Mario vs Donkey Kong Mini Land Mayhem review

Review of Mario vs Donkey Kong Mini Land Mayhem video game for the Nintendo DS rated 9 out of 10
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Mario vs Donkey Kong first appeared under the name Donkey Kong ‘94 back on the original Game Boy and since then we’ve had a number of titles under the new branding. For whatever lame reason I’ve never actually played any of the games in the series before so it’s with great relief that I finally popped my Mario vs DK cherry recently.

Mario vs Donkey Kong Mini Land Mayhem arrived at my door just a couple of weeks ago and since then I’ve had to fight the temptation to call a sickie from work every day. It’s just so much more fun to stay at home in bed and play on the Nintendo DS rather than go to work.

Mario and Pauline have decided to open a theme park in the Mushroom Kingdom and have invited all of the Toad people for the opening day festivities. If that wasn’t cool enough there is also the matter that the first 100 visitors all getting a free Pauline Doll to celebrate. Trouble soon arises when visitor number 101, Donkey Kong, doesn’t get a doll. As expected the giant ape goes crazy with rage, he then grabs the real Pauline and runs off into the theme park with Mario chasing close behind. Yes just like the original DK game!

Rather than get his hands dirty and do all the rescue work himself, Mario decides to unleash a series of wind up Mario toys to deal with DK and rescue the pretty Pauline. Whilst I’m mentioning Pauline, it has to be said that she is a very good looking woman. It turns out that since her original outing back in 1981 she has become a brunette, previously she was blond. I’m quite fond of dark hair myself so I can quite understand DK’s kidnap motives, however I can’t help wondering if her ‘top and tail’ match.

Your job is to guide two or more wind up Mario’s safely across a level filled with obstacles to the exit door, in short - you’re playing Lemmings with Mario. These clockwork Mario’s aren’t too intelligent and the only thing they can do is walk and climb. You need to build bridges so they can get from A to B. The Mario’s are very fragile so creating these platforms is essential, doing so is as simple as dragging your styles across two adjacent rivet blocks in the area, as long as you have enough girder pieces that is.

There are three main obstacles to be aware of, spikes, enemies and great heights. Avoiding these can most often be done by cleverly placing your girders, however there are instances when there is a case to get aggressive. Perhaps you’ll need to use a hammer pickup to defeat a bad guy, this could be to either clear a safe path or even to release one or more captured Mario toys from an enemies grip.

At the end of each world you’ll encounter a DK boss battle, here you need to hit him three times with special Mario abilities. What makes it tough is that you need to get three Mario toys to the top of the level whilst DK throws barrels down towards you, also he’ll hit a switch and disable some of the rivets thereby breaking some of your platforms. These boss levels can be insanely frustrating and finishing them in record time to earn a trophy is very tough indeed.

As you progress things get tougher, here are just a few things you can expect to see later on:

  • Ladders - not only will you have to build girders to walk across, later levels will require you to pickup ladder pieces that will help you move up and down platforms.
  • Conveyor Belts - things get very tricky when you start having to build these dual way escalator platforms because the enemies can use them too.
  • Warp Pipes - the infamous warp pipes return. Quickly switching warp pipe exit locations from place to place can be crucial to reach the exit or avoid falling into a spike pit.
  • Exit keys - once per world you will need to guide a Mario toy holding a special key to the exit. This lone toy needs to unlock the exit door before the others can get out. Here you will need to shuffle the Mario toy order if you want to exit the level.
  • Capsule Toys - also once per world you’ll have to assist clockwork renditions of other classic Mario characters such as; Peach, Toad and Pauline to their respective special exit doors.

Now it wouldn’t be a Mario game if there weren’t anything to collect would it? In each level there are several non compulsory things to collect, but if you do go and collect them all then you’ll be rewarded. Collecting all of the items (as will as finishing the level quick enough) will give you a score high enough to earn a gold trophy. With these you can unlock bonus levels.

  • Coins - there are always a handful of classic Mario coins to collect, they give you points.
  • Cards - each level has a Mini Mario card, collect all of these to unlock a mini game.
  • M Tokens - collecting M tokens is essential if you want to unlock secret levels but these are usually harder to collect.

That’s just a portion of the main game covered, sadly I haven’t got time to go into any more depth here because I need to cover the construction zone. Nintendo have gone all out to create an amazing online experience with Mario vs DK and it’s one of the best online modes I’ve seen since Mario Kart DS.

In the construction zone you can do a number of cool things:

Firstly you can create and share levels with friends that own the game, as you progress in the single player mode you unlock lots of cool stuff to use in your levels. What’s especially great here is that the level builder is super powerful and you can build levels just as good as those as the ones Nintendo did (possibly even better!).

Secondly you can take part in monthly contents to build levels that others in the online community can download and rate. Nintendo will set a theme and your job is to build a level that matches it as best you can, they’ll set restrictions to make things quite competitive too. If you don’t want to build levels yourself then you can just head online and download hundreds of custom levels for your own offline use - what a great way to keep you playing long after you’ve finished the game (or given up trying).
It would have been nice if there were an online coop mode but considering how much of an issue lag would be; I can see why Nintendo didn’t bother. Timing is crucial in this game and a dodgy connection would just spoil things.

Mario vs Donkey Kong Mini Land Mayhem is an awesome title and goes right into my list of top 10 DS games. The single player game is great and will last you many weeks if not months. If you do ever manage to finish it then you can head online and download loads more levels.
Graphically the game is really good, almost everything is 2D but don’t be put off because it’s lovingly detailed and the animation is amazing. Mario fans will love the soundtrack which uses classic tunes from many classic Mario games and I think there is even a notable tune from Donkey Kong Country too.

I highly recommend the game to those who loved previous outings in the series as well as those (like me) who have never played any of them before. It’s full of retro Mario goodness and is one of the most addictive puzzle games I’ve played in a long time. 9 out of 10.

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Related: Donkey Kong Country Returns review, DK Jungle Climber review

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