Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis Review

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Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo

Platform: DS
Reviewed on DS

Hearkening back to their first, coin-op encounter, Donkey Kong has fallen in love with and abducted the fair Pauline, and Mario must make it to the top of a tower to save Pauline from Donkey Kong's hairy grasp. This time, however, the battle is not fought by jumping barrels and climbing ladders. The conflict is at the Mario Toy Company, and will be waged between miniature wind-up toys. The heated battle may focus on the mini-Marios and mini-Donkey Kongs, but don't overlook the complex deathtraps and the mini-Shy Guys.

Kyle Ackerman

This isn't the first time that Donkey Kong has assaulted a truckload of miniature, wind-up Mario toys. Mario and Donkey Kong have already competed, using tiny toys as proxies in their battle for supremacy. What makes this sequel vastly superior to the previous Donkey Kong/Mario conflicts is that it takes full advantage of the DS.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis is, fundamentally, a puzzle game. Similar to other classic franchises such as Lemmings, players have to guide a series of Mario wind-up toys through mazes filled with hostile toys and death traps, ultimately rescuing those toys by leading them all through a portal. The game is organized as a tower Mario must climb by saving his toys. So by completing nine puzzles on each of eight floors, Mario can ultimately ensure Pauline's safety. (Pauline appears to be just an aggressively dressed friend these days – there is no intimation that the relationship between Mario and Pauline has been rekindled since her coin-op debut.)

At the end of each floor, players must battle against Donkey Kong to reach the next floor by firing toys at the hanging ape. By collecting certain cards in each puzzle, players also get access to mini-games that are variations on the carnival Whack-A-Mole game. Ultimately, having reached the roof, players re-enact the early arcade battles between Donkey Kong and Mario to complete the game. Scoring high in each puzzle even gets access to variant boss battles.

Partly, Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2 is superior to its predecessors because the touch screen offers far better control over the tiny toys than the Game Boy handhelds did. The controls are simple and intuitive. The only problem is that the game uses the D-pad to scroll around the level, but also offers arrows on the screen to scroll with the stylus. These arrows can get in the way when trying to control the Mario toys, as the arrow takes priority over the puzzle itself. But fundamentally, this game is more responsive than its older and more primitive brothers.

As a stand-alone puzzle game, Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2 is entertaining and easy to play in short bursts. The campaign that it offers is solid, but the real joy of Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2 comes from its construction set. Completing levels and mini-games gives players access to additional construction sets from which to build their own levels. And because the game takes advantage of the DS unit's wireless capabilities, players can upload levels they've built and download new levels for literally unlimited fun.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2 is solid Mario puzzling entertainment, and offers easy access to more puzzle action than you can shake a stick at. Even if you are an accomplished stick-shaker.

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This page contains a single entry by Editor published on November 5, 2006 7:56 PM.

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