Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem on Nintendo DS is entertaining but there haven't been many leaps and bounds since the previous instalments
- Loads of levels, interesting puzzle variations, excellent music
- Graphics could use some sharpening, gameplay might get tedious if you're not the type of gamer enthralled by puzzles and strategy, not markedly different from previous Mario vs. DK titles.
Although the Mario vs. Donkey-Kong series could definitely use some shaking up, Mini-Land Mayhem is a solid addition for anyone's DS library -- just don't expect a game leaps and bounds over previous series instalments.
Price$ 59.95 (AUD)
Like previous titles in the portable Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, the aim of Mini-Land Mayhem adheres strictly to puzzles and planning by way of Mario's little wind-up "Mini" action-figures. This time around, Mario and Pauline are celebrating the opening of their brand new theme park with early visitors getting a special-edition "Mini-Pauline" toy. As if on cue, Donkey Kong shows up just in time to miss the promotion, throws a huge fit when he doesn't get his hands on a toy, and kidnaps the actual Pauline.
Like the last two titles in the series, you control Mario's Mini toys rather than the famous plumber himself, progressing through dozens of trap filled levels. There's still a lot of charm and ingenuity in using the DS touch-screen and stylus to manipulate the environment. Lengthening girders, dragging ladders, and activating pipes are just a few of the things you must do to keep the Mini-Marios, Mini-Toads, Mini-Peaches, and Mini-DKs from breaking, and the added challenge of grabbing collectables makes simple tasks moderately difficult. Working with a limited number of resources is sure to test younger gamers, but older Mario fans will probably be able to blast through much of the game with little trouble. Getting each Mini toy to their colour-coded gate is a decent gameplay twist, but nothing that dramatically changes the formula in any significant way.
Aside from new levels to explore and puzzles to solve, there's not much else to see here that hasn't already been done before in previous Mini titles. The Construction Zone — the series' level editor — returns, but many tools are locked in the beginning, forcing you to grind through levels to get the full benefit of the creation tools. That's not a problem for people new to the Mario vs. DK games, but for series veterans, it could be a little frustrating to have so many limited options available at the very start. In turn, that often leads to level creation that doesn't stand up against much of what the actual game offers — but at the very least, you can take to Nintendo Wi-Fi or YouTube for tips.
Enjoying Mini-Land Mayhem really depends on your attachment to the series, and even if you've been counting down the days to this release, you'll likely admit that there's little reason that it couldn't have been another budget DSiWare title. While it's fine to not fix something that clearly isn't broken, it's about time for Nintendo's quirky little handheld saga to move to the next level. Considering the jump from 2004's Mario vs. DK and 2006's March of the Minis, it feels like each subsequent addition to the franchise has been taking deliberate baby-steps. Personally, I just don't find controlling the Minis that exciting. Playing as Mario himself in Mario vs. Donkey Kong on the original Game Boy was much more involving and intense by comparison. And while I'm nitpicking, the graphics need some major sharpening. Most of the environments and characters have this fuzzy, blurry tint to them that makes the games seem like a port from a system with terrible screen resolution.
If you're looking for casual puzzling that gives you plenty of game time for your buck, Mini-Land Mayhem is decent for fans and great for newcomers. Let's just hope that next time, Nintendo does a major overhaul instead of a tiny tune-up.
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