Even before we took a turn in the exclusive Nintendo Airstream (read about our experience), it was tempting to view Donkey Kong Country Returns (preview) as the only Donkey Kong title releasing this fall. But while that Nintendo Wii title is sure to overheat sales registers this holiday season, Nintendo’s DSi and DSi XL have their own Donkey Kong game: Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem.
True, Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem features the big ape primarily in name, but it’s an entertaining title even without the swinging simian playing a more prominent role. The game’s not a platformer, though, nor an adventure. On the contrary, Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem is a puzzle game in the old-school sense. And by old school, we’re talking really old. Like Lemmings.
“Like Lemmings” isn’t merely a generational comment; Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem really is a Lemmings-like puzzle game. The core of the game is guiding small creatures from Point A to Point B, but rather than guide lemmings, you guide little Marios, Toads and Donkey Kongs, among other Nintendo characters. As in Lemmings, there exist environmental hazards like spiky pits, enemies and fire that stand in the way of going through the end door. As in Lemmings, the faster you get your followers from beginning to end , the more points you earn for each level. But a few difference exist as well.
For instance, in Lemmings, players chose creatures with varying abilities (bridge builders, diggers, star builders, etc.) to navigate and build through the puzzle-filled world. In Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem, the players themselves are the workers, tapping on the DS’s touch screen to activate or deactivate bolts in the erector set-like environments. Depending on the bolt’s location in the world and proximity to another bolt, it will create a bridge, wall or other navigational aid to guide (or corral) the miniature Marios, Toads and Donkey Kongs. The characters themselves do nothing other than move in paths through the environment. No parachuting, no digging, no building. Just walking, collecting coins and exiting through the character-specific door (or doors) at the end of the level.
Since the DSi and DSi XL are Wi-Fi-enabled, Nintendo wisely chose to borrow a page from the LittleBigPlanet playbook and enable players to create their own maps, which they can then upload and share online via the in-game interface. Once a map is uploaded, fellow DSi owners can download, play and rate the user-created map. As with LBP and any other user-designed feature, this can be good or bad depending upon the designer’s skill, but just having the option out there for free is bound to increase the shelf life of Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem exponentially.
It’s easy to dismiss Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem as a “me too” puzzle game, but that doesn’t take into account Nintendo’s track record. The last time we faulted such similarities to another title was with Magnetica, which was a near clone of Zuma. But Magnetica still held hours of casual-gaming fun. So what if Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem is a lot like Lemmings? We loved Lemmings in the late ’90s, and its puzzles still present a challenge today. If Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem can capture the same flair and “one more round” gameplay draw — and from what we’ve seen, it does — then Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem will be a good addition to any DS owners’ lineup this holiday.
You can get the best price on the game by buying it from Amazon using this link: Mario vs. Donkey Kong Mini-Land Mayhem.
– Jonas Allen