koopakorral's Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move (Nintendo 3DS eShop) review

Movin' on Up.

Gone are the platforming elements of Mario Vs. Donkey Kong, Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move morphs the unusual subseries into a pure puzzler and an excellent one at that. Blending several classic puzzle mechanics, Minis hits the sweet spot for small downloadable eShop titles. The wide range of content and variety can easily match that of a full retail game with 180 stages and several game modes. Adding to that is a huge pool of user created content that is constantly growing and expanding. Nintendo is truly hitting their stride with digital media. If Minis is any indicator of the quality we can expect from Nintendo downloadable games, the future is very exciting.

The core gameplay of Minis on the Move harkens back to the tried and true classic, Pipe Mania maybe even Tetris. In Pipe Mania, you had to connect tiles of pipe to allow water to flow to the appropriate place. Borrowing from that, Minis has the player construct a pathway from randomized tiles for a charming toy Mario to cross on. Constructing a pathway is as simple as dragging the appropriate tiles to the corresponding square you wish to place them on. But the simplicity stops there.

Puzzles will get heated pretty quickly. Not only is there a race for time, but building up too many tiles in your inventory leads to a game over. On top of the already frantic time crunch, there are three M tokens to collect. M tokens are completely optional, however if you want to unlock modes in the game you’ll need to obtain as many as possible. Tiles will get more complex over time adding to the standard directional panels. Curved rotating tiles, various launchers, spikes, warp pipes, Shy Guys and more keep the gameplay fresh and challenging.

In addition to the main event, there are also three other game modes for you to play through. Many Mini Mayhem forces you to direct multiple Minis to the goal in true Lemmings like fashion. In Giant Jungle you have to traverse a huge map using a constant flow of tiles, both collecting 10 stars and finding a path to the goal. Puzzle Palace, my favorite of the three, requires the use of only preset tiles to reach the goal as best you can. All four individual game modes have a wealth of stages spread across them rather than the majority of the game being contained in the main event. It’s unreal how distinct each game mode can feel while still maintaining the core gameplay mechanics.

Four small mini games are also included aside from the main modes. Even with so much content packed into the main game, this small collection is no afterthought. All four have you playing with the Minis in certain ways, whether it be flinging them from slingshots or dodging Bullet Bills in the sky. These are great fun and remind me a lot of the mini games included with the first New Super Mario Bros. title on the DS. As you progress though the main modes collecting perfect scores, new difficulties and levels will become unlocked in the mini game section, so you can’t wiz through them all at once.

A fully fledged level editor is included for creative players to try their hands at. Making a level is as easy as moving titles to the game board. Advance options are also there for creators that really want to boggle the minds of their players. Users have already taken full advantage of the editor, crafting new and interesting level designs unseen even in the developer made stages. Creating and sharing with friends, is fun and fluid. Having an endless amount of user made levels just adds to the already staggering amount of content you can already expect out of Minis on the Move.

Repetition is what turns me off of almost all puzzle games. They take a core mechanic and stretch it out in interesting ways but will normally fall flat without evolving the concept. Through its tons of developer made stages, this is never the case for Minis. The puzzle mechanics continue to be fun for the entire experience, constantly adding new elements and complexities to older ones. Players will eventually hit a wall with the difficulty, but that’s ok because there are plenty of other things to do in the meantime.

Trying to find flaws in Minis on the Move is not easy. It’s a strong downloadable title that hits the fun puzzle gameplay out of the park. Though it may show influence from classic puzzlers, Minis is a charming and well-designed Mario product through and through. The removal of platforming breathes new life into the Mario Vs. Donkey Kong series giving it a clear direction, one I hope to see in future titles. Minis on the Move goes to show that Nintendo is well on their way to mastery of the digital marketplace.

Positives:

  • Crazy amount of content.
  • Great puzzle design.
  • User made levels.
  • Loads of fun, even when most challenging.

Negatives:

  • Draws a lot from outside influences.

9/10

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