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Mario vs Donkey Kong | REVIEW | NSW

''TIME TO MONKEY AROUND!''

 


Developed: Nintendo

Published: Nintendo

Genre: Puzzle Platformer

Release Date: Feb 16th, 2024

Platforms: Switch

*Review copy provided to me by Nintendo


Mario vs Donkey Kong is a remake of its 2004 GBA counterpart and it is developed and published by Nintendo. After coming off a majorly successful Super Mario Wonder and an even greater achievement with the Super Mario Bros movie, Nintendo decides its now time to revisit a 2004 classic. But was this title the right choice to make in regards to a remake? or is it one of those games you could be good without? Only one way to find out, so lets go!


STORY:


Donkey Kong has stolen all the Mini-Mario toys from the factory, and it’s up to Mario to get them back. Can Mario retrieve them all and put them back in their rightful place?


 


''THIEF CAUGHT IN THE ACT''

 

GAMEPLAY:


Plumber boy, Mario, and the ruffian, Donkey Kong, have a long storied rivalry that dates back roughly 40 years, all the way back to the days of Atari, Coleco and the original NES. Starting their rivalry on the 1981 title, Donkey Kong, via the arcade cabinet scene, we saw the birth of Mario, who at the time was named Jumpman, and the hairy boy himself, Donkey Kong, bust onto the scene in classic platformer fashion. Having originally been created to salvage the losses taken by the under performing shoot em up arcade game cabinet called Radar Scope, a game that took inspirations from titles like Space Invaders. With 3000 units produced for the Radar Scope and only 1000 actually sold, that left an excess of 2000 remaining to be sold, or even sent to the ol wood chipper. Why the would chipper? well I only bring that part up because it seemed like everything in the 70's, leading into early 80's had a weird wood fetish, you guys remember that?. While 2006 to 2010's era we had brown and yellow filters on every game, but for people back then, they sure did love their wood. To recoup on their losses, the original Donkey Kong title, headed at that time by first time video game designer, Shigeru Miyamoto, a man who needs no real introduction here for obvious reasons, his task was to create a game that can revitalize the faith in Nintendo Of America, which the branch at the time was still relatively brand new at that stage, and recoup some of the losses taken on Radar Scope. Thus history was made. Having achieved commercial success in both the Japan and American markets, with it being one of the rare cases of early platforming for an arcade game at that time, with the only comparable title coming in the form of another 1980's arcade game, Space Panic. Due to the massive success of Donkey Kong, which was subsequently ported over to Atari 2600, Coleco Vision, Game and Watch, and the NES, the title proved that massive success can come out of utter failure, which seems to be a Nintendo staple to be honest. No matter how many times they seem down and out, with examples like Virtual Boy failing, but Gameboy Color being like ''its ok bro I got your back'', then you had the perceived failure of GameCube, which then was followed up by the MASSIVELY successful Nintendo Wii, then right back to consoles like Wii U, that while it had a great library for what was released, still was a financial disaster. But we all know how that ended up don't we? Yup, with the insanely popular Nintendo Switch, which is currently closing in on being one of the highest selling consoles of all time. So why the history lesson to start us off? Its simple. We would not have had this 40 year on going rivalry, were it not for the failure of the Radar Scope. Its failure and financial toll it took on Nintendo, lead them to think outside the box and take inspiration from media like Beauty and the Beast, Popeye and even King Kong. It is further proof of the theory of failing upwards, because the disappointment of Radar Scope lead to the creation of two of the most iconic characters in Nintendo history with Mario and Donkey Kong and even the birth of Pauline, who in recent years with Mario Odyssey and Mario Kart 8, has become even more popular as the years go on. Heck, this is just the beginning of the history of these two, I haven't even got to the 1990's yet, that could be a whole other essay in itself, but were not here for a history lesson, I don't want to put you to sleep like you're listening to Ben Stein, who is awesome, but who's voice is so monotone that it can put ya to sleep. So lets get onto the review of Mario vs Donkey Kong.


