Cubed3 Nintendo gaming, Wii and DS

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

Review for Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! on Nintendo DS - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

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 - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

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 - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

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 - on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review

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- on Nintendo Wii U, 3DS games review


Nintendo has perfected the formula, tweaking the puzzle element, adding in new aspects, bulking up the construction mode and making sure the balance is just right so boredom does not creep in.


Packed with gloriously cute cel-shaded characters, bright and breezy locations, as well as that trademark Nintendo attention-to-detail.


Familiar themes from the Mario and Donkey Kong universes are mixed together with a whole host of brilliant, and often very comical, voice clips.


Eight main worlds, each with eight stages, a boss battle, mini-games and extras to collect, followed by a whole host of special tougher levels, an Expert Mode and even the ability to share your own creations with the world via Wi-Fi, as well as play other people’s levels. It is difficult to imagine what else could be packed in here.

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

About this score
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.

Read and post comments

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

Share this Review Share this Review




Games you may also like...









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   

Who wants this game?

No members want this game yet - be the first to add to your wishlist!
I want this game View All

Reader comments - add yours today Comments on this Review

There are no replies to this review yet. Why not be the first?
Jake (guest) 16.02.2011 18:51#1

This game was made by NST; not Intelligent Systems.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Thanks, Jake - updated. What are your thoughts on the game?

It's pleasing to see this already selling more than a million in total across Japan and the US. It's also selling considerably well here in the UK after two weeks thanks to some strong advertising! Definitely deserving of the great success.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Looks and sounds really fantastic. Great review Adam.

I loved the GBA Mario vs Donkey Kong, but was never as keen on March of the Minis. From what I played of it, I found the controls to be a bit fiddly and for some reason it never really kept me coming back.

This one is going on my wish list and I'll hopefully be picking it up soon.

Crazy that this game is doing so well in the charts, did the original one do as good as this or is this because of the more recent 2D Mario and Donkey Kong revival?

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

I remember M vs. DK 2 on DS cracking the Top 10 in the UK back when DS was doing 'so-so' here. Seemed like a big deal at the time, but then it dropped away quickly. This is the second week of release here and the ads helped push it up high into the All Format Top 10! Great stuff Smilie

The Mario anniversary, DK revival and strong adverts all did their work! Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Jake (guest) 16.02.2011 23:54#6

My thoughts are relatively limited - I haven't played it, but it looks fun, and your review certainly supports that assessment.

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Marzy said:
I loved the GBA Mario vs Donkey Kong

I often wondered if that one was similar to Donkey Kong released for the original Game Boy, the one where you had to grab a key to unlock a door to the next level and you'd fight Donkey Kong every four levels. I loved that one so much. Can't say I'm interested in all the "Minis" episodes though.

Also, how come the C3 boxart for this game uses the French boxart that says "Pagaille à Mini-land" instead of "Mini-Land Mayhem" ?

Cubed3 Limited Staff :: Review and Feature Writer
James (guest) 17.02.2011 08:18#8

It's a massive expansion of that.

Also, it seems Amazon UK has the US and French boxes, so that could be the problem.

Fantastically addictive game with so much packed in! Smilie

Great game!! Very addictive, but a little short. I would love more levels

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

Bruce, I'm surprised to hear you think there aren't enough levels! Did you complete all the special stages and Expert mode? Smilie It took me a few weeks of playing each day on the way to work in order to fully complete it...and even now I've not exhausted the online options.

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter
Rob87 (guest) 19.02.2011 18:14#11

Still playing this months after release. Fantastic game and worth getting even if you've played the DSiWare one! Smilie

Hahaha do not ask Jesusraz!!! i didnt realize how much more there was to this game! Hahaha oh boy im an idiot

Senior ModeratorStaff Member

bruce1289 said:
Hahaha do not ask Jesusraz!!! i didnt realize how much more there was to this game! Hahaha oh boy im an idiot

Well, I'm glad you uncovered the extra stages Smilie It's definitely a great game that just seems to keep on giving Smilie

I've moved on from it now, but only because I had to complete it ASAP for this review. Inazuma Eleven is taking up most of my time right now Smilie

Adam Riley < Operations Director :: Senior Editor :: Cubed3 Limited >
Word of Adam | Voice123 Profile | AdamC3 on Twitter

Comment on this review

You can comment as a guest or join the Cubed3 community below: Sign Up for Free Account Login

Preview PostPreview Post Your Name:
Validate your comment
  Enter the letters in the image to validate your comment.
Submit Post

Subscribe to this topic Subscribe to this topic

If you are a registered member and logged in, you can also subscribe to topics by email.

Follow this topic Follow this topic

Keep up with new comments with the RSS feed for this topic, or subscribe via email above.
Turqoise Radio - Cubed3's Glass to the Wall
Sign up today for blogs, games collections, reader reviews and much more
Latest news and updatesSite Feed
Vote on our latest community pollNintendo Poll
Vote: Which eShop Games will you Download this Week (EU)?
Pokemon Link: Battle
Aqua Moto Racing 3D
Snow Moto Racing 3D
Real Heroes: Firefighter 3D Download Version
Master Reboot
Wooden Sen'Sey
Super Toy Cars
Mega Man Battle Network
Mega Man 5
Mega Man 6
Siesta Fiesta
Member of the weekMember of the Week
This week's top member is Ifrit XXII, awarded the most stars for great posts.
Online Play and ChatOnline Nintendo Play & Chat
General Chatroom: Click here to chat Wii U Nintendo Network Codes - Find other Nintendo Wii U users 3DS Nintendo Network Codes - Find other Nintendo 3DS users
Listen to our Nintendo Jukebox - Classic Mario, Zelda, Metroid songs and more Nintendo news and reviews on the move