MSRP: 800 DSiWare Points ($8 U.S.)
When Nintendo announced another Mario vs. Donkey Kong at E3, I was completely stoked. I’ve enjoyed this delightful little puzzle series since it’s inception on Gameboy Advance. I did have one small, albeit personal, issue with Nintendo’s revalation. The game was coming out a week after the press conference and I did not yet own a DSi. One new DSi and 800 ($8 in earth bucks) of my free 1000 DSiWare points later, I was happily playing Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again.
Before I get into the meat of this review, you should really know this if you don’t already. If you own a DS Phat or DS Lite, you are simply out of luck if you want to continue your adventure with Mario and his little wind-up dopplegangers. This game is only available for the DSi due to the fact that it has to be downloaded through Nintendo’s DSiWare service. This requires you to either purchase DSiWare Point cards at a retailer or through the system itself over a wireless connection. Bear in mind that these points are not interchangable with points that you have on your Wii.
The basic premise of the game is to get all of the miniature Marios through an exit in the level. Tapping the minis will start them on their merry way through the level, walking in a straight line and only turning when they run into a wall or other obstacle. In a manner quite comparable to the title characters in Lemmings, the mini’s will walk off of cliffs or drop offs that will often cause them to fall into a pit of spikes, which in turn causes you to lose a life and start the level all over again. The only way you can interact with the minis is either through building bridges or walls with purple blocks in certain marked areas, tapping spring board blocks, tapping conveyor belt switches, or tapping timed walls that pop out of the ground. There are also switches in most levels that will work color coded bridges, blocks, and even change color coded enemies to blocks for safe passage. These switches, however, can only be pressed by the minis.
The puzzles themselves seemed a bit too easy for the majority of the core game, with the levels at times serving as tutorials for the different elements that the you and the minis interact with. You’re given a certain amount of time to complete a level and then given a score and a star (bronze, silver, or gold) based off of how quickly you complete the level and the amount of coins you collect. The timer doesn’t start until you tap a mini so this allows you to survey the level and set up any purple blocks as you see fit. I honestly didn’t find myself challanged until some of the very last levels where you had to use all elements and almost perfect timing to receive a gold star.
I didn’t really expect much from this inexpensive downloadable title, but after beating the core 40 levels in “normal” mode, the game opens up what seems to be another 40 levels in “plus” mode. I’ve only played a few levels so far, but it seems that the minis start after a short countdown taking away that prep period and forcing you to think quickly. The game doesn’t stop with the content there though as there is roughly another 20 extra puzzles and a construction set to build your own or download other user and Nintendo generated levels through the Nintendo Wi-Fi service. All user generated puzzles carry stats such as a community rating and number of times downloaded to make it easy to seperate the gems from the crap. It’s a virtual smorgasbord of mini mario mayhem! A palpable plethora of puzzles!
For Nintendo’s first real foray into the DSiWare service with a full game, they have managed to set a very high bar for other publishers to follow. At the end of the day, if you’ve played Mario vs. Donkey Kong and enjoyed it, you’re not going to find anything crazy new here (they actually recycled the Donkey Kong boss battles from the previous game). With that being said, if you enjoyed the previous games and you have a DSi, there’s no reason you shouldn’t pick up this game. To anybody else that owns a DSi and has been waiting to burn those hot new free DSiWare points that came with the system, this should be your jam. It’ll even leave you 200 points left over to buy that Animal Crossing Clock you’ve been eyeing.