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Platform: GameBoy Advance

Genre: Platformer / Puzzle

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Nintendo

ESRB: E (Everyone)

Released: May 2004

 

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Mario vs. Donkey Kong

Score: 7.5 / 10

 

Pros:

- Some really good puzzles

- Lots of infusion from Mario and Donkey Kong games past

- Good presentation

 

Cons:

- A frustrating Mario game?

- Little replay value

 

Related Links:

Review: The Lost Vikings (GBA)

Review: Mario and Luigi - Superstar Saga (GBA)

Review: Fire Emblem (GBA)

 

"If you pick-up Mario vs. Donkey Kong expecting a classic Mario title, youíll be sorely disappointed, not to mention frustrated."

 

Iím not against games with a high level of difficulty.  After all, whatís the point of a game that lets you walk right through without seeing the ďGame OverĒ screen?  But Mario vs. Donkey Kong (MvDK) wildly varies in difficulty Ė the first four or five levels seemed a breeze until I hit level 5, stage 2.  Thatís when frustration asserted itself like a paper cut under my fingernail.

 

mario vs donkey kong review          mario vs donkey kong review

 

Frustration?  With a Mario game?  Iíve always been challenged by Mario games but never to the extent of being frustrated.  This can be traced back to the fact this is a very different Mario game.  Although the screenshots might lead you to believe that MvDK is a platformer, itís actually a puzzle game along the lines of The Lost Vikings but instead of three Vikings, you control the acrobatic Mario who has a roster of moves on par with Tony Hawk.  As a result, there isnít much room for creativity in solving the puzzles.  The designers set up each area, no matter how creatively or expertly executed, to have one solution (or maybe two).  This effectively sinks any replay value (unless you want to score all the gold stars) and creates a high level of frustration if you canít figure out the solution in the allotted time.  And if you canít figure it out, thereís no advancing and Mario will forever be without his mini-Marios.

 

Ah, the setup.  The game opens with Donkey Kong channel surfing then going ga-ga over the new mini-Mario toys.  His simian brain kicks in and he raids the factory.  He makes off with a big bag of the toys and it falls to Mario to reclaim them.

 

 

Each stage is broken up into two sections: first getting the key to access the second part of the stage to claim the Mario toy.  In what is really a synthesis of all Mario and Donkey Kong games in the last fifteen years, Mario has to jump on buttons, climb ladders, avoid Shy Guys, slide fruit down ropes (a move from Donkey Kong Jr.), ride moving platforms, and flip off poles to meet the objectives.

 

(A sub-objective is to collect the three presents scattered on each stage.  Collecting all of them allows Mario to visit the bonus stage where he can gain extra lives between stages.)

 

mario vs donkey kong review          mario vs donkey kong review

 

The stage before the boss confrontations at the end of each level changes the mechanics up a bit.  In those stages, you have to lead the Mario toys to safety.  Each one you lead to safety counts as a hit point during the showdown with Donkey Kong, but because the showdowns are so easy to win, losing a few Mario toys isnít a big deal.

 

Donkey Kong has hit points to wear down and has a flawless defense strategy wherein he drops items Mario can hurl back at him.  (Heís a big ape, not a military strategist.)  Itís a real flip-flop from the puzzle gameplay found in the rest of the game.

 

The presentation is good, with re-imaginings of Mario themes for the soundtracks and good detail on the graphics side.

 

If you pick-up Mario vs. Donkey Kong expecting a classic Mario title, youíll be sorely disappointed, not to mention frustrated.  However, if you like puzzle games like The Lost Vikings, MvDK should be right up your alley because it is fun to play most of the time, challenging your timing and problem-solving skills to make it worth a purchase.

 

- Omni

(June 6, 2004)

 

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