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An Engaging Puzzle Game on the DS
When Mario vs. Donkey appeared on the Game Boy Advance, it paid homage to the classic rivalry between everyone’s favorite plumber and the king of Jungle Japes while offering puzzle gameplay not really seen in a Mario game. Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis revamps that game’s core gameplay mechanics and offers an exceptional control scheme in what can only be called a game that surpasses the bar set by its great predecessor.
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Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2 begins with Mario opening up a theme park based on his Mini Mario toys. He invites Pauline—the damsel in distress from the Donkey Kong arcade game—as his guest of honor. As Donkey Kong watches on, he is instantly smitten by Mario’s gal pal, and this cues the ape’s comical kidnapping of the helpless Pauline. Whether it’s Princess Peach or not, this is the same Mario storyline fans have come to expect with a slightly different coat of paint on it.
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Gameplay in Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2 is easy to get a grasp on, that’s a good thing because the game is always going, so you’ll have to be able to keep up with all the action onscreen while trying to clear each stage successfully. Despite this being a Mario game, you don’t actually take control of Mario himself. Instead, you take control of the Mini Mario toys and guide them to each stage’s goal.
You’ll rely solely on the DS’s touch screen in order to control the Mini Marios. A swipe of the touch screen in any direction will send your Mini Marios marching in that direction, and it is up to you to keep them safe from any impending dangers such as Shy Guys, Piranha Plants, fire, spikes, and any other hazardous obstacles. While there are only a few Mini Marios to work with at the beginning of the game, it isn’t very long before you must guide large numbers of Mini Marios to the goal, and this is where the game gets more challenging.
There are a number of elements that add depth to the game. For example, you can stop the Mini Marios in their tracks if you so choose to with a simple tap on the touch screen. If you clear the stage without ever having them stop, however, you’ll earn a nonstop bonus that will increase your score even more. Additionally, although you can clear stages by salvaging but one of the toys, reaching the goal with every Mini Mario intact will accrue more points and help get you a higher score. Collecting coins and Mini Mario Cards also racks up the points, and it is fun to try and collect every item on each stage.
As if the main game wasn’t good enough, Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2 includes a level editor where you can easily create stages and share them with your friends. Creating levels is easy to get a grasp on but deep enough to the point where you’ll be able to create stages that rival the layouts of those already included in the game’s story mode. Using Nintendo’s Wi-Fi Connection, you can share your stages and download others’ created works. This makes for a seemingly endless gaming experience, and you may find some true masterpieces out there.
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As previously mentioned, Mini Marios are controlled via the touch screen. In addition to directional swipes of the stylus for left and right movement, an upward swipe will cause the Mini Marios to jump. Levers, switches, buttons, and other such elements must be activated by using the stylus as well, and you’ll find yourself putting together bridges, activating lifts, and moving platforms all the while trying to keep an eye on your group of Mini Marios.
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Graphics and Sound
Mario vs. Donkey Kong features a colorful cel-shaded look. Everything looks clear and crisp, and the game drips with stylized charm. Those who like simple but attractive visuals will find nary a flaw in the game’s technical design. Likewise, the music in the game is catchy and quirky, and you’ll find many of the game’s themes stuck in your head from time to time.
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The first Mario vs. Donkey Kong featured a large number of levels, but even then it wasn’t a very long-lasting game. The same can be said about the sequel’s story mode. The game’s difficulty remains low until much later in the game, so you’ll likely find yourself breezing through the first few sets of stages. It helps that each of the game’s 80+ levels have extra items to collect and high scores to beat, and this definitely adds some legs to the game’s length, but where the game’s value really shines is in the robust level editor, which you’ll find yourself enthralled in for a long time.
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Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis is a successful DS puzzle game. It offers a lot for gamers who want to play a Mario game that does things differently, and the only real flaw in the game is its low level of difficulty. You’ll breeze through the main game, so it’s a good thing that level editing and sharing features were included. If you find the game’s stages too easy, then you’ll likely find some challenging ones from other users online once you get past the troublesome friend code feature. Ultimately, Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2 is an enjoyable, if easy, romp through the Mario universe.