Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem Review

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem Review
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The Feud Continues - Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! Review

There’s nothing quite like a good old-fashioned video game rivalry to hit the nostalgia factor and bring back fond memories of gaming’s past. Mario and Bowser may have had some classic tussles over the years, but there’s something to be said about the heated feud between the portly plumber and Nintendo’s own resident ape Donkey Kong. Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! doesn’t do much to change the formula from past games, but given just how good those titles were, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! Story (3 out of 5)

Pauline is quite the looker for someone who has been getting kidnapped since 1981.

If you’ve played previous Mario vs. Donkey Kong games or are well acquainted with the original tale in the Donkey Kong arcade game, then you pretty much know how this story goes. Like any hardworking plumber, Mario has opened a brand new theme park called Mini-Land. It’s opening day, and Mario has invited the retro vixen Pauline to join him in giving out Mini Pauline toys to the first 100 customers. After cutting in a line infested with raspy-voiced Toads, Donkey Kong finally makes it to the gate, only to discover that he’s too late. As customer number 101, DK misses out on his opportunity of getting a Mini Pauline. So what does he do? He kidnaps the real one! Mario gives chase, armed with only his Mini Marios, and thus begins the adventure.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! Gameplay (5 out of 5)

Certain levels require you to take different Minis to their specific exits.

Throughout the course of the game, you don’t actually control Mario, or any of the Mini Marios for that matter. Instead, you must tap the Minis once to get them going, and then you must help them get to the goal by tinkering with the environments. This is done by sliding and tapping the stylus across specific areas on the touch screen to draw bridges, ladders, blocks, conveyor belts, and other such elements. The game only gives a certain number of building materials, though, so it is your job to place and remove structures accordingly.

This is where the game’s puzzle aspect kicks in. You have to be able to think fast and remove or place bridges, ladders, and the like in the appropriate areas as the Minis march onward. Once one Mini makes it to the exit, the door will close within a matter of minutes, so if you’ve got a few stragglers that don’t make it the goal on time, you’ll have to start from the beginning. That’s right, if even one of your Minis doesn’t make it to the goal or, even worse, falls into some spikes or breaks from falling a long distance, it’s game over for you.

Mini-Land Mayhem! does a good job of introducing new elements to its worlds, and although the game starts out fairly easy, the difficulty escalates little by little the further you progress. And while you may not find the deepest of challenges in taking the Minis all the way to the goal, breaking the preset high scores in order to collect trophies for each stage by collecting big coins and Mini Mario cards, which unlock special minigames, amp the challenge level significantly.

Controls (5 out of 5)

You can construct bridges and walls by tapping and sliding the stylus across the touch screen.

Every action in the game is carried out through the touch screen. Constructing bridges, shooting the Minis out of cannons, setting up ladders, and toggling the direction of conveyor belts is all done by either tapping or sliding the stylus on the touch screen. You can also view your surroundings before getting started by using the D-pad or face buttons to scroll through the map. Everything in the game is very intuitive, and it’s custom built around the touch-based design of the Nintendo DS.

Level Editor (5 out of 5)

After you’ve played through all of the game’s levels – and even if you haven’t – you can create some of your own. Mini-Land Mayhem! allows you to use all of the elements and building blocks from the preexisting levels to create your own custom stages. It’s fun, it’s easy, and if you’ve got a creative itch, you’ll be able to utilize the tools at your disposal to their fullest potential. You can trade created levels with friends locally or online, and you can even download custom stages created by other players. In addition to the user-created content, Nintendo is releasing brand new stages for players to download. And if you’re feeling competitive, you can enter Challenge Mode. Here you can construct levels based on a specific theme and upload them for other players to judge.

Lasting Value (4 out of 5)

Guiding the Minis through levels is fun and very rewarding.

With so many things to do, you can bet Mini-Land Mayhem! will keep you busy for hours upon hours. Aside from the game’s eight worlds, each consisting of eight levels, a boss fight, and a bonus minigame, you can also unlock special stages, expert stages, and Plus Mode, which features hard versions of all of the levels. Throw in the level editor, the official downloadable content from Nintendo, Challenge Mode, and all of the user-generated content, and you’ve got a bulky package that’s bound to keep you entertained for quite a long time.

Graphics (4 out of 5)

It is absolutely ridiculous just how charming the Minis are.

Mini-Land Mayhem! is an incredibly charming puzzler, and while the gameplay does a great job of projecting this appeal, it’s the presentation that really gives this title a personality of its own. Backgrounds are simple but colorful; environmental elements stand out, and their color-coded design immediately indicates what they can be used for; enemies fit well within the particular themes of their respective dwellings; and enough can’t be said about the cutesy appeal of the Minis. Seeing Mario’s little automated minions march across the game’s many levels frequently put a goofy smile on my face, and given the utter charm of the little guys, you’d have to be a cold-hearted denizen of doom to react any differently. There’s just so much aesthetic appeal in the game that it’s hard not to let it bring you the utmost bliss.

Sound (4 out of 5)

Even the freaking enemies are adorable to look at.

Going hand-in-hand with the game’s visual presentation is this immensely enjoyable collection of songs and sounds. You’ll hear many themes from throughout the Mario timeline, with songs from the original Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros. 2 as well as some original themes making the game’s soundtrack. Failure to complete a level will reward you with a comical little jingle that practically tells you that you really screwed up, while succeeding in taking all the Minis to the goal gate cues a fun little congratulatory chime. The game’s soundtrack is an essential part of the experience, and like its look, it gives the game an overdose of charm.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! Review - Overall Score (5 out of 5)

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! is not without its flaws. The game takes a while to finally get challenging; getting high scores in later levels and minigames can lead to a bit of frustration; and the final boss fight is surprisingly difficult if you’re trying to complete it without losing any Minis. However, these are all faults that can be easily overlooked given the game’s superb puzzle design, rewarding gameplay, and robust customization options. The game is set up so that you can spend hours at a time with it or play it in small bursts, so it really caters to your gaming needs. If you own a DS and want an engaging puzzler with tons of included and downloadable content, you would do well to join Mario and the Minis for one more round of Donkey Kong battering action.