Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again! Review for Nintendo DSi

Mini Madness

The ongoing bitter rivalry between Nintendo’s big, unfortunately named ape and its mushroom-chomping, mustached plumber has resurfaced once again and it’s as fiery as ever. In recent years, the battleground may have moved from the GBA, to the DS, and now on to the DSi, but the ire between the two has yet to be quenched. Opening a new chapter in the heated feud, Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again! serves up another substantial helping of on-the-go puzzle gameplay starring a small army of cute little robotic Mini Marios.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again! screenshot

Billed as a sequel to Mario vs. Donkey Kong: March of the Minis 2, released a few years ago, Minis March Again! is the spitting image of its DS predecessor. If the resemblance seems a little too uncanny, it’s because the look, feel, and gameplay between the two are nearly indistinguishable from one another at a quick glance– aside from a few exceptions. Still, entirely new levels, a few design changes, a meager price tag, and major portability make this beefy little expansion pretty enticing. Though a lot about this DSiWare title may smell like reheated leftovers to some, it’s still quite tasty and surprisingly filling for the 800 points you’ll wind up putting down for it.

Like the past entries in this puzzle series, the story in Minis March Again! hearkens back to the nostalgic, flaming barrel-jumping, scaffold-climbing days of the original Mario and Donkey Kong characters. In the second game, the brutish Donkey Kong crashes the party for the ribbon cutting and grand opening of the Super Mini Mario World theme park, stealing Pauline (from the original Donkey Kong game) and forcing Mario to send his wind-up toy minis in hot pursuit. This time around Donkey Kong loses his chance to check out the new park when tickets sell out just as he arrives. Miffed about that, and the fact his affections for Pauline are once again spurned, the big ape kidnaps her and takes off. For whatever reason, Mario feels compelled to let his toys do all the work.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again! screenshot

If you’ve missed out on past Mario vs. Donkey Kong games, you’ll find the puzzle oriented gameplay to be a completely different animal from Mario’s platforming roots. Mario makes an appearance at the beginning, but it’s his Minis – diminutive, wind-up toy drones that follow simple behavior patterns when set into motion – that are the stars of the show here. The goal is to help all of the minis safely navigate the challenging obstacle course laid out before them in each level, while collecting stars, coins, extra lives, and letters. To complete a level, all Minis must reach the exit within a set amount of time.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again! screenshot

Unlike March of the Minis 2, you don’t have direct control over your Minis once you set them into motion. Tapping them with the styles wakes them up and starts them on a slow marching path through the level. They’ll reverse direction when they hit a large wall and automatically start climbing up any blocks arranged in staircase fashion. Avoiding spike traps, flames, and a medley of familiar foes becomes tougher as the levels progress in complexity and difficulty.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again! screenshot

The trick to getting the little guys where they need to go comes in the form of divine stylus intervention. Tapping pink blocks arranged in dotted outline grids makes them disappear and reappear, and you’ll often use the blocks to build and swap out temporary walls, floors, and stairways for your Minis to reach their goal. Other interactive elements like springboards, conveyor belts, and timed gates can also be manipulated via the touch screen. An arbitrary life system has been added into the game, forcing you to restart the level and lose a life every time a Mini meets its doom. It seems pointless, since there’s no consequence for getting a game over – you’re simply given five shiny new lives and sent on your merry way.

Even with some very minor, largely unnoticeable elements pared back, Minis March Again! looks and sounds very much like the full blown DS game it’s based on. The colorful characters and complex puzzle worlds are extremely well polished and the level of production found throughout this downloadable title is top notch. As is expected from a Mario game, you’ll find lots of charming music (remixed from past Mario games) and a little voice work thrown in for good measure. If it weren’t slightly smaller and lacking fully animated cutscenes, it’d be hard to tell the game apart from a regular full-priced DS release.

Though it’s not quite as robust as its predecessor, the volume of content in Minis March Again is both surprising and impressive. The four main floors you’ll progress through each contain eight regular levels, an obligatory boss battle against Donkey Kong that has you firing Minis out of some form of cannon at the brute, and a super tough bonus level unlocked by being awarded a gold star for a stellar performance in each smaller level. Once you plow through all of those, you’ll unlock plus mode that has you progressing through the first 40 levels with a tougher challenge. Beyond that there are additional levels on the rooftop to play through and bonus basement level that are gradually unlocked as you amass more stars. Exhaust all of that content, and there’s still the incredibly entertaining construction zone where you can create custom levels to play, share them via the Nintendo WFC, and play levels made by other people.

Minis March Again may look and sound like rehashed content, but all of the levels are entirely new. That said, it may not quite be the proper sequel fans of the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series had hoped for. Regardless, there’s a lot of game to explore here and the puzzle heavy Mini Mario management is utterly delightful. Whether you’re new to the series or just feel like checking out a fresh set of levels, you’ll get a lot of mileage for your dollars here.

Very polished. Same visuals as the last full release. 4.0 Control
Tight and fun stylus controls, though you can’t manipulate the Minis as much. 4.0 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Great remixes of favorite Mario-themed tunes sprinkled with a few voice overs. 4.3

Play Value
There’s a ton of levels and bonus content to explore for the reasonable price tag.

4.1 Overall Rating – Great
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.

Game Features:

  • Tons of puzzle levels to send your Mini Marios marching through.
  • Lots of bonuses to unlock and uncover.
  • Use the stylus to manipulate the level and get your Minis to the exit safely.

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