Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move is the fifth installment in Nintendo Software Technology’s Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, which in itself is the spiritual successor to the original Donkey Kong franchise. Minis on the Move, however, is very different from its predecessors in concept and execution; regardless, it remains to be one of the best games on the 3DS Nintendo eShop.
While the original Mario vs. Donkey Kong games were 2D puzzle games, Mario and Donkey Kong is different entirely. Reminiscent of the hacking segments in the original Bioshock, the game consists of a flat checkered board in which you have to get the automatically walking mini Mario robots called the Minis (though there are four other characters to play as) from one side of the stage to the other by laying down blocks that set a path. Outside of paths that make your character go in a curved or straight direction, there are also hazards to avoid (like spikes), Shy Guys to watch out for (and classic Donkey Kong hammers to destroy them), special mini-stages that give time bonuses, and more.
Completing a level isn’t generally too difficult, but the level becomes harder as you attempt to perfect each stage by collecting one of three different-colored medallions that require more complicated strategy to obtain than simply going from one end of a stage to another. However, perfecting stages pays off, as doing so grants stars that unlock 3D models to look at as well as other things like new minigame modes.
Throughout the over 180 stages in Minis on the Move, the puzzle gameplay is separated into four main modes: Mario’s Main Event, Puzzle Palace, Many Mini Mayhem and Giant Jungle. Mario’s Main Event is the pure gameplay in which you simply attempt to collect the medallions while going from beginning to end, and grants you an arsenal of directional blocks to use that spawn randomly; Puzzle Palace is the Princess Peach-oriented set of stages that are rather similar to the Mario stages, but differ in that you are given a specific, never-changing group of blocks to use that you use to complete the stage and/or perfect it; Many Mini Mayhem is also similar to Mario’s Main Event, but the formula is played with and made more difficult thanks to having to worry about multiple Minis at one time instead of just one; Lastly, Giant Jungle consists of massive multi-screen stages that require constant resource management, planning, and patience.
The things I love in this game are the same things I love in all good puzzle games. Although the game can get tough as nails if you get deep enough, the mechanics are so fun and easy to learn that the game can provide difficulty that is still accessible to everyone. On top of that, the array of content is so expansive that one can easily drop 10 hours into the game if he or she is sucked in by the mechanics.
Mini Target Smash is a game in which you smash targets by firing Mini Marios from a slingshot handled on the bottom touch screen. The more accurate you hit a target and the more valuable a target you hit, the more points you get.
Fly Guy Grab is a variation on Mini Target Smash that tasks you with using similar slingshot mechanics to fish in Fly Guys in the sky for points.
Cube Crash offers multicolored blocks that are broken by Mini Marios, again for points, with bonuses granted by the number of blocks hit at a time and the items you collect.
Elevation Station is a more clever game in which you try to collect coins by elevating Mini Mario through rotating the stylus on the touch screen while being sure to watch out for bullet bills.
The games are in no way deep or complex, but they are fun little diversions that offer something different from the usual puzzle gameplay. I particularly like that more complex versions of each minigame unlock as you earn more stars.
The last notable feature of the game is the returning creation and sharing features of the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series. The game offers every single tool available to build any kind of stage you want while making the building process rather easy, as well as 100 slots to save your creations. Even more appealing, the game provides the ability to upload and download stages from the internet, with the ability to sort stages by popularity. It’s hard to say what impact this can have now, but if people get into the game well enough, it will be great to have new, high quality stages to download at a moment’s notice.
One final thing I want to note is that the game looks really good on 3DS. The Minis have a sheen to them, and the mechanical stages that you manipulate on the bottom screen come to life on the top screen with really strong 3D. The soundtrack, while limited, also offers a type of appeal through several quirky Mario tune remixes, including a really fun one of one of the better songs in Super Mario Bros. 2.
Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move represents only the latest really excellent game on eShop. Standing alongside the likes of HarmoKnight and Crashmo, Minis on the Move offers a ton of really polished content at a reasonable price. What more could you want?