Title: Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis On the Move
System(s): Nintendo 3DS
Release Date: May 9, 2013
Publisher (Developer): Nintendo (Nintendo Software Technology)
ESRB Rating: E (mild fantasy violence)
Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis On the Move is an iOS game. That’s how I’m framing this review, because I think that’s the only fair way to evaluate it. Available only as a digital download through the Nintendo eShop, and priced accordingly at $9.99, this new puzzle game in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series is one of the best values available for the Nintendo 3DS.
My most recent exposure with this series was Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-land Mayhem for the Nintendo DS. I bought that for my daughter, but ended up playing it more than she did. You tend to expect that kind of appeal from Nintendo titles, and Minis On the Move is no different. I used the review code Nintendo provided us to install it on my 3DS XL, and suddenly found myself negotiating for game time with my son, whose 3DS was now requiring far less charging time than my system.
They’re Mini, and They’re Moving
There are four puzzle styles in Minis On the Move, all of which center around that Pipe Mania style of gameplay (which I knew as Locomotion well before Pipe Mania was a thing). You start with one more Nintendo characters in a pipe (Mario, DK, Paulina, etc.), and you have to get him/her/them to the star without succumbing to myriad obstacles in the way: spikes, empty squares, time, and so on.
Once your minis are in motion, there’s no stopping them; you can only direct their path as they move along. To add to the challenge, there will be three coins to pick up along the way. You don’t have to collect them all to unlock the next round of levels, but you know you’ll want to get them all, anyway.
Variation comes in the method of tile delivery. In Mario’s Main Event, titles are delivered Tetris style, so the game relies on luck as much as strategy. My favorite game is Puzzle Palace, which presents you with the puzzle and all the necessary puzzle pieces up front. There’s no time limit, you just have to figure out what goes where and then drag the pieces to proper place. In Many Mini Mayhem (pictured above), all the tiles are already placed on the board, but you have to rotate them to guide multiple minis to their destination, using various objects to your advantage while avoiding obstacles.
And finally, there’s Giant Jungle, which are huge puzzles in the Mario’s Main Event style.
These are quite difficult and would be a blast to play through if they didn’t rely on the luck of the draw with the random tiles. There’s nothing like spending a lot of time on a puzzle only to have it fail towards the end because you didn’t get the direction tile you need to quell a game’s addictive qualities.
Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis On the Move also comes with four mini games: Mini Target Smash (launch minis at targets to destroy them), Fly Guy Grab (launch minis at Fly Guys and reel them in), Cube Crash (launch minis at sets of blocks to destroy them) and Elevation Station (raise and lower a platform to collect coins and avoid bullets). None of them are great, but all of them are pretty fun, and they make for a good diversion from the main gameplay.
Plus, they remind you of the fact that you’ve got a 3D system; not only is the 3D useless in the main Minis On the Move games, but so is the entire top screen.
Collecting Minis, and Keeping Them Clean
Aside from unlocking levels and new mini game variations, your progress throughout the game adds additional minis to your Toy Collection. I’m not sure why this continues to work, but knowing you’re just a few stars away from unlocking a new “toy” always provided incentive to keep playing. Who will it be? And will my other toys need cleaning when I find out? Because, yes, your collected toys get dirty and look sad, and you have to clean them with your stylus to make them all bouncy and shiny again. After my son would become frustrated with the later levels, he’d give the game to me to complete…but I always had to let him open the new toy and clean it up.
I wish he cared that much about his own toys.
Minis On the Move, Apps in the eShop
I mentioned earlier that this is Nintendo’s equivalent of a very well made iOS app. The benefit here, though, is that you get a lot of gameplay and some decent variation for only $10.00. In the App Store, the first ten levels would be free, and you’d have to pay to unlock the other levels. Then pay to unlock the mini games. Then pay to buy more stars to unlock the toys. I hope Nintendo sticks with this method gameplay delivery as they increase the number of cheaper games available through the eShop.
Minis Keep On Keepin’ On
I didn’t like the gameplay of Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis On the Move as much as I liked Mini-land Mayhem, but I can’t deny that this is the better value, especially considering the ability to create your own levels. Because yes, Minis On the Move comes with a level editor so you can build puzzles to share with the Nintendo community. And since the system rates those that get more gameplay, it’s easy to find the ones that will provide the best challenge, thereby making Minis On the Move a fun game to return to well after you’ve completed the initial 180+ built-in levels.
In other words, the minis will keep on moving, and that makes Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis On the Move a great game to play between rounds of bigger games or when you just need to kill a few minutes on the bus or while waiting for your Chinese takeout to be ready.
You know…just like an iOS game.