familiar yet includes a nice unique twist that elevates it somewhat above the crowd.
The game itself isn’t entirely new, having been available for PC since March 2016. As with a lot of modern Indie games, it started life in Early Access but has undergone a lot of refinement to better hone the multiplayer experience. After some big updates, the game went gold in September 2016 and since then developer M2H, whose portfolio includes the muliplayer shooter Verdun, has worked to port the game over to both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
At its heart it’s a compilation of around 25 different minigames spread over Arena and Party game modes. Arena mode is a straight up game of elimination, but in Party mode the goal isn’t to be the last man standing – it certainly improves your odds of winning – but rather it’s a race to collect the most treasure, the more of which appears the longer the game runs. Each minigame itself poses a, mostly, unique challenge requiring you to avoid vanishing platforms, run from boulders, dodge explosives or simply eliminate the opposition by whacking them off the edge. Elimination however isn’t the end – this is after all a party game and sitting out for extended time periods isn’t fun for anybody. Hence upon your death the game returns you to the fray as a ghost, affording you chance to enact immediate revenge against those who wronged you.
So far it’s all pretty standard fare, however the game does have one final twist, what developer M2H describes as the ‘switcheroo’. Mid session, the game suspends and switches, randomly, to another minigame and then resumes where it left off. And it continues to do so at random time intervals until all the games are finished. Initially this mechanic is a little confusing, in particular if like myself you had no prior knowledge about what the game was going to throw at you. It reads as somewhat disorientating, but it actually helps to fuel the chaos and ultimately make things even more fun, particularity when it returns you to a previous game just as you’re about to die.
As with most party games, not all the minigames work as well as others. Whilst most are fun, simple to understand and most importantly quick, some lack the enjoyment of others. A specific low light being a descent through a procedural generated sequence of blocks that you race to destroy, which often ended with the final 2 players simply following one another with limited options to win. For the few bad levels however, the rest work well and although some repeat similar ideas they are over generally over quickly enough that you won’t really notice.
Alongside the above it’s all rather standard Party Game fare. Presentation is unoffensive and clean, controls are simple, and a selection of characters and cosmetic weapons give you a decent shot at picking yourself out amongst the chaos. It supports up to 6 players both locally and online, and also includes bots to fill any remaining spaces or allow you to play solo – although the enjoyment factor is greatly diminished alone.
Overall, Marooners is a fun albeit simple experience. It’s well suited to playing locally with friends, taking it in turns to stitch each other up whenever the opportunity arises. For a party game it ticks the right boxes, with a shallow learning curve and simple controls. It’s pleasantly presented, well polished – owing to most of the gameplay issues having been ironed out during its time in Early Access – and unique enough to stand out against other games in the genre.
To conclude, Marooners delivers a decent experience for a very reasonable price, £8 at the time of writing. It’s simple, accessible and most of all a good laugh and if you’re in the market for something easy going to play with friends then you needn’t look further.
Marooners was provided to us by Xbox/M2H for Xbox One. It was reviewed on an Xbox One S and X.