The world in which our friends Mario and Luigi and their whole host of friends live, the Mushroom Kingdom as it has come to be known, is really the best place to visit in all of the video game universe. Somehow, since the early days the simple side scrolling platform games on through the more contemporary Galaxy and Super Smash Brothers, Nintendo and their crack team of developers have come up with an endless stream of innovative, fun ideas.
Here, in Mario vs. Donkey Kong 3: Mini’s March Again, one of their more ingenious brain storms is on display. The game is easy to learn, a bitch to master, and even harder to describe, but it has you unleashing a set of wind up Mario’s and using them to chase down Donkey Kong and rescue the ever imperiled Princess. To beat a typical level you have to march all of your minis (there’s usually three of them, sometimes more sometimes less) through an obstacle course and into a door. But, oh, did I mention you have no actual control over these minis other than when they start? You see in a rather inspired case of script flipping you have to manipulate the environment to accommodate the out of control characters.
There are Gombas, fire breathing Venus flytraps, fire pits, spike pits, giant vengeful rocks and plenty of other things that need to be negotiated. . .but you don’t have any control over them. Instead the creators of this game have given a finite number of blocks than can be placed in certain areas on the board so as to create ramps, bridges and blockades. Other things show up as well such as trampolines but mostly it is your responsibility to put those blocks in the right spot at precisely the right time.
If there is a downfall to be found it would be the relative shortness of the game.
It seems weird to say that about a game which provides 100 levels and an online feature in which you can create your can create your own levels and let your friends try them out all for the low low price of $8 (or 800 Nintendo points since this game is only available for download through DSiWare). But the puzzles really aren’t all that difficult and the core of the game can be blazed through in a day and an evening. Now if you want to play every level then you are going to need to earn a “gold star” on every level which basically means that you are going to need to turn in perfection on every one of the levels which is pretty much impossible and a cheap way for them to increase the replay value. And when you figure that the blockbuster games these days go for $60 a pop draining this small gem of 10 hours of joy for $8 seems like a wise investment.
The storyline is exactly what you think it is: minimalistic to the max. That damned Donkey Kong has once again and to win her back you will have to chase the ape up a series of floors. The lack of a convoluted storyline felt refreshing though we’re not sure if offering us the opportunity to not think is necessarily a virtue. This is the third game in this series and the second on the DS. The first incarnation existed on the Game Boy and was hurt simply because it did not have a touch screen. Oodles of games have come and went for the DS thus far that try to force the touch screen to be a factor; this one is a natural fit.