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Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move (3DS)

Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move (3DS) - Review

by VGChartz Staff , posted on 07 June 2013 / 2,843 Views

Nintendo has brought their heaviest of hitters to the 3DS eShop by way of Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move. Industry stalwart Mario and a few of his pals have gathered in the form of wind-up toys for a puzzle-platformer that departs a bit from the origins of the Mario and Donkey Kong series. But lateral thinking and scrambling to react quickly enough remain series hallmarks.

In this newest installment of the “reach-the-goal” puzzler, you are tasked with assembling a safe pathway from Point A to Point B using a suite of tiles. Primarily these consist of straight lines or angled curves, with a few unique tiles thrown in. To spice up the gameplay, there are 3 Stars to collect in every level. Early in my playthrough, the stylings of the gameplay felt markedly like an iOS or other mobile gaming title: the levels were bite-sized and offered 3 collectables hiding in sinister spots to increase the difficulty, reminiscent of, say, Cut the Rope. The 3 Stars are needed to achieve a “Perfect” rating on a level, which unlocks various knickknacks that you can look at.

These knickknacks are additional wind-up toys, though you cannot use them to play through the actual game, which would have been nice. Instead they are simply nifty cameos, but these “rewards” are nothing but virtual dust collectors… literally. Refuse to visit your trophy case for too long and you are tasked with scrubbing them clean in order to properly view them in all their glory.

But ignoring the sardonic reward system, how is the gameplay? It’s alright, for a time. The game does a nice job of introducing new platforming elements that change the way you think about the game world early on, but it runs out of them before it runs out of unique ways to combine them. There are also four (but I’ll call it five; this will be explained in a moment) gameplay modes to keep it feeling fresh for longer.

In Mario’s Main Event, a pipe holds up to five tiles which fall slowly in one at a time. The assortment of tiles contained in the pipe is your ammunition with which to guide Mario to the goal. If the pipe overflows, it’s game over, and the level restarts. This system is obviously heavily inspired by Tetris, but I found the random nature better suited for the open-ended experience Tetris offers, rather than the goal-driven premise of this game. While there is room for some improvisation that can get you through a level if the tile you need never arrives, sometimes Plan B and Plan C fail, too, only for you to play through once more and easily get the tiles you need. Levels are timed to heighten the tension and further intensify the battle between strategy and luck, and it is this eternal struggle that is my biggest complaint with the game. When I solve a puzzle, I want to feel smart, not fortunate.

Just about the time Mario’s mode starts to feel stale, Peach’s Palace unlocks, and all feels right again in the world. In Peach’s mode, you are handed a pre-selected set of tiles with which to reach the goal. Every last one will be needed to collect all 3 Stars, and I found this the most satisfying challenge. The entire solution lies right before your eyes from the get-go and it’s up to you to put the pieces together in the right order. There is also no time limit in this mode: thinking and strategizing reign supreme. Still, as the levels wore on, each slowly became more an exercise in combinatorics rather than a thoughtful brain-teaser, thanks to ever-expanding sets of tiles to use.

Toad’s Mini Mayhem, the third mode unlocked, features multiple Minis on the screen at one time. This gameplay mode is split into two styles (hence the five gameplay modes overall), with one vastly superior to the other. The first five levels of each segment just ask you to use “pivot” tiles (curved tiles that spin 90 degrees when tapped) to guide each Mini to the exit one-by-one. This mode lacks the puzzle power of the other available modes, so it feels a little flat. However, persisting with it will yield another mode that I actually found myself enjoying. Here, all of the tiles are placed on the board at the start and you must rearrange them like those old 1-15 sequential number slider puzzles. Remember those? Fun then and now, too.

Finally, there is DK Giant Jungle, a mode that features game boards larger than the screen can contain, with 10 stars you must collect before reaching the goal. This mode could have been a powerful macro-planning simulator, but again the tiles provided are random and it leaves the whole exercise feeling more like playing Craps or Roulette.

The problem with every mode included, however, is how stale each feels long before you play through all of their levels. If the game appeals to you, it really does offer a lot of value, especially for a downloadable title. But if it doesn’t, it will feel like your 4th grade times tables all over again: a block of busywork long since mastered that keeps getting forced down your throat.

The replayability is minimal for the single player modes, but the game does offer a level editor, allowing you to share your own creations online. I had quite a bit of fun with this, but the only mode you can generate levels for is Mario’s Main Event, one of my least favorites. It is here that you see the inner-workings of tile distribution used in the single-player campaign. For example, you can build a level that never coughs up left turns, if you like. The level editor has a good interface but that only emphasizes how nice it would have been to edit levels from the other gameplay modes. Also, if you don’t have friends with whom you can share your levels, your mileage will significantly suffer. Getting your masterpieces noticed online can be a hassle, but I suppose that's true of almost every global sharing platform such as this.

Lastly, it should be noted that the game has horrible synergy with its console of choice. The top-screen of the 3DS houses the appealing 3D graphics, but you must keep your focus on the bottom 2D touch-screen to build your pathways. So unless you make a conscious effort just for the sake of admiring the prettier graphics, you’ll spend most of your time looking at a very plain, grid-based representation of the vibrant world above.

All in all, there are a few moments of enjoyable fun to be had within the walls of Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move, but they are a bit too fleeting. If you find yourself enjoying all of the various mechanics, there's enough to keep you satisfied for a good long while, easily justifying its $9.99 price tag. But ultimately it would have been nice to see additional gameplay mechanics introduced to keep the seemingly never-ending levels fresh and exciting. It is on the grounds of the speed with which the title felt stale for me that I grant it the score below. After all, I mentioned it feels most similar to an iOS title, which generally run far cheaper.  

This review is based on a digital download of Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move for the 3DS.

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