Game Review

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! Review

USA USA Version

Posted by Philip J Reed

Little Mario, big fun

For fans of the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, the good news is that Mini-Land Mayhem! is another truly stellar entry in the series. For those who are not yet fans, the good news is that Mini-Land Mayhem! is an excellent place to start.

Mario's latest business venture (seriously, when does he ever find time to do any actual plumbing?) is an amusement park, with a theme of small, clockwork inhabitants. They're even giving little clockwork Pauline toys away to the first 100 visitors, a promotion so successful that even an early-rising Donkey Kong only manages to be the 101st visitor, leaving him without any toys.

No worries, though; the real Pauline is right there, and that's just as good. It's up to Mario (and his horde of wind-up doppelgangers) to get her back, a feat accomplished by... uh... sending toys through some doors. Don't think about it; it's more fun than it is rational.

To anybody who's played a Mario vs. Donkey Kong game before, the goal will be clear enough. To everybody else, imagine a streamlined approach to the classic computer game Lemmings. The Mini Mario toys begin in one location of the stage, and you must guide them safely to the goal. Along the way there are obstacles, many of which result in instant death, but unlike Lemmings you cannot lose even one Mini Mario without failing the level. This is not a problem in the earlier stages, but it won't take long before your mini-management skills are really put to the test.

The Mini Marios aren't exactly known for their intelligence: they walk straight forward (once activated) and don't stop until they are destroyed. They will, however, turn around once they hit a wall, a simple gameplay mechanic that very quickly leads to unexpected complications.

Using the stylus (and some very precise and responsive touchscreen controls) you will have to erect girders to keep the Mini Marios from marching straight into their deaths. Spike-lined pits, for example, can either be bridged or blocked off. What you decide to do will affect the path that the toys will follow, and every girder you place will either make your job simpler or much, much more complicated.

To keep things interesting, each stage also has a handful of collectibles to find. There is a playing card in each one, and if you collect all nine, you will unlock a special minigame. There is also an M coin in each level to collect in order to unlock more challenging special stages, and normal coins that add to your score. Hit the target score in any given level to earn a trophy for your effort. Clearly, there's a lot of optional content and achievements to chase down, and attempting to collect everything makes the act of simply getting the Mini Marios to the exit seem like a cakewalk.

There are various other types of stages as well that help to keep the gameplay fresh. Periodically you will have to guide toys other than just Mario to their own respective exits, including Toad, Peach and Pauline, and while they behave identically to Mario they complicate the exit strategy by having their own goals that they must be guided toward (or sometimes passed) in order to complete the level. Other stages place a golden key in the possession of one of the Mini Marios, and he must reach the exit before his peers in order to unlock the door for them.

On top of this, there are boss fights, which pit the clockwork army against Donkey Kong himself. While it's basically just a question of guiding the Mini Marios to the top of the screen, Donkey Kong refuses to make things easy for you. He'll disable placement of certain girders and toss barrels down at you, neither of which is very polite, but it sure does make for some unexpected additional challenge.

There's more to the main game than can even be discussed here; part of the fun is the spirit of discovery, and nearly every stage stands on its own merits as a satisfying and well-designed puzzle. But, in addition, you also get a fully-functional level designer (with its own set of stages designed as tutorials), and it is here that the game's near-infinite replay value comes from.

Levels can be designed and shared with other gamers through the DS's Wi-Fi capabilities. The process of designing them could not be simpler; while the text-free object menus take a little time to get used to, the process of transferring your ideas to the screen is smooth and intuitive. Conquering Donkey Kong in the main game will take you time enough as it is, but tossing in the ability to concoct and download fiendish additional levels as well means the game will remain fresh as long as you still have interest in playing it.

The graphics in Mini-Land Mayhem! are crisp and colourful, with pleasantly smooth animations. These lead to some very amusing cutscenes, and give the game a sweet, sunny atmosphere. The music is great too, jam-packed as it is with excellent remixes from both Mario and Donkey Kong games past.

The puzzles included with the game (eight worlds' worth, with additional special stages, minigames and other level types to be unlocked) make for a lengthy, memorable gameplay experience on their own. But toss in the level editor and the opportunity to download other players' creations, and you've got an indispensable addition to any respectable DS library.

Conclusion

Lots of gameplay, great graphics, a wonderful soundtrack and flawless touchscreen controls make Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! a worthy addition to an often-overlooked franchise. While the game's real-time puzzle element may not appeal to everybody, those who do take the time to become familiar with it will appreciate its unique and challenging approach. Mini-Land Mayhem! proves that – four games in – the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series hasn't lost one ounce of charm.

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User Comments (44)

Gavin_Rozee

#1

Gavin_Rozee said:

Got it for Christmas. Shame I can only play it on my Lite though , as DSi Enhanced games are region locked.

ToadFan

#2

ToadFan said:

Great Review. But I'll pass on this one. Looks a lot like the 2nd & 3rd edition's of the series.

CorbsAdmin

#3

Corbs said:

Awesome review Phil! I might just grab this one after Christmas.

Punny

#4

Punny said:

Why didn't I put this on my Christmas list? Ah well. Great game! :)

CanisWolfred

#6

CanisWolfred said:

A Month and a half post release and still no Metacritic score, wow. NVM, it's just not showing up. Give it time I guess.

