Mario vs Donkey Kong: Miniland Mayhem Review (DS)

Mini Mario, Mega Trouble

Mario vs Donkey Kong Miniland Mayhem Review DS
15th March, 2011 By Ian Morris
Game Info // Mario vs Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem
Mario vs Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem Boxart
Publisher: Nintendo
Subtitles: Full
Available On: DS
Genre: Puzzle

A wise man (or perhaps a woman) once said, if you want something doing, you ought to do it yourself. That's a sentiment Mario really ought to have listened to, as he'd probably have had better results than in this latest opus. In Mario vs Donkey Kong: Mini-land Mayhem, Mario's overseeing the opening of a new theme park, with his girlfriend, Pauline, in tow. As is the way with all special openings, the first hundred guests won't be walking away empty handedly - instead, they're all given a free Pauline toy. Poor old Donkey Kong, though, not only has to suffer queuing with a hundred other toads, but ends up being 101st in the queue. In a fit of rage, Donkey Kong does the only logical thing, and takes the real life Pauline instead. Does Mario race to his girlfriend's rescue? Well, no, not exactly - instead, he winds up some clockwork toys, and sends them in to do his dirty work.

Mario vs Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem Screenshot

You can stretch girders from one giant red screw to another.

Mario vs Donkey Kong: Mini-land Mayhem is actually a puzzle game, similar in form to Lemmings. Upon starting the level, and touching each of the Mini Marios to get them going, the mindless bots will simply walk in a straight line through the level, only turning around should they hit something. The problem is, should they ever come across a cliff, bad guy, or pit of spikes, the minis will just walk straight into it, and meet a mechanical end.

In that way, it's up to you to keep each of the Mini Marios safe as they mindlessly trudge towards the exit. You do this, initially, by placing steel girders across gaps in the levels. Touching a screw fixture on the screen, and dragging away from it will drag out the shape of a girder, and all you have to do is select where you want it to go from, and to - whether it's a vertical, horizontal, or diagonal beam is entirely up to you.

Later levels add in different components for you to place into the level, from ladders, to travelators, and springs. Each level also contains a number of coins, a Mario symbol, and a card, usually placed in slightly off the beaten track locations - collect all of these, and you'll unlock all variety of bonus levels and minigames for your effort.

Of course, as is always the way with these things, there's a catch - on each level, you only have a limited amount of girders to work with. Differing lengths of girders take different points from your girder total, with diagonals usually being the most costly, as they're the longest form of girders. What that means is that, far from simply being able to draw a path for your Marios to follow to the exit, you'll have to balance where and when you place your girders, practically building a bridge in front of your Marios at the same speed as you take it away from behind them.

Mario vs Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem Screenshot

Keep 'em together, boys!

It can get quite awkward at times, especially when you have a number of Marios that all start from different parts of the screen. The best strategy is usually to get them all bunched up in a tight group, so you can minimise the number of girders you have to have down at any one time, freeing them up to be placed anywhere else, and saving you a lot of hassle trying to keep your eye on more than one group of Marios at a time.

The problem is, when the Marios get bunched up, they start to walk into each other. As well as bouncing off walls and girders that you've built, the mindless Marios will bounce off each other - which can quickly get rather annoying. When you've just built a diagonal incline for your Mario to climb, and it almost reaches the top, only to catch the head of a Mario on the floor below with the very tip of its boot, which causes him to turn around, and climb all the way back down the ramp, it can quickly begin to grate.

It's a shame, because other than that, the Mario vs Donkey Kong: Mini-land Mayhem is a well thought ought puzzle game, even if it is rather demanding of your reactions. Sometimes, we also struggled to remove girders from the game, as the game seemed to decide that it didn't want to recognise us touching the screw that held them in place, but thankfully, most of the time, this wasn't too much of an issue.

Mario vs Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem Screenshot

Works of pure evil.

However, all of our complaints are small fry when compared to the boss fights. These boss fights are so evil, whoever designed them really should be put into solitary confinement, as their a danger to the rest of mankind. Pitting your Mini Mario against Donkey Kong, it's up to you to draw in a number of girders and platforms, with the aim of getting your Mini Mario to the top, where he'll climb a ladder, and jump on a switch that'll shock Donkey Kong. Speaking of our simian friend, while you're drawing platforms for the brainless plumber, he's doing his best to make things awkward for you, by throwing barrels down, and, at seemingly indiscriminate times, hitting a big button that either changes which screw holes can be used (and often ends up removing half of your platforms in the process), or reversing the direction of your travelators.

So far, so boss fight, you may think, as while it certainly sounds tricky, there's nothing too sadistic there. Well, no, you're right - but the game's out to get you from the very beginning. Watching one Mario, and guiding him to the top is fine - you can easily draw platforms on the level above him to shelter him from barrels, and basically keep him under control, and away from any enemies. The game, however, in its infinite wisdom, seems to decide that you're taking too long, and you'd obviously manage the boss fight much better if you had two Marios to watch. Two Marios to watch means two Marios to protect, two Marios to guide, and, ultimately, two Marios that'll shortly be dead, because keeping track of them both, and keeping them both out of harms way is a challenge that we're sure is beyond most chess grandmasters. Add in the fact that you need to complete these boss fights with a "Perfect" rating to unlock the trophy for that level - which means you can't afford to lose a single Mini Mario, and you can see why we get frustrated.

If you put the Boss Fights to one side, however, what you're left with is an accomplished, mostly fun, and at times addictive one-more-go puzzle game that'll test your reactions as much as your grey matter. It's a game with plenty of lasting value too - with around a hundred levels of Nintendo's creation, and the ability to create your own, using a simple, built-in level creator - something that's made even better thanks to the ability to download brand new puzzles from the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection.. While it certainly suffers from a few glitches in the controls department, and you'll need cat-like reactions to complete the later (and even middle) levels, the overall picture remains a positive one, and one that's certainly worth a look.

Format Reviewed: Nintendo DS

StarStarStarHalf starEmpty star
Wind up merchants.
  • +
    Plenty of puzzles to sink your brain into.
  • +
    One-more-go appeal.
  • +
    Easy to use level creator.
  • -
    Requires incredibly fast reactions.
  • -
    Very, very frustrating boss fights.
  • -
    Colliding Marios makes everything a lot harder.
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