The original rivalry has been revived and it’s up to the player to help Mario save Pauline from the clutches of Donkey Kong once again. The mustachioed plumber usually has played the role of the hero in the past and once again takes the spotlight with his army of mini-Marios. In my case, I’d rather play the role of Donkey Kong snatching the damsel away and keeping Mario away, but alas, that isn’t what is offered in Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem.
What Mini-Land Mayhem does well is continue to introduce new puzzle-solving elements in succession throughout the stages. Starting out with the red girders and eventually learning how to implement blue ladders, the obstacles are often easy to solve and overcome. At the very least, they are satisfying, so figuring out that one green pipe needed to be deactivated while another needed to be active for mini-Toad to reach his exit door was a worthwhile experience.
In total, there are eight levels with eight levels within them before a boss battle (against Donkey Kong, of course) is met. Each level has collectibles such as letters that spell out mini-Mario to unlock a mini-game, gold coins, and a few useable items such as hammers to hit Circus Kong (toy Donkey Kong) and other gorilla robots out of the way. Once the Normal Mode is complete and Donkey Kong is defeated at the top of an observation wheel, the Plus Mode is unlocked and players will play through the same levels again but this time they must have the mini-characters (Mario, Toad, Pauline, Donkey Kong, Princess Peach) enter the exit door in the correct order.
It’s safe to say that Mini-Land Mayhem has replay value in surplus. Special and Expert Levels can be unlocked with 10 more stages each to play and players are eligible to create their own levels through Construction Mode. The Normal Mode takes anywhere from 4-5 hours to complete depending on the skill level of the player, but it’s nowhere near as challenging as the Plus Mode or the Special and Expert Levels. It’s required to earn trophies to unlock the Expert Levels and to earn the trophies, players earn points in each stage based on the game score, time bonus and collection bonus. If players reach the goal score, they’ll earn themselves a trophy. Simple, but it’ll take a good 10 hours to earn all the trophies.
Thankfully, the controls are intuitive due to how basic they are. Tap a mini-Mario to kick-start him on his path towards the exit, drag a line between two red rivets to create a red girder or two blue rivets for a blue ladder. There’s nothing too complicated that mucks up the overall experience, but then again, it never goes above and beyond conventional puzzle standards to stand out. Want a purple conveyor to go in a different direction? Tap the arrow and, voila, it’s done. Need to clear the path of a shy guy that stands in the way? Grab the hammer and get a whacking.
The most attractive feature of Mini-Land Mayhem happens to be the online sharing of levels. The single-player campaign does a serviceable job, but the online is where the game exceeds expectations. While it does take some time to understand what’s possible and what isn’t, the Construction Zone elevates the title to a worthy recommendation for players who want to try out their hand at creating levels. Players are eligible to save up to 160 levels to their game card, so Nintendo has provided a great chance to share expertly crafted levels with friends.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem is a quality puzzler, especially when considering the lackluster year the genre is having. The more challenging aspects take a bit to get to, but when players do reach the Plus Mode and Special Levels, it’s worth every second.