Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again!
A variety of levels, along with a robust level editor, make this a March you should join.
Finally, Nintendo got the ball rolling on its DSiWare program. After weeks of lackluster mini-games (an Animal Crossing clock...seriously), we finally receive a game that defines how the service will truly benefit gamers. Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again! is an exceptional value, with lots of puzzle-solving goodness for an incredibly affordable price.
This time around, Mario and Pauline (guess Peach is on vacation) celebrate the opening of a toy-filled theme park, along with dozens of Toad-folk and Minis, little wind-up Mario toys. Donkey Kong hopes to attend the party, but they sell out of tickets right when he reaches the booth. Enraged, DK barges in and kidnaps Pauline, forcing Mario and his Minis to spring into action to rescue her.
Throughout each of the game's four worlds (and two hidden ones), you'll need to guide the Minis through a level exit. As expected, you'll solve puzzles to do this. Using your stylus, you'll carefully remove and replace pink blocks and other items to keep the minis out of harm's way. Time works against you, since you must get your Minis through the doorway within a matter of seconds; take too long and it'll slam shut.
After completing a world's stages, you face off against Donkey Kong in a boss battle. Finish him with the "MINIMARIO" letters collected (strewn across each level) and you can unlock a special bonus stage.
There are mild frustrations, especially when you find out that you can't manipulate the direction of the Minis by tapping them. Also, if one of your Minis perishes (on a spiked floor or touching an enemy), you lose an entire turn. Those limitations aside, the game plays wonderfully, just like previous Mario Vs. Donkey Kong games.
As for presentation, Nintendo didn't go above and beyond the previous games, but the art style works. The level design is smart and intuitive, forcing you to use your brain to get ahead. Mario and his friends animate with the same amount of charm as they do in previous adventures; even DK looks adorable.
If anything really brings out the value of the $8 Mario Vs. Donkey Kong, it's the incredible level editor. There are a number of items in each area, including ladders, springs and other obstacles. You have 140 slots to save levels, and you can share with others through Nintendo's Wi-Fi Connection. That means you can also access your friends' levels, even if that means dealing with code sharing. What's even crazier is that Nintendo plans to release weekly level packs for the next six months. There's no word yet if they'll be free, but wow. Six months of levels? We'll play this game well into December.
Despite the fact that you'll need to pick up a DSi to play it (there's no plan for a cartridge version), Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again! is an outstanding game. The level editor and the promise of downloadable content extends the replay value, and the fact that you can purchase it for less than $10 means everyone should play. Long live the Minis!
What's Hot: Terrific puzzle-based gameplay, four worlds to finish (along with two hidden ones), superb level editor and level sharing system, incredible deal for eight bucks, plenty of DLC on the way.
What's Not: You can't physically change the direction of your Minis, the death of one mini results in a lost turn, getting your Minis through the door in time takes some practice.