Mario vs. Donkey Kong Review

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Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo

Platform: Game Boy Advance
Reviewed on Game Boy Advance

Mario vs. Donkey Kong may be a remake of a ten-year-old Game Boy game, but it has quite a few more features than we're used to seeing from a GBA port. Particularly if you missed the original, it's hardly noticeable that Mario vs. Donkey Kong is not a completely unique game. The concept and the controls are as fresh as if they had been thought up in a post-Mario and Luigi: Superstar Saga universe.

Carrie Gouskos

Mario vs. Donkey Kong is primarily a puzzle game, with a hint of the original Donkey Kong gameplay in the boss fights at the end of each level. The premise is that Donkey Kong has stolen a truck full of Mario toys – miniature versions of Mario that are almost as cute as baby Mario in Yoshi's Island. (The deciding factor in the cuteness contest is that baby Mario has an oversized hat and cries, and that just breaks my heart.) The game is divided into six worlds, each one containing six puzzle levels, a level in which you guide the Mario toys to freedom, and a boss fight. In each world, the six puzzle levels contain two parts. In the first part, you must maneuver through the level to acquire a key and then take it to a locked doorway. In the second, you must find the toy Mario and set it free.

Along the way, you can acquire three presents that unlock a mini-game as a bonus level (reminiscent of Super Mario Brothers 3 mini-games), so that you can gain more lives. After you've beaten the first six levels, the seventh level opens up, the goal of which is to take the toy Marios that you've collected so far to a toy chest, without letting them all (or any, ideally) die. Since the toy Marios follow you without any care for their own safety, these levels are distinctly different from the others. After completing the first seven levels, there is a type of boss fight pitting Mario against Donkey Kong, in which Mario has to find a barrel and throw it at Donkey Kong a few times.

Many Extra Worlds

That's essentially it, yet there's so much more. After you've beaten the game for the first time, six new worlds open up (called the plus worlds) each with its own six levels and a boss fight. In the plus worlds, you're guiding one toy Mario who holds a key to the locked door to complete a stage. This changes the way you have to think about the game, and these levels are so unique that the game can be said to have 12 worlds. Finish the level in a certain amount of time (thankfully you don't have to acquire all the extras on the level to do it) to unlock a gold star for the level. Gold stars unlock the Extra Levels that can be accessed after you have beaten the plus worlds.

The gameplay itself is challenging at times, but most of the puzzles can be solved within a few minutes. Rarely are the levels very large, and most fit on one screen. For the first few worlds, new moves and obstacles are introduced at each level. Many of the moves are taken from the Mario platform games, so you'll notice that the back flip is, as usual, the most useful. There are unique aspects too, like the handstand that can be used to prevent damage from falling obstacles.

On Toys and Timing

For the most part, the game handles very well. Issue could be taken with the toy Marios who sometimes behave erratically – not ideal behavior for a fragile creature you're trying to protect. Sometimes they'll follow you immediately, but sometimes they'll jump first. This interferes with your planned timing for a given puzzle sequence. Usually though, the toy Marios follow a set pattern and can be manipulated easily. The graphics are sufficient, but not of particular note. A few of the more complicated levels even had a noticeable slowdown, which is terrible in a game that is based so strictly on the timing of jumps.

Those of you interested in platformers will find Mario vs. Donkey Kong a worthwhile and fairly deep game. It's not necessarily innovative, but it is fun and particularly suited to people who have only short bursts of time to play on the GBA. You may be concerned about the current asking price for it, but it's surefire fun, even at $30.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on July 18, 2004 3:45 PM.

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