Despite bearing the name of two of Nintendo’s biggest mascots, the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series has been one of the Nintendo DS’s most innovative and original series. The puzzle take on the formula seen in the original Donkey Kong is extremely enjoyable, with the quirky humour of other Mario games flowing joyously through the experience. Does Miniland mayhem uphold the standard of what has become one the platforms most interesting series?
The concept is simple, Mario has control over a set of mini Marios who, when activated, will walk continuously in one direction. You must create platforms, move springs and guide your miniature equivalents to the zone at the end of a level. It’s similar to Lemmings, though you have a limited supply of Marios, with collectibles tucked away in hard to reach places. It’s definitely not a standard Mario game as you take a managerial role rather than running and jumping (though a game that blends the two genres may be interesting).
You go through the standard 8 worlds of any Mario title, with around 6 short levels in each. It’s not the longest game in the series, but that isn’t the main attraction here, the devilishly hard puzzle action is though. Easing you into it’s format with minimal resources to worry about, by the third or fourth world you can be juggling three techniques at once. Each stage is compact too, so while it may at first seem obvious to you which route must be taken, the challenge comes with timing when you remove objects and thinking ahead of yourself as you guide your mini Marios.
As with any DS mario spin off, Mario Vs Donkey Kong has its own quirkiness about it. The game is presented in 2.5D with the ape himself taking up most of the top screen when confronting him in the ‘boss battle’ that closes each world. There’s the now standard humour to be found when the main characters do interact with each other, though don’t be expecting a Mario RPG level of plot and character development. From a presentation standpoint, Mini-land Mayhem keeps up the extremely high standard that DS owners have become accustomed to, from the vibrant world, to the expressive characters.
Mario Vs Donkey Kong Miniland Mayhem bears the torch of the series extremely well. Though the gameplay may be a striking departure from platforming, you can always tell that your playing a Mario game throughout. Nintendo know how to keep you interested, the hook here being subtly hidden extra items that add some severe challenge to this simple puzzler. Everything here is self explanatory, the need to master button combinations and tactics is completely absent in Mini-land Mayhem. You feel the same joy playing this as you do stomping goombas in New Super Mario Bros, which makes it one of the system’s best puzzle/adventure titles.
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