One of the first true video game rivalries, Mario and Donkey Kong have been leaping barrels and swinging mallets at each other since long before I ever picked up a controller. While their blood feud was mostly relegated to go-karting and tennis in the 90’s, the new millennium brought with it a whole new way for Jumpman and DK to duke it out- by building miniature versions of themselves to do all the fighting for them! Does this proxy-war stand up on the 3DS, or should you look elsewhere for your puzzle fix?
Mario games of late have gotten a bad rap for sticking too close to the ‘generic’ Mario look and feel. Well, if that’s the case then Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move takes the cake as the most ‘generic’ looking game to come out of the series in a long time. Everything here is just so… safe. The characters, the locations, the art style: it all screams of generic ‘Mario’, which is a real shame since the series started with such a unique look back on the Game Boy Advance.
On a technical level however, the game is rather competent. For the first time the environments and levels are in 3D, and they do look crisp and vibrant. It’s unfortunate, though, that the 3D effect of the Nintendo 3DS wasn’t put to any good use. Seriously, sliding the 3D switch up and down will barely make any difference to the game’s look. Also, what is wrong with this game’s soundtrack? It sounds like classic Mario tunes mixed with the score for a bad porno movie. The sound effects are also very annoying and grating. Do yourself a favour and turn the volume all the way down; your ears and sanity will thank you.
How much you get out of Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move is entirely up to you. The game features well over a hundred levels ready to go, and you can download more to your heart’s content. Of course, once you’ve played through a few stages you won’t really be seeing anything new except for the imagination of its creator. The variety of extra modes and some unlockables do add a tiny bit of value to the package, but as it stands $9.99 is a tad expensive for what is offered.
The very first thing you will notice when starting up Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move is the brand-new gameplay scheme for the series. Now instead of building girders, paths, and springboards for your lemming-esq Mini Marios to travel upon, you play everybody’s 1992 favourite, Pipes! Well, it’s not that simple, but it’s pretty close. The right-hand of the touch screen will display falling tiles that have to be placed on the grid to make a path for your Mini Mario to reach the goal. Okay, so I guess it is like Pipes.
While the basic gameplay is, at its core, rather solid, it soon becomes apparent that the game doesn’t have much more to offer besides laying down some pipe paths. Oh sure, you are offered four different gameplay modes, but they all play as a variation of the main game. With over 150 levels, this becomes more of a drag than anything else. To help spice up the experience, the game also includes four mini-games to whittle away the day with. Unfortunately, these also suffer from either just being slight variations on each other’s gameplay, or just plain not fun.
Also, this is one of the rare Nintendo 3DS games that is controlled uniquely with the touch screen. While this control scheme lends itself quite well to the gameplay, it can quickly lead to cramped hands when playing for a long time. This, and the repetitive nature of the gameplay, will soon leave you scrambling for a place to put your 3DS down.
The game does have a saving grace, however, in the form of its user generated content and sharing service. Essentially, you can build any type of level with all the game’s tools and then upload them for all to see. You can also download a whole bunch of new levels to enjoy, as well as have a say in which levels get viewed by more people, and which phallus shaped ones get lost forever. All in all, this mode is clearly the star of the game; it’s just a shame that Miiverse functionality isn’t yet ready for the 3DS, as it would be right at home here.
Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move is Nintendo’s version of Angry Birds, plain and simple. You get a large amount of levels, can easily get more, and yet the game always feels the same. And like Angry Birds, it’s easily forgettable. It’s hard to recommend Mario and Donkey: Minis on the Move when there are so many better puzzle options available on either the e-Shop or even DSiWare. Download at your own risk.
This review is based on Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move downloaded from the Nintendo e-Shop on the 3DS.