The Mini Faces of Mayhem
The Mario vs. Donkey Kong has provided some fun entertainment over the years. The GBA game was in fact one of the first reviews on SuperPhillip Central! While that particular game played out more like a sequel to the 1994 Donkey Kong title on the Game Boy, recent iterations of the series have focused on the Minis, the little toys that Mario tried to get back from Donkey Kong in the GBA game. This time around, the simian gets a little steamed when he’s shafted out of receiving a Mini of his own at the grand opening of Mario’s newest theme park and decides to make off with Pauline once again. Since Mario can’t really get his move on in such tight spaces, he sends the Minis in to do the hero thing for him. If you’ve played the other DS titles in the series, this may sound like standard fare at the fair. Does Nintendo change up things for this third offering, or is this one ride you should skip out on?
If you’ve ever played the DS titles in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, you’ll know that the action is almost all controlled by the stylus. With it, you can activate your Minis and try to get them to the exit door in each and every one of the game’s eight main worlds or Attractions as the game likes to call them. The main difference between this and March of the Minis is that once you’ve activated your Minis, you will no longer be in control of them. How are you supposed to guide those little guys around when they’re completely out of your direct control? You control them indirectly, of course!
You see, Mini-Land Mayhem focuses more on you using the terrain to help your toys reach the goal rather than just guiding and stopping the Minis around manually. You start off learning how to use girders as walkways for the toys. These girders are held in place by two bolts. With one tap of your stylus on a bolt, the girder will disappear back into your collection, giving you a few extra construction pieces to place down a girder in a different place. To do that, all you have to do is draw a line from one bolt to the other to create a new path for your Minis to walk about on. As you’re going about guiding the Minis through a level, there are coins, a Mario token, and a card to pick up. Picking up all of these in a level will give your Minis a perfect score bonus at the end and hopefully a trophy to boot. The tokens and trophies unlock special levels once you’ve collected enough of them while the cards will unlock minigames that I’ll get into later.
It’s not all just learning how to use girders as the game will also throw in springs, conveyors, ladders, pipes, and cannons that you’ll have to use in tandem as you go along. The first levels of each Attraction generally try to get you familiar with what you’ll be focusing on for the rest of the levels while subsequent levels will increase the challenge of how to get your Minis to the goal without losing one in the process. The thing about this game is that if you lose one Mini, you’ll have to replay the stage once again. It’s all or nothing. The same applies if you get one Mini to the exit and fail to get another there quickly enough. Once one goes through, you have six seconds to get another Mini to the goal before it locks you out and you’re staring at the retry screen. Some later levels can be extremely strict with this limit as Minis will be placed all over and getting them to the goal will require a good deal of thinking, timing, and maybe a little luck to go along with it!
There is an exception to that timed door rule, and that comes in the fourth level of every Attraction. Here, you won’t just be in control of Mario Minis. You’ll have to free and bring a Toad, Peach, Donkey Kong, and even Pauline Mini to their own respective doors, thankfully without a time limit, to complete the stage. Other themed levels include having to deal with a Circus or Capture Kong in each seventh level that will try to prevent you from getting to the door while the eighth and final level of each Attraction has one Mini carrying a key that will have to get to the exit door first to unlock the door and help you exit the stage. Once you’ve beaten all eight levels, you’ll gain access to a boss fight with that dastardly Donkey Kong.
These fights play out in vertical levels similar to the old style Donkey Kong fights you’re used to. Just like in the main stages of the game, you’ll have to guide your minis up to Donkey Kong and have them climb ladders, walls, or whatever three times to put him down for the count. As you’re trying to do that, Donkey will drop barrels or enemies to try and take out your Minis in one fell swoop. Even worse, when this monkey gets really mad, he can destroy positions on the map where you can place bolts, limiting where your Minis can walk. It can get a little frustrating at times after collecting both the level card and token only to be forced to wait things out as you can’t create the right path to defeat Donkey Kong.
Once you have taken down the ape, you’ll both unlock that Attraction’s stage parts to use in the game’s construction mode and be sent off to the next Attraction, but you can quickly go back and play the previous Attraction’s minigame if you’ve collected all of the nine cards along the way. These minigames are nothing more than trying to drop specific Minis into their own color-coordinated boxes or ones that have point multipliers depending on which setup the game gives you. Either way, you’ll have to make sure to avoid the dark boxes that will take points away from you. Beat the high score, and you’ll earn yourself three more Mario tokens.
I mentioned that there were bonus levels in the game, and yes, these ones are much more difficult than most of what the main game has to offer. The Mario tokens will unlock the twenty levels that the special world has to offer. These areas are unique in that you don’t get a chance to survey your surroundings before starting. Once you tap the screen to go, all of the Minis in the level will start up on their own. To say things get a bit hectic here would be an understatement. Moreover, collecting enough trophies will give you a chance to play the extra levels. These ten stages are huge in length compared to what you’ll deal with in the main story, and even to this point, I have yet to complete all of them.
The content doesn’t stop there, either, as the game has a harder difficulty setting once you’ve completed it in Plus mode. While the levels are the same in layout, you’ll be given different Minis other than Mario to play around with again. The catch is that you now have to get the Minis to the exit door or doors in a specific order. I found this part of the game to be much more fun than the main mode as it required some ingenuity at times to get everyone to the exit in the proper order. If you’re one that thinks the game is too easy, trust me when I say that this mode will give you the challenge you were looking for. If you’re on the other side of the fence and are struggling too much with it, then that’s all right, too. Borrowing the idea from New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Mini Guides will become available if a stage is giving you too much trouble. While I chose not to use them in my run through the game, it’s nice to see that the option is there for those that can’t figure out that one stage.
So there you have it. Add up the boss and minigame levels along with Plus mode, and you’re looking at 222 stages this game has to offer. The construction mode gives creative minds the chance to make and upload their own levels online, but I more than had my fill with the game itself. Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem offers a surprisingly deep amount of content once you get through its easy initial offerings to create a title that I eventually warmed up to more and more throughout my time with it. If you're one of the players out there craving a challenge, you might get a little bit bothered by having to work your way through nearly half of the whole package to get there, but the end result is a somewhat thrilling ride that can be enjoyed by all ages.