Review by FFandMMfan

"One man's dream over 20 years ago, comes back to life... in toy form."

Way back in the 1980s, some crazy Japanese man named Shigeru Miyamoto had an idea. He thought "Hey, what if I made this man, fight this monkey, which I'd name after a barnyard animal, to save a princess of some sort?", this may have sounded strange to everyone, and maybe himself at the time, but no one can deny the amazing success brought to Nintendo from Donkey Kong.

Donkey Kong was not a Donkey at all, but more of an ape. And this "man" who could apparently "jump" would grow to become one of the most recognizable faces in the gaming industry. This "princess" (who may or may not have been royalty) had been all but forgotten, and often confused for her later incarnations.

But this is not the story of the crazy Japanese man named Miyamoto, or the game Donkey Kong, though it is, in a sense, an extension of it. Mario VS Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis is the title of this game, and while it is very different than the game that told the story of the man, monkey and woman of indeterminate royalty, it is still a great game that should not be missed, especially by those with a mind for creating puzzling situations.

Gameplay - 8/10
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The basic gameplay structure is very simple, you must guide the Mini Mario toys to the exit of the stage using the stylus. However, if it were entirely based on simple flicks of the stylus, it wouldn't be very fun, now would it? Throughout the stages there are various machines and objects that you must use to get the Mini Marios where they need to go, and to dispose of enemies that block your path.

You'll find elevators, blocks that must be switched around, floating platforms, pipes, springboards, magnetic floors, switch based doors, hammers to smack enemies silly, and many other tools to get the job done. Controlling the little Minis themselves is very simple, swipe the stylus one way, and they move that direction. Flick upwards, and they jump. Tap them and they stop their movement.

However, you'll need to guide several of them through the puzzling stages at once, keeping an eye on everything that moves, to make sure your little toy Marios don't get squashed, smashed, burned or otherwise destroyed. You need only one Mini Mario to reach the exit to complete each stage, but getting high scores (and in turn, unlocking bonuses) requires all Mini Marios to reach the exit within a few seconds of each other, and without stopping once. In the end, what you get is a game that's simple to play, but hard to master, and with its fair share of mind bending puzzles along the way, it'll be sure to keep you occupied for quite some time.

Story - 6/10
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Nintendo never was one for brilliant stories, especially in their Mario series of games. And this game is no exception, but they seem to live by the motto of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", so the story is simple, but gets the job done. The new Mini Mario World theme park has opened up, and Donkey Kong gets jelous of Mario because Pauline (the damsel in distress from Donkey Kong) is all clingy to him and doesn't like his Mini DKs as much as Mini Mario. So he kidnaps her and whisks her away to the highest tower in the whole park and it's up to Mario and his little minions to save her.

Music - 5/10
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The music has a distinctive machine/toy sound to it, but it's just overly repetitive and after playing through the stages within each world a few times, you'll end up turning the sound down. The sounds themselves are all nice, and they fit, and while they aren't anything special, they again, get the job done.

Graphics - 8/10
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VERY nice, the in-game areas are simple but colorful 2D displays and while they may not be the most amazing things seen on the DS, they do have a certain charm. The FMV graphics though, are simply some of the best visuals on the DS. You could almost swear you were looking at a Gamecube game, they are very smooth and polished and play VERY clearly. There are only a few of them, but they are excellent eye candy which is really something to say since the DS doesn't exactly put out the best visuals.

Bonus Stuff/Unlockables - 10/10
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WIN! PURE AND UTTER WIN! This game is Wi-Fi compatible, and while you can't play against friends online, the game comes with a full-on level maker, and you can trade your levels over Wi-Fi. The level construction kit itself, is very well done. You can make stages just as good as the main game ones (and there's about 80 of those by themselves) and save up to 8 of your own on your Game Card. When you download a friend's levels, however, you can save over 20 of them from your various friends (combined, not 20 per friend). You start with basic building components, but as the main game goes on, and you unlock more worlds, you also unlock more pieces to build with.

The download/upload system is also VERY well done. Instead of having to wait for your friend to get online just so you can trade some levels, you can sync your stages up with Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection and load them to their server, so you just need to trade friend codes with someone, click their name on the Wi-Fi Menu, and you get a list of everything they currently have uploaded to the server and can get whatever you want at your leisure. The levels also download almost instantly, there's no wait at all. The AMAZING level builder makes this already nice game, even better.

Oh and there's some boss fights against DK where you shoot minis out of a cannon and a few little minigames to unlock more Construction pieces, but who cares? LEVEL MAKER!

Pros:
+ Very fun puzzle game, clearly inspired by Lemmings.
+ Simple to play, hard to master.
+ One of the best level creators I've seen on the DS, or most anything for that matter.
+ Nice graphical style, and some great looking FMVs.
+ Wi-Fi level trading with a great way to access it, no waiting for lazy friends!

Cons:
- The music is.. meh...
- The boss minigame controls are a bit awkward.
- No playable Mini Miyamoto.

All in all, this game is a great puzzle experience that smells heavily of Lemmings and the original Donkey Kong. I'd suggest an immediate purchase, because hey, I could always use more levels. Smile if you love Minis! :)


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 10/02/06


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