Wednesday 24 October 2012

Mario Vs Donkey Kong Review (GBA)

In 1981 Donkey Kong made his video game debut and then promptly ran off with Mario's (then Jump man's) girlfriend. To rescue the girl players had to negotiate four levels, climbing up Donkey Kong's tower before finally knocking his platform away. Ever since then the Mario vs Donkey Kong franchise has been rarely used, with both characters taking on many other roles. Indeed only the NES version of the arcade game (and an excellent title designed for the Super Gameboy in 1984) have seen the two Nintendo properties clashing head on.

Now on GBA the two giants of the Nintendo world clash again in a platform come puzzle game, which is a slight departure from the previous iterations in the highly enjoyable series. Anyone who has played the Super Gameboy version will be on familiar ground, though the impetus has now been placed heavily on the puzzle element of the title rather than the platforming fun of old. The manoeuvres that the mighty plumber can pull off are much the same as before. For the uninitiated Mario can jump, pick up enemies/other objects and do a hand stand-to-hand spring jump which gets him to high places. In a round about way what we have is Mario 64 moves plus a touch of Super Mario 2.

A new system brings with it a new graphical overhaul; everything is given the muddy, mock three-dimensional style that is beginning to creep into GBA games at an alarming rate. We have yet to see this technique pulled of completely successfully and again here it proves to be more of a hindrance than a help to the gameplay. The extra animations needed to pull off moves - mean that at times - Mario can seem to be slightly off the pace. It doesn't happen that often, but enough to make you consider throwing the cartridge at something.

The goal for the initial six worlds is to get Mario to a locked door with a key found somewhere on the screen. On the way you can pick up little present boxes, which if you collect them all give you a bonus. Luckily, (though the graphics can hinder the play some of the time) on the whole Mario is more than equipped to make it around the levels without the controls causing a problem which is good as players need to use all of Mario's abilities in order to do achieve the simplest of tasks. The game really does have some hidden depth in this respect.

In order to make it through safely you must be thinking right from the off, as solutions are rarely as straightforward as they first appear. Mario vs Donkey Kong is more about planning an effective route than the fast paced Mario action we have seen previously. However, though the levels are clever and the controls hold up the majority of the time, there is a distinct lack of an addictive quality in the title. Furthermore the game really is not that much fun to play, meaning what you are left with is a taxing puzzle game which you are not really driven to solve.

The title is not a bad game, it just lacks the little touch of Nintendo magic that make Mario titles such a compelling affair, something that the previous version of the Mario vs Donkey Kong franchise had in abundance. True there is some joy to be had during the boss battles, and when you solve a particularly tough puzzle the feeling of relief is a rare joy, but more often than not you will end up frustrated and worn down.

Mario vs Donkey Kong is not a bad game by any stretch of the imagination, and the franchise deserved to be revived and contains a lot of promise. But this title simply is not enough to launch the plumber and the big ape's feud into the Nintendo hall of fame. It tries to be Mario platforming crossed with all the goodness of lemmings but really it ends up showing only glimpses of the brilliance of each.


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