Mario vs. Donkey Kong is ’nother game I neglected to write ’bout.
It’s based on the Game Boy Donkey Kong, — or “Donkey Kong ’94”, as we say in Rogueport — which was amazing & underrated: it’s a puzzle platformer wherein each level is split into 2 parts: in the 1st, you need to grab a key & bring it to the locked door, as in “Donkey Kong ’94”. In the next, you need to grab the toy Mario. ’Long the way there are a red, blue, & yellow present; collecting them all gives one a bonus that allows one to get extra lives & bonus points. Beating the level score nets one a star, which can unlock new levels.
Its story is Nobel-Prize worthy, told through the advanced art o’ slideshows o’ prerendered CGI screenshots in pixelated glory. DK, while sitting @ home watching TV, sees a commercial for Mario toys & decides to bust into Mario’s factory, fill burlap sacks with them, & flee, only for Mario to chase right ’hind. That this plot is essentially the reversal o’ Donkey Kong Country’s plot is a clever quirk on DK’s character that the developers probably hadn’t considered. Why Mario owns his own factory is ne’er ’splained, any mo’ than Mario’s occupation as a referee or a cake-factory worker.
I love puzzle platformers, & this game is full o’ clever puzzles with fun mechanics, such as the red, blue, & yellow switch blocks, which permeates levels throughout all the worlds, & yet ne’er feels tired, e’en by the end. I also like how the theme o’ red, blue, & yellow seeps throughout so much o’ the game.
The level themes are rather clever: the 1st world isn’t a bland grassland, which isn’t in this game @ all, but a toy factory; the final world, meanwhile, isn’t some fiery world, but a cool, night-time city. E’en the volcano theme is made mo’ interesting by putting it midway through the game, rather than the end, while the forest world is the penultimate, both somewhat like Donkey Kong Country 2.
The graphics fill me with nostalgia, e’en if they’re hilariously tacky in their attempt to emulate 3D graphics on a 2D system, ’specially with the clunky voice clips they just loved to use on the Game Boy Advance. In general, Mario vs. Donkey Kong’s aesthetics scream early-2000s Game Boy Advance, which makes it fitting for the final game I’m examining in my GBA tribute.
The game’s also full o’ levels — ’gain, without feeling like it has padding. In addition to the 6 worlds o’ 6 levels, plus a Mini Mario stage & boss, there are 6 extra worlds & 12 “expert” levels that can be unlocked by earning stars in each level through beating the high score & getting all the presents.
A minor problem with this game is that the controls & physics are somewhat clumsy, unpredictable, & choppy. Mario sometimes can’t decide whether he wants to stop on a dime ’pon letting go o’ a direction button or continuing to slip off the platform into a garden o’ spikes. Sometimes he decides not to jump when I press A. Sometimes he can’t manage to jump o’er a single block. He’s also finicky ’bout picking up keys or moving on conveyor belts, & in 1 level, ’twas inconsistent on whether he could throw a key up through conveyor platforms, so much that I @ 1st thought you couldn’t till I tried half a dozen times. Also, Mario can only seem to throw keys upward if he’s not moving horizontally @ all, regardless o’ whether you’re holding up — & that’s the most consistent, & thus least terrible part. In ’nother level, Mario would always grab a vine or monkey tail just by jumping into it, ’cept for 1 time I tried while jumping toward 1 o’er spikes.
Worse is the fact that this game can be anal ’bout the high scores in some levels needed to get 100% ( though other levels aren’t ) . Both these combined lead to hours o’ frustration & cursing Mario to the rashy bowels o’ the hellblizzards.
Also, while the puzzles are clever, sometimes the levels are designed to waste time, which can lead to tedious waiting if you have to redo a level. 3-1 makes you wait a while after getting to the key for the platform to slowly return to you, after rising & falling a few times ’long the way. I’ve ne’er been able to figure out a way to skip the wait. Half o’ 3-6 is just waiting for the lava to slowly fall so you can reach the bottom, only to quickly hop up minutes before the lava would e’er come close to climbing back up to you. I’m not sure what they were thinking with that level: it’s mind-numbingly easy & just makes you wait a long time. ¿What’s the point? 4-5 has an awful Thwomp that it seems like you can pass under him @ 1st; but the right corner o’ him will just smash you if you try. However, you can, if you’re daring & impatient, super somersault ( back flip jump & jump ’gain just after landing ) o’er him while he’s on the ground; though I’m not sure if that actually saves time, & can be finicky to time.
In general, I’m mixed on the involvement o’ the Mario toys in this game. While I like the aesthetics o’ them & the toy factory, & the story is refreshing compared to “villain kidnaps woman, Mario must rescue her”, they don’t have a good effect on gameplay. Mixing the key-&-door mechanic from the Game Boy Donkey Kong & the mechanic o’ just grabbing the toy in 2 half-levels spliced together feels forced, ’specially since the 2 half-levels rarely have anything to do with each other; & the key-&-door mechanic was much mo’ interesting. I’d prefer it if this game kept Game Boy Donkey Kong’s method o’ just 1 level per level, get the key to the door, & collect the 3 items on the way.
Interestingly, the extra levels combine them in a way: there’s a Mini Mario with a key that you have to lead with you to the locked door. But that has the following problem:
That problem would be escort missions, which you have to do before every boss & during the extra levels. The 1s before the boss have you lead 6 o’ the toy Marios to the toy box, collecting the letters that spell out “TOY” ’long the way. The problem is the same o’ every escort mission: they’re e’en mo’ finicky ’bout following my lead than Mario himself, & their “Hey, Mariooo” makes me want to destroy them. Why developers continue to put in such an obnoxious mechanic that, as far as I know, nobody likes, is beyond comprehension. Why DK wants these annoying toys is a mystery, as well.
Worse, you have to do this escort mission perfectly ’gain if you get hit e’en once gainst the boss1, if you want the high score. Each hit gets you points, & you can only get all the hits if you beat the escort mission beforehand.
As for music, while TV Tropes claims its music is great… Well, they say all music is great, so that’s meaningless. I ne’er found any o’ it memorable. Certainly none o’ it comes close to the amazing music in the Game Boy Donkey Kong.
’Cause o’ its superior controls, physics, music, & mo’ refined gameplay, I’ll have to judge the Game Boy Donkey Kong to be superior to Mario vs. Donkey Kong. That said, e’en if you’ve already played the Game Boy Donkey Kong, I’d still recommend this game.