IGN Review of Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem
Mario and Donkey Kong have been having it out for almost 30 years now and, thankfully, the two don't appear to be anywhere close to settling their differences. The rivalry has made for some of the most delightful handheld puzzle games over the years, a tradition that continues with Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-land Mayhem. This is one of the best DS games of the year. It's not at all a departure from previous entries in the series and essentially provides more of the same, but I'm not going to complain about more of a good thing.
Donkey Kong has made off with Mario's girlfriend, Pauline, again. Remember, Donkey Kong Mario dates Pauline, while Super Mario Bros. Mario dates Princess Peach. Think of it like those pilots that have different wives in different cities. Anyway, Mario is out to get his girl back and he'll need the help of the Mini Mario toys to do it.
Your objective in every level is the same: get the Mini Marios to the exit door. You don't take direct control of the toys. Instead, you set them in motion and must provide safe passage for the little guys using your stylus. It's sort of a simplified version of the classic game Lemmings. At the beginning you only need to worry about placing and replacing the red girders you know from the original Donkey Kong. But each new world introduces new tools of transport you'll be able to exploit such as warp pipes, conveyor belts, and ladders. The trick is you usually only have a limited supply of objects at your disposal and must be smart about where you place them, lest the Minis march themselves into a pit of spikes or a fireball.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-land Mayhem isn't an incredibly challenging game and I only had to retry a few levels in the main quest. I can't stress enough, though, that it is a pure joy to play. It's absolutely adorable, and the clever puzzles are satisfying to work out even if they won't always make your brain break a sweat. While merely getting your Minis to the exit may be surmountable, collecting all the coins, M-tokens, and Mario Cards is a different story. There is definitely a lot of replay value here for gamers who want to return to completed levels and try to collect everything. Plus, there are unlockable Special Levels that exist outside the story mode, and these stages can be quite difficult.
Mini-land Mayhem could have benefitted from a "speed up" button. Especially in the earlier stages, you may set up a path for the Minis and then have to wait a few moments for them all to finally shuffle into the exit.
There are eight worlds ranging from a jungle to a haunted house to desert sands. Each collection of eight stages culminates in a fun, epic boss fight against Donkey Kong. These battles are more similar to the classic game, requiring you to maneuver the Minis from the bottom of the screen up through levels of girders to the top where the ape is holding Pauline captive. The boss encounters are really enjoyable and break up the regular puzzle action.
There are lots of nice little nods to Nintendo's long history all over this game. The tunes are remixed versions of familiar melodies from both Donkey Kong and the Super Mario games. Characters, enemies, and obstacles have been plucked from classics like Super Mario Bros. 2 and Super Mario World.
For players that want to get creative, there is an extensive Construction Zone that lets you build your own levels and share them online. You have access to all the assets in the game so you can create stages that are just as involved as those that Nintendo designed. What's more, there is a Challenge Mode where you can try building stages with special rules set by Nintendo. The player community will then vote on its favorite user-created Challenge Mode levels.
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