Mario vs Donkey Kong 2 : March of the Minis (NDS) – Review

Mario vs Donkey Kong 2 CoverMario vs Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis (MvDK2) is a sequel to the GBA game and continues the same genre mix of platforming and puzzle solving that was featured in the first game while switching the control scheme to use the Nintendo DS touchpad. While the game feels much the same as the first one, the initial challenge of completing all levels is rather easy, but working to get high scores and achieve unlockables can be a bit frustrating.

Story: B

In MvDK2, the game starts with Mario about to open a theme park based on his Mini-Mario toys alongside Pauline (the dark-haired woman from the original arcade Donkey Kong). DK, feeling jealous of the affection that Pauline has to the Mario toys over his own DK ones, kidnaps her to the highest leve in the park, where Mario can’t reach, but with the help of his Mini-Marios, he’s able to navigate and defeat DK each step of the way to rescue Pauline.

Gameplay: B+

The gameplay is mostly the same from the first MvDK game, in that your goal for each level is to guide the Mini-Marios past obstacles to an exit gate. However, in this version, you don’t run around as Mario within each level to collect the Minis; instead, you control the Minis directly using the touchscreen on the DS. Swipe at them to either left or right will make them walk in that direction, an upward swipe will make them jump, and a downward swipe will stop them. The Minis will keep travelling unless they reach an end of a moving platform, so you have to watch them to make sure they don’t fall too far, get hit by an enemy foe, or the like else the Mini is destroyed. For this reason, the game feels more like Lemmings, as opposed to the first MvDK which had more of a Loadrunner feel to it. As long as you save one Mini per level, you pass it, but the ultimate goal is to save as many as possible, not only to increase your score, but to have a large arsenal of Minis ready for each level’s DK-boss level.

Mario vs Donkey Kong 2 GameplayThe obstacles include most of the same types seen before, water, lava, Shy-guys, Thwomps, and Pirarna Plants. There’s also colored walls that retract when another color switch is triggered, moving platforms, several DK toys that may trap Minis for a bit or throw them around, conveyor belts and elevators. There’s one primary new type of obstacle that involves blocks at predefined locations that you can remove and place by swiping over them with the stylus as to form walls and floors. Because there’s not enough of these blocks to fill in every gap possible, you can remove several at the same time (storing those blocks) and reallocate them to places where you need them when the time is right. Also, in removing some of these blocks on specific levels, you can create a fire to burn away wooden logs or bombs to blow away rocks.

The basic goal of getting the Minis to the exit gate is not that hard, if you’re willing to sacrifice a few. Most of the time, you can work with just one Mini, guiding them to the exit, but there are also times you need to work with two at a time, one to control switches that the other one needs to have activated to get to the exit. The levels are generally larger than the DS screen itself, but never more than about twice the screen size in either direction, and you can easily scroll using the dpad while using the stylus for Mini control; however, there are still times that you may need to race across from one corner to the other, and the scrolling is not very fast so you may miss a key event if you aren’t prepared for it.

However, just getting one Mini across earns few points; as with the first MvDK, you get a bronze, silver, or gold star based on pre-determined scores for each level. You can increase you score by getting coins lying about the level, completing the task quickly, getting all the Mini’s home safely, keep at least one Mini going at all times, and then chaining the timing when the Mini’s arrive at the exit; by getting a Mini to exit a few seconds after another one, the value of that Mini doubles, and the doubling continues for all Minis in that chain. Some levels also have a special golden Mini that’s already worth twice the value of the other Minis, and so by making the gold Mini be the last one to leave the level in a chain can earn a huge point value. There’s also cards scattered about each level (9 levels across 8 worlds); by getting each card, usually taking a bit more work in Mini manipulation, you can unlock a mini-game for that world. By accumulating enough Silver and Gold stars also lets you access two more special levels after you’ve completed the entire game. While I found getting through each level once and completing the basic story line to be a piece of cake, trying to get some of those Silver and Gold stars is rather difficult and does take a lot more patience (though none of the levels approach some of the longer levels that were in the first MvDK game).

The boss levels involve shooting Minis out of a cannon to impact with DK or something that you can knock down hit DK with. A flywheel at the bottom aims and shoots all the Minis you’ve collected on the level, as well as allowing you to dodge the various objects that DK throws at you that could damage the Minis. If you run out of Minis, you have to restart the boss stage, and thus it may be worthwhile to go back to levels in that world to try to save more Minis before you reach the boss level. The final boss level is a nice recreation of the original Donkey Kong game, though made somewhat easier.

Mario vs Donkey Kong 2 Level EditorThe game also includes a level construction editor. Once you’ve completed a world, you can select a toolkit with parts and graphics from that world, and then create your own levels for testing and debugging, using the touchscreen for object placement and interaction with the building menu. Once you’ve create a level and saved it (up to 8 levels of your own that you can store on the DS cart), you can then share these levels with others via the Nintendo Wi-Fi connection, or get other levels from your friends or the main Nintendo Wifi site (24 in all). The WiFi connection also allows you to publish your total game score to the world as well.

Value/Replayability: A

While the basic game (running through each level to save at least one Mini) may take at most 5 hours, the unlocking of all possible features can take a great deal more time – it took me at least a couple of hours just to get silvers on the levels in the first world, and earning that gold may be a bit more time. In that sense, it’s a nice puzzle game to have with you as you can just spend a few minutes trying to improve your score on one level and you don’t need to sit down to complete a bunch of levels at the same time, though once on a roll, you can keep going. I will note, however, that trying to complete some levels with high scores is a matter of patience, and even when just trying to get through all the levels without regard to score, I found some parts of the game to be a bit tedious, with many of the final levels not really having significant hard challenges compared to the midgame, and quite possibly being easier.

Graphics: A-

Graphics are more flat, sprite based systems that resemble the 2D Super Mario games, more than the semi-3D look that MvDK1 had, which actually works out better because it’s much easier to see the various obstacles and Minis in the game. The bottom screen is used for the main part of the level, while the top screen shows your score, time and Minis left, and how many of the removal blocks you have stored; during boss levels, the top half is where DK is hiding about, requiring you to aim across the two screens. A handful of cutscenes use pre-rendered CGI to tell the story. I think it would have been nice to have the map of the level on the top screen (as it is when you use the level editor) given how slow the scrolling was across the screen, as to make it easier to track all the Minis if you have several in motion.

Sound: B+

The sound effects from the first game are reused here, and generally appropriate for a Mario-based game. Music is decent, helping to keep the pace but kept to low levels as to not be annoying.

Overall: B+

Overall, Mario vs Donkey Kong 2 is another good puzzle game in the lines of it’s prequel, and while you can complete the game easily enough, the challenge is to maximize the scores and unlock all the goodies the game provides, which can be very challenging and frustrating at the same time, and thus many not be the type of game that everyone can get into. However, fans of the first game will be happy with this version, though you need not have played it to appreciate this game. Anyone looking for a good combination of platformer and puzzle will likely find Mario vs Donkey Kong 2 to be a good addition to their library.


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