Glad this one turned out alright. Too bad these games just aren't my thing.

irken004

#8

irken004 said:

I'll just stick with my DSiware Mario vs DK game. Still can't beat it yet :P

Deviant_Mugen

#9

Deviant_Mugen said:

I've been a fan of this series since I played the demo for March of the Minis, but I don't own a single iteration yet; I'm hoping to change that soon...

Awesome review, Phil...

LEGEND_MARIOID

#11

LEGEND_MARIOID said:

This is an insta-buy. Used to have no.2 "March of the Minis", have Minis March Again DSiWare and this sounds even better. Big fan of the series.....so insta-buy all the way.

@Gavin....you should be able to play NA games on your DSi. I have around 6. Though I've preed the pal version in this case.

FJOJR

#12

FJOJR said:

I have MvDK2 and played it to death until Nintendo stopped supporting it's Wi-Fi and everyone else abandoned it. Hopefully that won't happen so quickly this time around.

siavm

#15

siavm said:

Sounds good but the dsiware game is the only one I need in the series until they can step it up with maybe a entry on the 3ds. And then I may just play minis march again on the 3ds.

Kid_A

#16

Kid_A said:

Nice review Phil! My DS needs some lovin' and this might do the trick.

1upsuper

#17

1upsuper said:

@Otaku and LEGEND MARIOID All DS games are not region locked, unless they have DSiEnhanced features, in which case they can only be played on a DSi from the game's region, but it can be played on any region's DS Phat or Lite. For example, Pokemon Black and White are DSiEnhanced. For now, the only region's DSi they can be played on is one from Japan, but they can be played on any region's DSPhat or Lite.

Meta-Rift

#18

Meta-Rift said:

I love this series, but I kinda wish they'd go back to controlling only Mario like it was in the first two games. It works better that way IMO.

Sneaker13

#19

Sneaker13 said:

I love the series. So I will get it sometime soon. I agree with Rift though. I would prefer controlling Mario as well.

armoredghor

#25

armoredghor said:

played the first three and it's got good building mechanics but I can't say as I've seen a single puzzle that takes more than a minute to figure out. I'll pass on this one.

LuWiiGi

#26

LuWiiGi said:

I got Minis March Again and I loved it (but I hated getting stuck on a level) so I'll get this at some point (probably on 3DS). Anyone else think that the SuperGuide thing from DKCR and NSMBWii would work great on this? Like, you have to pay coins to use it and the level is done for you. It's just that getting stuck on a level is reeeaaaaly annoying.

Philip_J_ReedStaff

#27

Philip_J_Reed said:

@LuWiiGi:
You're in luck: the game does include a Super Guide feature. It was never triggered while I was playing, but it activates if you fail the same level enough times in a row.

LuWiiGi

#28

LuWiiGi said:

Oh good, thanks CB, I'll definitely be getting this (I'd hate to use the SuperGuide but if the worst comes to the worst I'll have to). Great review BTW, glad you finally got a game you deserve. :)

Pokeman

#29

Pokeman said:

I thought the game sucked but now it looks interesting. But I'm not gonna buy it though.

TKOWL

#30

TKOWL said:

I never really liked the puzzle direction of this series. For me, Mario and DK are at their best with straight-up tower climbing.

Kid_A

#31

Kid_A said:

Wow there's a Super Guide feature? Cool. I'm glad Nintendo is really pushing this, because I think it's a great idea. It's allowed them to make their last few games really challenging without having to worry about alienating newcomers.

pikku

#33

pikku said:

I don't know....I loved the first game and didn't really like the second, and this looks more like the second....

MeloMan

#35

MeloMan said:

I 3rd (or is it 4th?) the notion of direct control of Mario in a tower climbing affair... that was what was beautiful about DK '94 and MvsDK1 as they took the classic DK element, expanded the stages, and injected puzzle platforming. These games aren't bad at all, but THREE lemmings-ish games? Once was a nice experiment, twice was questionable, and thrice is excessive Nintendo, but to each their own. Get back to basics.

NFreak007

#37

NFreak007 said:

I bought and liked the DSiWare Mario vs DK game. Is this one different/better enough to be worth buying as well?

Tri4ceHolder

#41

Tri4ceHolder said:

@NFreak007
Yes very worth buying. The levels aren't to hard and the whole "amusement park" theme is really cool. I say it's better than Mini's March Again!. Plus, after you beat it, there is a plus mode like in the DSiWare version. I recommend this to you and everyone else.

ToxieDogg

#42

ToxieDogg said:

It's a great little game. Gameplay-wise, it's not much different to the previous games to be honest, but it's a clear cut case of 'If it aint broke, don't fix it!' and it does add enough new little additions of it's own to be a worthwhile purchase. Definitely a lot more to it that there first seems too...there's a lot of unlockable levels outside of the main story and most of them seem pretty tough :)

rhythmheavenfan

#43

rhythmheavenfan said:

I like the game, but I don't like how you can't stop the Mini Mario's after you activate them, which you are able to do in March of the Minis.

MadScientistMan

#44

MadScientistMan said:

Hmmm... I might get it, but I might Metroid Prime Hunters instead

However both may not be that replay-able to me because my lite can't connect to my wi-fi

Damm the dsi with it's superior wi-fi capabilities

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