Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! (Nintendo DS) Review

By Adam Riley 16.02.2011

Review for Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! on Nintendo DS

The traditional Donkey Kong Arcade style of rescuing the damsel in distress from the big, hairy ape sat atop a stage filled with perilous traps and obstacles has kept gamers enthralled since the 1980s. However, back in 2004 Nintendo attempted to spice the formula up somewhat by adding in a puzzle element akin to the classic Lemmings, whereby the player must guide hapless Mini Mario dolls around by actually manipulating the surroundings rather than directly controlling them. After the successful DS sequel, March of the Minis, and a DSiWare edition, Minis March Again, the fourth iteration has now launched across Europe. Cubed3 takes a look at Mario vs. Donkey: Mini-Land Mayhem! to see if the magic is still there.

There are times when it seems like there is no pleasing some people, or animals in the case of Donkey Kong. Mario, being the jolly chap that he is, takes time out of his busy day to personally open a new theme park, handing out special doll versions of Pauline (the portly plumber’s lady friend) to the first 100 visitors as a ‘thank you’ for attending. Donkey Kong, however, turns up slightly too late and goes into a fit of rage, stampeding past all the loyal Toad followers to get his grubby mitts on the real deal, whisking the busty brunette in her slinky red dress away (possibly to get up to some…ahem…’monkey business’ with her!). Thus, Mario sets off on a train to chase after the dastardly villain, complete with his trusty set of Mini Mario clockwork toys.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! is based across eight main worlds of varying theme, such as a jungle setting, underground cave, and even a rainbow world, all of which come with familiar tunes from the worlds of both main characters, plumber and simian alike. In fact, the level of presentation is varied and rather delightful throughout, as expected from a Nintendo effort, with miniature 3D cel-shaded representations of Shy Guys, Venus Firetraps, Pokeys, Snifits, Toads, and so on, all set to the backdrop of brightly coloured locations that fill the player with plenty of vim and vigour. On the sound side, as well as a whole host of memorable music, there is a brilliant feature where Mario talks to players when the DS lid is closed and re-opened, with comments such as ‘Ow, my head!’ or ‘Hey, come back here!’ always likely to raise a smile, and Mario's unintelligible Italian babbling (first introduced in the Mario and Luigi RPGs) is as comical as ever. Nintendo’s charm simply oozes from Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem!

Screenshot for Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! on Nintendo DS

The core objective throughout is to use your trusty stylus in order to guide all the Mini Mario toys to the exit found in each stage. Before the action starts, the camera will pan around the particular arena being tackled to illustrate all the pertinent hazards, then it is a case of using a limited set of tools to create safe passage for the lifeless toys (rather like in AlienAfterAll’s fantastic DodoGo! and DodoGo! Challenge). Upon waking one toy up, it will continue to walk ahead until it 1.) Meets an ill-fated end, 2.) Collides with an obstruction that causes it to turn about-face and walk in the opposite direction, or 3.) Finally reaches the little ‘M’ door that leads to the next stage. When bumping into other sleeping Mini Marios, they all proceed to wake up and go a-wandering and in certain stages will trigger other toys, such as Princess Peach and Toad, that need to be guided to their respective doors as well.

Considerable effort has gone into the overall mix found in Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! to ensure that nothing becomes stale over time. Each new world introduces extra tools to use, meaning that rather than merely being able to create bridges, players will eventually have the ability to construct ladders, place trampoline springs, and even insert temporary blocks, as well as using environmental features to their advantage (spinning cannons to smash through bricks, grabbing special hammers to kill certain enemies or momentarily incapacitate pesky Donkey Kong toys that throw Mini Marios in the air or even capture them in bags).

Screenshot for Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! on Nintendo DS

Everything in Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! is expertly crafted, easily accessible to any audience and uses the touch-screen for perfectly accurate gameplay throughout, with the stylus being used to manipulate almost every feature of each stage on offer. During a level, players can choose to attempt to guide all Mini Marios at once, or instead split the pack by setting one off alone to collect all the extras dotted around before making that final run for the exit. Another time limit restriction must be adhered to, though; that of the exit’s timer. When one Mini Mario toy departs a stage, the others must also do so before the small window of opportunity slams shut, meaning keeping the group close together at the very last few moments is imperative. Achieving the correct order that they exit also plays a large part in one stage per world, where one Mario will have the key to unlock the ‘M’ portal, meaning some extra thought will have to go into how to get the Marios to somehow switch places.

Then there are the standard platform-climbing Donkey Kong battle stages, where players must use the skills accrued from the puzzle levels to help navigate the Mini Marios towards the dizzy heights where the ape resides with Pauline in his clutches, with the aim being to detonate three explosives in total before the timer runs out, whilst also dealing with disappearing platforms, balls of fire and other death traps. As with the normal stages, there are limited numbers of bridges, ladders, and so on, meaning careful timing is required when placing, removing and re-placing walkways. The amount of challenge throughout gradually increases as further progress is made and nothing reaches the realms of sheer impossibility, perhaps until some of the hidden stages towards the end of the adventure that certainly are trickier than usual. However, even for experienced gamers, there will be plenty of exasperated moments where the player was simply not quick enough when removing a platform and re-placing it elsewhere, or one Mario has wandered off the screen and concentration on the others leads to his demise. Frustration can creep in, yet it is all part of the fun in the end.

Screenshot for Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! on Nintendo DS

In fact, some of the earlier worlds may seem like a complete breeze to more experienced gamers, but Nintendo has packed in plenty of content to keep all sectors happy. Not only are there eight main theme parks to work through, but nine battles with Donkey Kong that take place in that classic arcade style mentioned at the start of this review, as well as slide mini-games where a limited number of platforms must be placed around a level in order to let toy Mario, Princess Peach, Pauline, Toad and Donkey Kong dolls slide into their respective boxes at the lower part of the screen. Each world itself contains eight stages, of which two are special ones (where the ‘other’ dolls come into play and menacing Donkey Kong toys cause havoc), a boss level and a mini-game.

As if that was not enough, upon completing everything, a large batch of special arenas open up for those that collected all the Mini Mario coins and special letter cards in each level (spelling 'Mini Mario' at the end of a world). These differ slightly from the norm, with a short countdown taking place and then the Mini Mario toys starting their Lemmings-like suicidal meandering, thus creating a level of added pressure for the gamer as the stage must be set in the correct manner far quicker than normal. Even more longevity is included in the form of an Expert Mode that unlocks when everything else has been completed, as well as the in-depth level creation option that features Wi-Fi compatibility to upload your personal constructions, plus the chance to download user content to play through. Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! is one of the most comprehensive Nintendo DS products and a thorough treat for puzzle fans overall.

Screenshot for Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! on Nintendo DS

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! is by far the most comprehensive of the four entries into the action puzzle series. Nintendo has gone the extra mile to pack in as many new elements as possible, whilst bulking up and tweaking the existing aspects to near perfect levels.









C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10 (4 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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