Remastering of classic titles or even once thought of as turds of the industry like Plumbers Dont Wear Ties and even Night Trap, is not a new thing at all for the industry, especially with the current craze of the gaming world being fixated on ''Nostalgia''. You have excellent remakes like Resident Evil 4, good ones like Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and then ones that leave you confused as to why they got remastered in general like The Last Of Us Part 2. Nintendo is also not shy about remastering and remaking titles either with hits like Links Awakening and the amazingly done Super Mario RPG, which I reviewed several months back. So keeping that in mind, now comes Nintendo's attempt at another remake attempt with the Mario vs Donkey Kong franchise... for better or worse. The 2024 version of Mario vs Donkey Kong is a complete remake of the Game Boy Advance title that gives this classic a fresh new lease on life and introduces touch ups to the original games environments and contemporary enhancements to the gameplay itself that updates the game for modern audiences- but at the same time, feels like a seamless transition of the original games puzzle mechanics that were so much fun to begin with. Now if we can only get a proper remake of Hotel Mario, then I can finally rest peacefully knowing one of the holy grails of gaming will finally be introduced to the masses, but.. I think I'm trapped in that dream longer than Mario was in Super Mario Bros 2. The story in this game starts when Donkey Kong decides to be a jerk face and infiltrates and invades a manufacturing facility that is producing black market copies of Wand Of Gamelon, I mean, a facility that is producing a bunch of Mini Marios. Having learned of this, Mario himself jumps into action to save the day and now you as the player will partake in a journey through eight different areas with each of these areas split into two separate sections each. Traversing through these puzzle themed realms will require you to find a key in each level that you search for Mini Mario in, and then transporting said key to a nearby door by figuring out what is the best route to take to get there by completing puzzles along the way. Basically, its a more fun version of Death Stranding, aka Amazon Delivery Service: The Game. Other objectives in the mean time while you're trying to figure out how to get to the key, involve you finding all the Mini Mario that are placed in each level. This can lead you to two avenues, with around 130 levels to complete in your entire playthrough, you might have the potential to feel your time is getting a little repetitive simply doing the task of finding a Mini Mario and then a key. However, the second avenue I feel for players is more likely, you simply won't get bored of the tedious nature that some might see, and this is because of the actual variations of each level has that ensures every single level you partake in, feels completely more fresh than the one you previous played, ala titles like Super Mario Wonder, where everything felt both familiar, but entirely new at the same time. You start feeling like you're part of the main cast of Cheers because of it, and you know what? sometimes you wanna go, where everybody knows your name and they're always glad you came. Well... everyone is glad YOU showed up, but not Kiddy Kong. Go away Kiddy Kong, you're bothering me kid.


 


''ONE, TWO, THREE AND STRETCH''

 

Each of the worlds six regular stages offer a multitude of ways for you to take in the many forms of the titles inventive gameplay mechanics and its explorative ideas in design, which helps keep the monotony to a bare minimum, and helps keep the players distracted just enough to where the game doesn't flat out feel like a chore. Which is surprising considering these mechanics are tweaked from the way they were from two decades ago, only with a few modern quality of life changes to spice things up. From the get go with this souped up remake, you'll notice that there's more dynamic range of Mario's movements this go around that weren't present in the original, or if they were, then they weren't as enthusiastically animated as here in 2024's version of the game, like executing a perfect handstand, pulling off a pivot jump, mastering your triple jump capability to traverse through the games stages is definitely a great addition and gives you many options when figuring out puzzles or even just finding new ways around your environment. You won't have to Press X to Luigi to find help to get unstuck, so that already is a plus due to this being an issue with other puzzle platformers I have played in recent years of my indie game coverage where I will get stuck in a puzzle, and only way to reset it or get back to an area is to force a respawn, losing all progress. It makes me rage harder than an angry Wiggler. Using your movement abilities through the abundance of levels will become crucial as the difficulty of each stage ramps up the further you progress, as the further you make it through the games later stages, you will have to think more carefully of the routes you will take and also think of creative, new and imaginative ways to bypass harder parts of a level if you get stumped, due to your mastering of the in game abilities of Mario and his signature jumps. When pulling off a surprise move that you didn't think would work, but it ACTUALLY does? well it makes you feel extremely self fulfilled and as if you're a genius for solving some of these cleverly made obstacles when executing complex moves across treacherous terrain, or dodging enemies themselves to give yourself a perfect level completion as a reward for your efforts. But what if you're playing on normal mode of this game, and still keep failing, and just aren't good enough to pull off the more complex movements of Mario? Well don't worry, that just means you're just like me when I speed run Mario Odyssey when I'm trying to beat my completion time of 1 hour and 24 min and just constantly bonk my head against every wall imaginable. But the good news here is that there is actually an easy difficulty for any player, young, old, middle aged or an immortal dinosaur who lives on top of a castle for 28 years without food and just won't croak.


