You know that scene in the Super Mario Bros Movie where Donkey Kong kicks Mario’s butt? Yeah, that wasn’t just made up for the movie. Both characters have had beef for a long time. A long, long time. Back in my 80’s childhood upbringing, when I knew Mario before he was Mario™, taking on Donkey Kong before he had a Country, in the arcade classic Donkey Kong. You at least remember that, right? God, I’m old.
Anyway, Mario vs Donkey Kong is itself a spiritual continuation of that rivalry, where the banana loving ape steals a bunch of mini Mario robotic toys in anger and hides them away amongst a collection of puzzle-solving levels. Originally released on the Game Boy Advance in 2004, the Mario vs Donkey Kong series has had numerous sequels since, but this upcoming remake shines the original up for Switch owners and adds a few extra layers on top for good measure.
Get the key back to the door to progress
Each of the main levels of Mario’s puzzle-platforming sees the former plumber traversing colourful platforms to, at first. Find a key to unlock a door, then slip past traps and enemies to retrieve a Mini Mario toy. Once all the Mini Mario’s of a world have been collected, you take on Donkey Kong himself. Rinse and repeat, though with each world comes a plethora of added obstacles to overcome.
If you’re coming across this as someone who hasn’t played the series prior, there’s a few things to keep in mind. Mario, for one, isn’t as nimble as his usual platforming self. He’s a tad slower and more methodical in his movements here, and you won’t find the usual assortment of power-ups either. Especially nothing that transforms you into an elephant. What you will find are hammers that can take out familiar Mushroom Kingdom enemies, along with an assortment of other abilities and items that can aid Mario along the way.
There are plenty of levels per world, each with a fun theme
As is Nintendo tradition, the first few worlds slowly ramp up the difficulty curve until even veteran players such as I must tread carefully. Luckily, this up-to-date edition also includes a new casual game mode for the younger crowd that drops Mario into a bubble and back to a checkpoint if he makes a wrong move, making things a little easier if it’s a bit too much to navigate.
So far, my early hands-on time has been an enjoyable ride. There’s a nice, modern visual polish to proceedings, with Mario and DK’s puzzling world vibrant and inviting for all walks of life. The early levels flew by, but once things start ramping up in later worlds, my inner child wiggled its way out again. It’s all wonderfully backed by a Jazz inspired soundtrack and, if I’m not mistaken, Charles Martinet as the voice of Mario for one last time, so there’s plenty to look forward to for those seeking a new experience on your Switch to start off the year.
You can look forward to our full review when Mario vs Donkey Kong releases on Nintendo Switch February 16.
Previewed on Switch // Preview code supplied by publisher