Mario vs Donkey Kong

July 16, 2004

[floatleft][/floatleft]As a newcomer and a veritable outsider to the portable gaming world I often thought of the GBA as a way for Nintendo to resell NES and SNES games to make a quick buck. Not only was I wrong in that assumption, but Nintendo seems to put quite a bit into the games they release for GBA. One such title is Mario vs. Donkey Kong. This one grabbed my attention from the first time I saw it which wasn’t too long before I acquired my GBA.

The premise behind MvsDK is quite simple. Donkey Kong ripped off all the Mini-Mario toys from Toad’s shop. You are tasked with the job or retrieving them. You have to race through 6 worlds defeating Donkey Kong in each of them. Each world is made up of 6 main levels, a Mini-Mario level and a boss level where you battle DK himself. The main levels are comprised of 2 parts, the first part requires you to find the key and unlock the door to the next area; in the second part you have to collect one of the toys that DK stole. Each level is timed and is a complex puzzle that may keep you scratching your head in later levels. The quicker you complete the level, the higher your time bonus is.

Along the way you will learn new moves and be able to utilize weapons that make your quest easier. Many familiar characters from the Super Mario universe make appearances in this fresh puzzle game.

[floatright][/floatright]In all honesty, this is probably my favorite GBA so far. I am by no means well versed in GBA games, but Mario vs DK is awesome. The graphics are a side view 2D with a feel of 3D. I am not sure how to describe it, but once you see the screenshots you will know what I mean.

The controls and the game concepts are very simple and they really deliver. A jumps and B picks things up and throws them. There are a whole slew of acrobatic moves that you can use to complete the levels from handstands, to backflips, to gymnastic style high bar swings. It is really quite an impressive repertoire of moves that Mario has under his belt in this title. The L and R shoulder buttons activate the Free Scroll Mode that allows you to view the level.

Littered throughout each main level are 3 presents that you can collect in addition to completing the level. These items are optional, but well worth the time to get them. Not only do the presents give you points, but collecting all 3 will send you to a bonus stage after the main level where you can earn extra lives. There are only 2 types of bonus stages so the variation is low, but they are very very short. In addition to the presents, there are extra lives scattered throughout the levels which makes it even easier to amass an ever increasing number of lives.

[floatleft][/floatleft]You may be thinking that 6 worlds with 8 levels (6 main, 1 mini-mario, and 1 boss) could go pretty quickly and you would be almost right. Some of the puzzles require very special planning to complete and one wrong move will necessitate a level restart. Many of the later levels also get very tough as they are chalked full of enemies as well as obstacles that make things less than simple. After defeating all 6 worlds there is also a 2nd more difficult quest is unlocked, aka the Plus Levels. One big difference in the Plus Levels is that instead of carrying the key, you must find the Mini-Mario and lead him to the door to unlock it in the same fashion that you complete the Mini-Mario worlds of each level.

In addition to the Plus levels, you can also unlock Expert Levels. Expert levels are unlocked by acquiring all 3 presents in the main levels of each world in addition to getting the hi score. Each level you get the hi score on will be denoted with a gold star. Expert levels are the hardest of the bunch.

Mario vs Donkey Kong is a very simple but fantastic looking platform style puzzle game that really rocks. The short but difficult levels make it easy to stop at any time and the available 2nd quest makes it appealing even for long bursts of gaming. All in all I would say MvsDK is a worthy addition to any handheld library. I fully recommend it and I don’t say that very often.

Score: 5/5

Questions? Check out our review guide.