The great pantheon of rivalries spans all across genres and knows no bounds. Literature buffs will refer to Sherlock Holmes and Professor Moriarty. Sports fans will look at Bird and Magic, Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa, or a modern-day rivalry like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. Movie watchers will often refer to Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. And video game fans? While many of their tastes vary, there’s a good chance that when they think of great rivalries, video game players will think of Mario and Donkey Kong. The plucky plumber and the Thrilla Gorilla have found themselves at odds since the eighties when Mario was jumping girders to save Pauline from Donkey Kong’s clutches. Since then, they’ve gone at it on the kart racing circuit, the baseball diamond, the soccer field, the fighting arena, and most recently on the basketball court. Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis for the Nintendo DS finds these two loveable Nintendo mascots clashing on a different level.
The plot is simple. Mario is opening a new theme park full of toys called Super Mini Mario World. Pauline is returned from the obscurity of the past 20 years to help christen the park’s opening. Courted by Mario and Donkey Kong with their respective toys, Pauline accepts the plumber’s offering, enraging the big ape. Donkey Kong takes Pauline and whisks her off to the top floor of the theme park and it’s now up to the Mini Marios to save the day.
Gameplay is reminiscent of the Lemmings series. Players must venture through puzzle-filled levels by guiding a number of Mini Marios to safety. Failing to bring a single toy to the exit results in game over. Various obstacles include Shy Guys, Mini DK’s, and spikes just to name a few. Movement is purely stylus-controlled. Tap a Mini Mario and drag it left or right to get it walking. The only downside to this control scheme is that the touch screen is occasionally unresponsive and it becomes a hassle once levels becomes frantic. Boss fights are borderline lame with hardly any creativity put into them. The main levels are fun distractions, but battling Donkey Kong can be snore-inducing.
Graphics are passable, but nothing extraordinary. Characters are cartoonishly animated, which is to be expected. But it simply isn’t anything special. And with the exception of boss battles, only the touch screen is really utilized for gameplay, which takes away some of the graphical punch that the DS is capable of providing. However, watching the various toy destruction animation does provide some good moments of amusement.
The music is pretty catchy, as the game utilizes generic, yet catchy, in-game tunes. What’s most memorable about this game’s sound experience are the whimsical bells and whistles scattered throughout the game, as they’re definitely good for a chuckle now and then. But no game featuing the embattled plumber and ape would be complete without the classic Hammer theme, which makes its triumphant return, albeit slightly remixed.
Bringing the replay value is the Nintendo Wi-Fi feature. Players can utilize the game’s level builder to their heart’s content, creating their own maze of obstacles and putting them up on the Nintendo Wi-Fi network for download. While 80 levels provides for a good 20-plus hours of gameplay, the level builder adds to this game’s shelf life tremendously. And if that still isn’t enough, perfectionists can attempt to gain gold stars on each level, extending the gameplay experience further still.
Good for a distraction, Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis is a solid addition to the rapidly-growing DS library. While some players may breeze through the 80-some levels and put it down, more intrepid gamers will add to the levels available on the Nintendo Wi-Fi network or simply browse what’s already available. With a possibility of infinite replay value, players can lead their toys to victory (or certain hilarity-filled doom) for a long time to come.