Review: Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem Is More Donkey Kong Than 2010's Other Big Donkey Kong Game

Illustration for article titled Review: Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem Is More Donkey Kong Than 2010s Other Big Donkey Kong Game

Some other Donkey Kong game came out from Nintendo in November 2010. Donkey Kong Country Returns, they call it. Yeah, sure. Like the essence of Donkey Kong is running to the right. The ape must stand defiant. Mario must run.


Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem is the third fourth of the Mario Vs. DK games, which are all interesting puzzle games and the closest we get to sequels to the classic Donkey Kong game from the 1980s. Donkey Kong is the villain in these. The heroes in the last two installments and this new one are wind-up toy versions of Mario who must be marched to a goal in one puzzling level after another. They are mindless, Lemmings-like, entities that the player uses a Nintendo DS stylus to direct through dozens of tricky, treacherous levels, some filled with pits to be bridged, enemies to be avoided or Donkey Kong himself to defeated.


Ideal Player

People who like puzzle games that require both careful planning and quick reflexes, as well as creative gamers who enjoy making their own levels and sharing them online. Also, Mario buffs and Donkey Kong buffs.

Why You Should Care

In a world without new Lemmings games, the Mario Vs. Donkey Kong series has been the freshest way to direct mindless video game characters out of harm's way. A simple concept that, somehow, Nintendo still hasn't exhausted. This is Nintendo presenting puzzle gameplay in an intuitive and enjoyable fashion.


This Sounds Awfully Similar To Other Mario Vs. Donkey Kong Games. It isn't that different. Yes, it's more polished than the original Game Boy Advance and downloadable DSiWare sequel. Yes, it is full of all-new content. But the basic gameplay isn't shockingly different, not from the DS and DSiWare editions, which could kill the appeal for people who have sampled the series already. In level after level you are directing one or more Mario toys toward a goal. Once you let them start walking, you need to make sure they all survive. They won't stop.

Illustration for article titled Review: Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem Is More Donkey Kong Than 2010s Other Big Donkey Kong Game

Surely, There's A New Twist? The main twist here is that this new game is a lovely museum of classic Mario and Donkey Kong trappings. The game's levels are full of great Mario sound effects and music. Most importantly, they are ripe with Mario and Donkey Kong gameplay elements. Each batch of the game's levels introduces a new stylus-driven mechanic that references the series... for some levels you can draw ladders to help the Marios climb; in others you can plant both ends of the classic green warp-pipes. Harder levels require you to utilize several of these tools. There's a lot of nice nostalgia here marshaled for solid gameplay and aesthetic purposes.


What's With This Being Like The Classic Donkey Kong? Not only is this a game that features Mario(s) who are often climbing girders, but the nine boss levels are wonderful riffs on classic DK. Each is a two-screen-tall vertical challenge to get toy Marios to the top of a stack of ramps, atop which Donkey Kong stands, a captured Pauline by his side. He's tossing barrels at Mario! And we've got hammers. Oh, the memories. These boss battles are the game's high-point, a vast improvement from those of the past, which had been the series' weakest element.

And The Game Makes A Person Feel Clever? It does, because its levels are a delicate balance of being tricky but usually passable by no more than the second try. Completing the game unlocks harder versions of each level — and there are some special extra-hard levels tucked in the back as extras — but the default difficulty here is brain-tickling more than brain-cramping. I liked it and found some of the levels wonderful to sort through. But burn through them you can, which leads me to...


What Of The Online? Those who buy Nintendo DS games may already be aware of Nintendo's surprisingly aggressive efforts on the handheld device to support online play. In this case, as with Picross 3D and WarioWare D.I.Y., the emphasis is on gamers creating and sharing content. A player can create levels, download them or participate in themed challenges. Oddly, the names of the user-made levels I perused, of which there were plenty, were all blocked out with question marks. That has made browsing through levels more annoying than it should be. Aside from that, downloading levels is easy and a good extender of content.

Mario Vs; Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem In Action

Video shot of me playing the game for you.

The Bottom Line

Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem is a fun thinking-person's game for the DS that won't force you to think terribly hard, not on your first playthrough. It's a fun nostalgia trip for Mario and Donkey Kong fans as well as the best of the Mario Vs DK bunch. It might be best enjoyed by series newcomers, because those who've taken this tour twice before may feel they've played it before. Watch the video in this review and make sure there's enough new here for you before deciding to have some fun defying Donkey Kong.


Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem was developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo DS, released on November 14. Retails for $34.99. A copy of the game was given to us by the publisher for reviewing purposes. Conquered the game's 64 levels, its mini-games its boss battles, some extra levels, then unlocked the harder second play-through. Downloaded some levels, but only made one very bad one you don't want to play.

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It's actually the fourth game in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series. There's the original Mario vs. Donkey Kong for the GBA, then Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis released in September of 2006 for the DS, then the DSi Ware Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again!, and finally Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem!