The Minis Came Marching In...

User Rating: 8.6 | Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis DS
It’s funny how some games you may have never given more than a passing interest to previously can become some of your ultimate favorites. It happened to me with Animal Crossing: Wild World, a game I’d heard was good but thought would be more something my wife would enjoy; it happened to me again recently with Star Fox Command, a game that, when announced, I knew would undoubtedly be anticipated by fans of the series but was of little interest to me at the time; and now it’s happened once more with March of the Minis. I never foresaw any of these games ending up in my DS library, but they now each rank among my top favorite titles of all time. So, let’s talk Minis…

Story: It was a dark and stormy evening…wait, wrong story. Oh yeah, that’s right…okay: Mario and Donkey Kong (DK) seem to have partnered up to create a toy company. However, DK has one of those “head-over-heels” moments for a lovely lady named Pauline (the gal from the original Donkey Kong game, circa…well, from a long time ago – when I was a kid), who is the guest of honor at the unveiling of a new theme park based on their toy company. When both Mario and DK offer a toy to Pauline as a gesture of affection, Pauline chooses the one from Mario. DK’s feelings quickly turn to rejection, and the giant ape becomes unraveled. He grabs the damsel and heads for the elevator…Mario, unable to stop him in time, sends his team of tiny heroes in to save the girl. And so the minis came marching in…

Gameplay: March of the Minis (MotM) plays much as its name implies: you control various minis – usually between 2-5 (sometimes as many as 8) at a time – using the stylus, and it’s your job to successfully lead them through any number of perils to the exit of each room. There are 9 rooms per floor; and 8 floors in the game, plus extras. Keeping track of the minis is not as difficult as it might seem, but of course that’s only if you want to get to the exit without any fuss. There are, however, bonuses awarded for keeping the minis moving without manually stopping them, getting all the minis to the exit without any casualties, and leading them all into the exit in a timed chain, i.e. each exiting within 2-3 seconds of each other, as well as other bonuses. Upon completion of a room your points are tallied, and depending on how well you’ve done stars are awarded – bronze, silver, and gold… You never know what secrets you’ll unlock by racking up those stars.

There are quite a few other variables to experience and consider throughout the game, but for all intents and purposes MotM is an action puzzler. However, it’s quite different in nature than something like Tetris or some other popular DS puzzle games. In Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2 you’ll be hopping along springs, riding upon the heads of shy guys, and even wall jumping – yeah that’s right – wall jumping! Though you don’t have the same kind of direct control over the minis as you might with Mario in one of his typical platformers, there are tons of great platforming elements that set this game apart from pretty much anything you’ve probably played before.

But even with all the juiciness contained within the story mode, it’s not what I would consider the main focus of the game. By now, probably everyone who’s interested in MotM has heard about its level editor, and it’s in this area of the game where you’ll likely spend most of your time noodling. With 8 floors to pass in the story mode, there are 8 level-editing kits to unlock; plus another 3 special kits obtained by successful completion of a certain number of mini games (also unlocked via the story mode). Each kit offers a good variety of room-design options that are easy to use and will allow you to have your creations up and ready for testing in no time. Once you’ve got a room designed that you think is fit for consumption, there’s no reason to keep it all for yourself. Log on to the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection and share your works of art with friends. With so many folks worldwide involved in the creative process, players are ensured a never-ending amount of replay value.

Sound: In my own reading of reviews for the game I’ve come across varying opinions about its sound and music, but to me MotM offers a perfect mix of cute sound effects and light-hearted music that fit the overall package extremely well. The minis make some truly adorable sounds, and you will fall in love with them partly because of that. Most of the musical themes are familiar to my ears, but they are fresh renditions that come across incredibly well on the DS’ speakers.

Graphics: Everything works very well in this department, and that’s really nothing new for a Mario game. Nintendo usually pays special care to all the minute details of games within the franchise, and this one, at the very least, keeps with that tradition. It’s a really fun and cute game to look at; the perspective of all the backgrounds move around as your minis do (or perhaps more accurately, as you move the map view around); and the minis themselves are nicely designed and detailed. Everything animates flawlessly – there are no burps whatsoever that I’ve encountered.

Presentation: Perhaps the one thing about Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis that really just jumps out at you from the onset is the game’s presentation. All the menu tabs and screens are a perfect fit with the overall feel of the game, and everything is easily accessible. Additionally, as you progress through the story mode there are tutorials added to the Help menu which acquaint you – using animated examples of gameplay – with the various new elements that pop up throughout. The instruction manual too, like those included with most Nintendo games, is a great, colorful guide to all the ins and outs of the title. My only gripe would be to say that there could have perhaps been a little more instruction offered for the level editor; there are some items I’ve still yet to utilize because I can’t quite figure out how to properly incorporate them. However, overall the game’s presentation really stands out among the growing selection of DS titles. Nintendo even had the vision to include a downloadable demo of the game that players can share with their friends via local, single-card wireless connection. It’s a particularly nice touch (of enlightened self interest) that should be, in my opinion, part of every single DS title released.

Should you buy March of the Minis? Well, I usually never respond to threads that ask those types of questions. If I did though, I’d probably say something to the effect of, “what are you in the mood for.” If you’re in the mood for a really excellent action / puzzle game, then I highly recommend this one. I think it’s a worthy addition to any and every DS collection.

Thanks for reading, and happy gaming!

The Breakdown

Presentation / 9
The most professional, comprehensive and easy-to-use gaming package for the DS I’ve come across thus far. A little more info on how to use the various items in the level editor would have been nice, but otherwise this game offers a near-flawless presentation.

Graphics / 8
Perhaps not the most innovative we’ve seen on the system, but definitely some very good use of the system. Everything works wonderfully to express the overall theme of the game.

Sound / 9
New does not always mean good, and it’s nice to hear fresh renditions of old platforming favorites. Sound effects are all really well integrated, and the output on the DS speakers is surprisingly pristine.

Gameplay / 8.5
Good clean fun. For the system that it’s on, March of the Minis really understands the meaning of “pick up and play.” Levels are fun to traverse, and perhaps even more fun to create.

Replay Value / 9
The addition of a fairly deep level editor made up of a healthy selection of kits is an inspired element that I hope to see more of in future DS titles. Exchanging level creations with friends, either locally or via the Nintendo WFC, promises a very healthy amount of replay value for this game.

Overall: 9 (Crème de la Crème!)