Over the years, Dr. Mario has become one of the most beloved Tetris clones available for any game system. From its original inception on Nintendo's NES console to the more recent offering on the WiiWare service, Dr. Mario has enjoyed success on many a Nintendo platform, so it should come as no surprise to see Nintendo releasing a version of the game on their new DSiWare service. But while the core game play remains intact, the omission of a multiplayer mode is likely to rub some longtime fans of the game the wrong way. Having said that, it's still hard to ignore the addictive charm the game still features, even all these years later.
The game play in Dr. Mario Express is quite simple. In Classic Mode, you begin the game with a host of viruses inside your pill bottle. Dr. Mario will begin tossing various-coloured pill capsules into your pill bottle one at a time. Some capsules have two different coloured ends and some feature the same colour on both ends. Using these falling capsules, you must line up three like-coloured capsule ends with a matching coloured virus in order to eradicate it. When you've completely rid the pill bottle of all viruses, you complete the level and move onto the next one. The number of viruses and speed with which Dr. Mario tosses the pills increases as you progress through the levels.
If you feel like a twist on the Classic Mode described above, you can take on the CPU in the VS. CPU Mode. This mode pits you against the CPU in a race to see who can wipe out all the viruses in their pill bottle first. Much like the Classic Mode, you can set your virus level and the speed with which Dr. Mario tosses the pills before you begin the game. You can also choose which of the two musical tracks you want to listen to during play. This mode basically functions much the same way the multi-player version does in other releases, only instead of taking on other players, you're relegated to challenging the CPU in this version of the game.
The Classic Mode is basically the game we've all seen in the various Dr. Mario releases over the years and it's the mode most people who are familiar with the game will likely spend the most time with. But there is something to be said for the VS. CPU Mode as well, as it injects a bit of added intensity to the experience and offers a nice diversion from the main game itself. The control system is simple and intuitive and will feel instantly familiar to fans of the game. The game even saves your records for each mode so you can always keep track of your performance any time you feel the need to do so. It's a small feature, but a welcome one nonetheless.
The presentation in Dr. Mario Express is quite good, even for a DSiWare release. While the playing field is fairly basic in design, the viruses and Dr. Mario all have a sharp 3D rendered look to them and animate quite well throughout their various poses. Since the game is fairly basic in design, there's not a real need for a lot of flashy visual effects, and the "less is more" look of the game works perfectly considering the type of game it is.
The music is another thing long-time fans of the game will pick up on right off. The classic 'Fever' track sounds as great as ever and the game even offers up an alternate audio track for those who tire of the tune, although we can't imagine that happening. You can set which song you want to play during your game or let the CPU randomly select one of them for you. Either way, the musical presentation in Dr. Mario Express remains catchy and it's nice to see Nintendo include the classic Fever track one more time for those who've enjoyed it in previous Dr. Mario releases over the years.
In the end, Dr. Mario Express still features the same addictive gameplay the title has become so well known for over the years and it ends up being a welcome addition to a DSiWare game library that's been a bit lacking to date. A multi-player mode would have made the package much more well-rounded, but if you're just looking to kill some time and want a quick dose of a game that's still as much fun today as it was nearly two decades ago when it was first released, you'd be hard-pressed to find a better solution than this DSiWare version of the game. And at 500 Nintendo Points, this could be just what the doctor ordered for DSi owners.