To help players that may be facing a tad bit of difficulty, the game brings in a ''casual mode'' that allows Mario to use more bubbles to respawn for easy to use checkpoints, instead of restarting the level completely after every failed attempt at a level. This helps make the game more enjoyable for players looking to just have a relaxing time, rather than a headache inducing nightmare if you aren't at the top of your game. On top of the positives for this mode, it allows a wider audience to experience this title due to it being more accessible to the more novice of adults, or if you have a kid or younger family member who wants to give it a go. Better platforming, Better Checkpoints, Papa Johns. Wait.. what?. So the game has updated graphics and mechanics that pertained to the original, that's all fine and dandy, however is there anything else that might entice players to try this version of the game who may have already beaten and completed this title back in 2004? Honestly, yes there is. In addition to the improvements to the title named previously, the 2024 version now adds two additional levels called Slippery Summit and Merry Mini-Land, which lucky aren't as hard as the end game stages on Super Mario 3D World, and are a little bit less challenging than you might expect, but they are competent enough to where their design and structure still compliment the main games levels to the degree that it does not feel lazily tact on or rushed. Rounding about other features in the game are Time Attack, which only unlocks after you complete the main game itself. Oh what I wouldn't give for an in real life Time Attack mode so I can see if I can beat my time of taking an hour just to get ready to leave my house to go out. Yeah... I'm a wee bit slow. Well when it comes to being fancy at least, if I'm going to the store or somewhere close, then its just t-shirt, shorts and good ol ponytail and were out of there in 10 min. But were not talking fashion tips, we'll save that bit for Princess Peach when she gets her new game released next month. Finally the last major addition to this game comes in the form of Plus Worlds that are the games regular worlds, but reconfigured to be even more challenging than before and introduces you to expert level stages that significantly ups the ante to a degree that only seasoned players will be able to conquer. The Plus Worlds are extremely hard, but once they've fallen to your might, the overall feeling of accomplishment is extremely gratifying, and it just adds further to the games replayability.


 


''THE ONE KEY TO RULE THEM ALL''

 

OVERALL:


At the end of the day, Mario vs Donkey Kong excels at showing us the joy of simplicity over complexity in gaming. Not everything has to be a philosophy paper in video game form that invokes some inner monologue. Now, while I praise it for that positive, it also can act like a sort of double edged sword at times. Due to the games simplicity in being a remake, it can fall short in a few places, such as if you are playing on normal mode and get stuck or if you try to sit down and play this game for like 6 hours straight, chances are you're going to get very tired and feel the tediousness of playing get to you. Other things that may be seen as a negative are some of the background and animation designs choices used in this title versus what we had in the 2004 game. Some backgrounds seen in this game do not have the same coloring or life as the previous game did due to the update to more modern graphics, and same holds true for some of Mario's animations when comparing the entering a door animation from the original to this version, it's night and day really. 2004's version is more fleshed out animated, more silly and has its own unique personality, but in 2024's edition, its rather... basic. But even with the negatives just stated, with 130 levels, 8 different areas with Plus World additions for further challenges after the game is over, Time Attack mode, quality of life changes to the game and its overall smooth gameplay control of Mario himself - it makes Mario vs Donkey Kong a very good remake that can stand next to the original game without feeling embarrassment. Sure, it might not innovate completely or step TOO far outside its comfort zone, but it still doesn't take away that this a very fun game to play that anyone of age or skill level can pick up and have a good time playing. So with all that having been said, my verdict is clear, GameNChick says BUY NOW.




 





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