Mario is Nintendo's flagship character, and as such he's equated with gaming innovation. However, not all of Mario forays are necessarily original. Nintendo sends him on genre-raiding excursions to see how much of the gaming world he can conquer. In Dr. Mario, its all too obvious that Mario is practicing in Tetris territory without a license.

Dr. Mario is a decent little puzzle game along the lines of Tetris. It's easy to learn and increases in difficulty exponentially, (I just love using that word). It's 15 years old and originally was introduced on the NES. However you can unlock a version of this game in Wario Wares, as well as download it off the net.

The premise of the game is to eradicate the viruses that inhabit the screen by grouping various pills of similar color. These pills are not drugs, per se, they are actually vitamins. The are in the shape of capsules, each half of which is a different color. They slowly descend down the play area where you can rotate them by using the controller so that they will match up with similarly-colored germs. Matching four of the same color results in getting rid of the germ and the pill. Failure to match colors results in a piling up of pills and germs which will make it more and more difficult to clear when more and more pills are introduced.

There is some strategy involved, especially when you know you have nothing that can be matched and you have to decide on the best way to stack your pill so that it will be in a better position for the next few pills.

Granted, the gameplay is fun and even addicting but it's the kind of game that you can definitely build up a tolerance to. There are no other variations of the gameplay at all. This game should have included Dr. Mario 64, since there are at least a few different modes.

In the game's defense, this is the only game so far, in the Classic NES series that features Link play. You can go head-to-head against another player with the Link cable. Each of you will get a play area, and you will race to see who clears the most levels and accumulates the most points. The downside is that the play area is reduced by half, making it a little difficult to see, not to mention that the same gameplay become repetitive.

Dr. Mario attempts to fill a niche in the puzzle market by making a simplified version of Tetris that younger gamers could master. Whereas Tetris used shaped which invariably lead to countless combinations, Dr. Mario uses the same shape and only three colors.

Nintendo has been giving Dr. Mario away for free in the past so I really have to question forking over $20 for the game. If you haven't played Wario Wares already and you're somewhat interested in Dr. Mario, get Wario Wares. It's the best of all worlds. You can thank me later. In the meantime, search the net where you might find a free, playable version of Dr. Mario online.

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System: GBA
Dev: Nintendo
Pub: Nintendo
Release: Oct 2004
Players: 1 - 2
Review by Cole