Mario vs Donkey Kong: Mini-land Mayhem is a puzzle game on the DS, with a suitably ridiculous plot. When a new theme park opens in the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario and his latest squeeze, Pauline, appear as special guests, giving away a free Pauline toy to the first 100 visitors. The only problem? Poor old Donkey Kong's 101st in line - and not wanting to leave empty handed, he decides he's going to kidnap the real thing instead.
What follows is a really interesting puzzle game that's bound to get the old noggin working. Working in a bit of a similar way to classic puzzler Lemmings, each level sees a number of clockwork Marios strolling mindlessly around it - and it's up to you to guide them to the end of the level, by making bridges. Each level is made out of several platforms, with several gaps in between them. At the edge of these gaps a number of screws, with red screws showing you can make a horizontal or diagonal bridge, and blue ones showing you can make a vertical barrier, which you can use to get your tribe of mini-Marios safely from one end of the level to the other. The only catch is you'll need to have enough girders available in your stock to stretch from one to the other, so Mario vs Donkey Kong is a game of supply and demand, as you build bridges in one bit of the level, and take them down in others, all whilst trying to make sure your mini-Marios don't come a cropper.
In terms of accessibility, there's a lot of logic involved here, and plenty of forward planning and quick reactions required, making this a game best suited to older players. That said, while there is a lot of logic involved here, the game's based around a simple enough concept to understand, so most should at least be able to have a go. It's the boss fights, however, that mean this is really best suited to older players, as you have to try and guide two Marios from the bottom screen to the top, dodging barrels, building bridges, and trying to keep them both safe at once, which requires a lot of multitasking, and a very specific way of thinking, which is very challenging indeed.
Another great feature that deserves a mention here is the level creator, which, especially if you live in a house with multiple children, will encourage your child's creativity, as well as really pushing their logic, as thinking out and planning a puzzle requires a lot of foresight and planning. It could be something you'd want to encourage with your child, making levels with each other, to see who can stump the other.
As a Mario game, there's very little in here that could be classed as questionable or offensive. The only violence in the game is when the Mini Mario jumps on a switch that zaps Donkey Kong - you'll see our simian friend's skeleton for a few split seconds, before he returns to his normal, but now slightly frazzled, self.
Format Reviewed: Nintendo DS