E3 2006: Donkey Kong's Pissed
Mini Mario's to the rescue for poor Pauline
Nintendo is always one company that you can count on to develop humorous storylines for their games, and Mario vs Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis is no exception. After getting jealous of Pauline's (yes, she's back after who knows how long) fondness of Mario instead of him, Donkey Kong does what big giant apes that wear ties do best -- he grabs the girl and heads to the tallest spot he can find. The original Mario vs Donkey Kong was essentially a new school version of the oldie but goodie Donkey Kong '94 for the original Gameboy, and while this sequel changes things substantially in terms of control, the basic premise still remains.
Instead of controlling Mario, this time around players control the mini Mario toys scattered about each level in an attempt to find the level exit. The more mini Mario's that you're able to rescue, the higher your score will be at the end of the level, so it's essential to try to rescue them all to safety. The main difference between this game, and the previous two titles mentioned, is that it incorporates multiple characters to control simultaneously, and of course the stylus is used for virtually all actions. The multiple mini Mario aspect adds a load of potential difficulty to an already challenging series, because it means that there's a greater need to work together to achieve certain objectives.
While the stylus control was an obvious change as the series moved from the less powerful GBA hardware to the DS hardware, it's not without its share of issues. Up front it seemed difficult for me to consistently maneuver my mini Marios, even with simplistic controls like moving from left to right, although I'm sure this is something that will be adjusted once the game ships. The basic idea of stylus control is a no-brainer for this type of game, so although it can feel inaccurate at times, it most certainly doesn't seem forced like some titles have a tendency of feeling. Overall I was pleased with the direction that the series is taken, and once the control is tweaked a little, solving puzzles will become a second nature affair.
Graphically speaking, the game retains much of the original Mario vs Donkey Kong look throughout, with bright Mario-esque colors, and levels littered with Mario fan service. From what I noticed, there are 8 different worlds containing 9 levels each, and probably much more judging from the series' track record for unlockable levels. If that's not enough to retain you, then how about a level editor, with the ability to create your own maps and share them over Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection? That fact alone ensures that Mario vs Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis will feature plenty of replay value, long after its release.