Developed and published by M2H, Marooners is a chaotic and adorable feast of mini games that can be played both locally and online either solo against bots or in a group of up to 6 players. Players choose from a line up of avatars that include swashbuckling pirates, goofy little cavemen, vintage deep sea divers, or even little vikings, and then choose their color scheme to set themself apart from their competitors. Additionally, you can choose which weapon your character uses, and these too range across a variety of humorous choices like a trident, a chicken drumstick, or the dreaded baguette of pain.
Once you’re situated with all of your players it is time to choose how you would like to play Marooners. The basic traditional mode for Marooners pits players (and/or bots) against each other in a series of rotating mini game scenarios. We’re given a view of a map with a variety of little X marked locations that the camera will zoom in upon. Each location is representative of a specific mini game, so players that have quite a bit of time under their belt may get to a point where they’re experienced enough with the map that these location names are enough to prepare them for the type of mini game that is about to come up. For new players, though, they may find that the location changes are so frequent and chaotic that they don’t have enough time to learn which game they’re about to be thrust into. This is magnified in Marooner’s “chaos” mode, which randomly switches between mini games at a quick fire pace, starting one, and then switching to the next before the first has ended, only to return to it later after having played 2-3 other mini game types.
Each mini game for Marooners has a set of rules which are prominently displayed as a simple “Do” and “Don’t” at the start. These typically boil down to “Grab as many gems or coins as possible” and “Don’t get hit, splat, ran over, or knocked off.”. Characters are moved around the environment using the left analogue stick, and there is an attack that is mapped to the B button. The learning curve is quite low, making Marooners very appealing and accessible for younger players. Movement for the characters is smooth, but the ‘attack’ action could stand to be polished.
While playing the game in a local setting with my daughters, we did find that attacks would not always be consistent. Two players could stand side by side and hit the attack button simultaneously but it seemed like nothing more than luck of the draw as to which one of the players were actually hit. There is no damage or health meter for the characters in the game, so getting hit by other players only serves to knock them loose of a few of their coins. That said, these coins are necessary to ultimately win the game. A strategically timed attack could also serve to knock a foe from any of the platforms, turning them into a ghost and rendering them unable to pick up power ups or coins.
The tropical island setting offers a surprising variety of mini game environments. Players can find themselves on platforms surrounded by lava and statues that shoot fire, floating on an iceberg in a frozen cave with dangerous of gusts of winds, or even attempting to outrun giant boulders down the side of a volcano. The players ultimate goal through all of this is to collect the most gems and coins over the course of all of the mini games in order to win. The gems earned also serve as experience points that dump into a leveling system. Leveling up serves to unlock additional character models and humorous weaponry for whacking at your friends. When playing in local coop, it is possible to sign in multiple Xbox Live accounts (as opposed to everybody playing as a guest on the primary account.) and earn achievements across accounts. When one player in a local game unlocks an achievement, it will unlock across all signed in accounts. Likewise, any gems earned will dump into the original player’s level bar, but all players on the same system will benefit from that primary account’s level and rewards.
For all of its chaos and ingenuity, Marooners does suffer from a lack of content. The majority of the mini games all break down to “don’t get squished” or “don’t fall off”, which results in repetitive gameplay. There’s no stand alone solo content, either, leaving lone wolf players no other choice but to play the game with a handful of unfair bots that don’t seem to suffer from the same questionable hit mechanics as actual players. Still, its an enjoyable and adorable experience if you have a willing party of participants.