Available on: GB, GBA, NES, Virtual Console
At Mario Mania’s highest peak, Mario began to make more and more appearances in something completely other than platform games. The quality of these spin-offs varied, but they kept the franchise alive and constant. In 1990, at the same time Super Mario Bros. 3 was released in North America, Mario got his first, much debated puzzle game – Dr. Mario.
Hernia, mamma mia!
In this game, Mario portrays a doctor assigned to the test the effects of different medicines on different viruses concealed in a ridiculously large test bottle. Dr. Mario is not the worst looking puzzle game, but the viral sprites are so damn small and the capsules move so damn fast it’s really hard to maintain focus on the game. The music, which is comprised of a total of two songs, is horrible. Luckily you have the always welcome option of switching it off completely. You’ll still have to bear the awful sound effects, but the music’s definitely the greater of two evils.
The basic idea is to manouver the medicine capsules Mario throws into the bottle and kill the viruses by lining the multi-coloured capsules up into lines comprised of four halves of the same colour, including the virus itself. If the bug’s colour corresponds to the rest of the line, it’ll vanish, which means you’re getting somewhere. The idea’s very simple, then, but you wouldn’t believe how hard the game gets, and I’ll tell you why.
Actually, what makes the game even harder is that it’s definitely not for the colour blind. I have witnessed that myself since my older brother is colour blind. Even those who aren’t plagued by this very annoying handicap, will have trouble concentrating on the colours and shapes of the tiny viruses, the general speed and dangerous quirks of gameplay, all at the same time. Even while there are many flaws, I have to admit in the game’s defense that once you start playing it for real, you can’t help getting hooked on it. You’ll find yourself attempting a problematic stage over and over again until you beat it. Once again, the game gets ridiculously hard after a short while, if it’s not just me and my inexplicable incompetence and frankly, general uninterest in most traditional puzzle games. However, it’s for certain that there really are huge problems in gameplay, there’s no way around it.
Dr. Mario is an overrated puzzle game, which is fun to play from time to time but the original version is simply exhausting to play and look at, and it has problems concerning the player’s control over what he’s doing and what effect it actually has. Once again it might be just me, but I’m writing this review, so I guess it’s my right to say the game is ridiculously difficult. I wonder... would the game be praised as much as it is if it was part of some other franchise?
Graphics : 6.5
Sound : 4.4
Playability : 6.9
Challenge : 8.3
Overall : 7.0
GameRankings: 74.83% (GB), 68.54% (GBA)
Nintendo Power ranks Dr. Mario #134 on their list of the Top 200 Nintendo Games of All Time.
The game has seen many official re-releases and remakes for Nintendo’s later-generation systems (sometimes as a game within a game), all the way from the SNES to the Wii.
The concept of Dr. Mario is patented in the U.S.