Mario vs. Donkey Kong Review

Two decades before the world knew of Mario toys in the form of amiibo, Nintendo released Mario vs. Donkey Kong for Game Boy Advance, featuring the famous plumber chasing an ape through trap-filled levels while trying to reclaim Mini-Marios. The original game, released in 2004, has now been remade for the Nintendo Switch, offering new worlds and additional modes while receiving a significant visual upgrade. While the renewed edition might still feel brief and light on challenge, the adventure of reclaiming Mario toys against a ticking clock remains engaging.

Interestingly, Mario is depicted as the head of his own toy company, facing the task of reclaiming the Mini-Marios and confronting Donkey Kong. The story opens with the animated scenes presenting the ape stealing all the Mini-Mario toys and shoving them into his sack, replacing the static slideshow-style sequences from the original version. The shift to fully animated scenes with an emphasis on puzzles while maintaining the 2D Mario platformer style is consistent with the game’s roots.

The visual design of the original has, as expected, aged poorly, but the new version of the game enhances the environments and characters’ graphics, providing a much sharper and contemporary look. The game’s eight worlds offer a range of visually captivating scenarios, from the lush green canopies of Donkey Kong Jungle to the lethal lava pools of Fire Mountain.

Unchanged Essence

The gameplay remains true to the original version, with Mario having the same moveset. While there are no signs of familiar power-ups like Fire Flowers or Super Stars, there are still entertaining ways to overcome the enemies in each stage. The game’s bite-sized levels are split into two rooms, requiring Mario to collect a key and navigate obstacles to find Mini-Mario toys. Each world culminates in a simple boss fight against Donkey Kong, creating moments reminiscent of the classic Lemmings series.

While Mario vs. Donkey Kong might not pose the same degree of challenge as other platformers, the emphasis on precise platforming and coordination with various level mechanics creates an engaging and enjoyable experience. The remake introduces two new worlds, adding more diversity to the adventure.

The completion of the game’s eight worlds unlocks alternate versions consisting of new levels and a slightly reworked boss fight, adding replay value. In addition, a collection of Expert levels and a Time Attack mode provide more challenging options for players. However, these harder challenges have also exposed some minor control quirks in the game, which might affect some players’ motivation for completing the additional content.

The addition of a two-player co-op mode creates new opportunities for collaboration and entertainment, expanding the game’s appeal. However, some limitations around difficulty setting and control issues may impact the overall experience for some players.