Available on: GBA
In 1981, Shigeru Miyamoto created an arcade game by the name of Donkey Kong. This immensely popular coin-operated game spawned two iconic characters who would go their separate ways after Donkey Kong Jr. - Donkey Kong became the face of his own Donkey Kong Country subseries, and Mario... well, Mario continued to rule the video game business for the next 20 years. At the E3 convention in 2002, Nintendo presented Donkey Kong Plus, a remake of Donkey Kong which was based on user-generated content. The concept of the game was scrapped soon after in perfect silence, but the mere idea of pitting the original arch rivals against each other decades after their debut was too grand for Nintendo to just let slip from their minds. In 2004, the idea became reality in a unique puzzle game named Mario vs. Donkey Kong.
"No you don't! ...NO YOU DON'T!"
Charles Martinet : Mario
Donkey Kong is mesmerized by a TV commercial about the Mini Mario line of toys, and rushes to get a Mini Mario of his own, only to find they're sold out. He breaks into the toy factory and steals all the Minis, and Mario takes it upon himself to capture the crazed, thieving gorilla.
|March of the Minis, even before the sequel.|
The graphics are great. There's very slight animation in the cutscenes and they look kind of stiff, more like comic book cutouts, but the clever use of sound makes them work. We witness the return of ACM technology, however it only applies to the sprites, the stationary elements of the environment are completely flat. It doesn't always mix that great, but most of the time I have no complaints about the graphical side of the game. While Donkey Kong's brief grunts are recycled from some earlier game - I'm not sure which since I've missed out on every DK game since Donkey Kong Country 3, so far - Charles Martinet recorded new voiceovers for this game, and it's absolutely hilarious work. During gameplay, especially the most frustrating moments, he starts to sound just as annoying as in Super Mario Advance, but for example, the opening cutscene totally cracked me up for many reasons, including Martinet's final "Mamma Mia" rant, and the "No you don't!" bit. The music's very good, composer Lawrence Schwedler does his best Wise/Beanland imitation, and it works. Some classic Donkey Kong tunes have been thrown in as well - slightly remixed, of course.
|The ghosts of Shyguys past.|
Well, I still didn't get to the gameplay. The game is a mixture of a regular Mario platformer, the original Donkey Kong and an action-oriented puzzle, like Adventures of Lolo. That was actually a quite good point I made there, since like in Eggerland games, your mission in every standard stage is to solve puzzles to be able to progress and find a key, and with it, make it to the next phase, in which the key and door are replaced by a Mini Mario toy. Solving the puzzles in theory isn't too hard in itself, that's why there are literally tons of enemies and obstacles, presents which unlock a bonus challenge in the end of each stage as well as parts of the + game, and an occasionally very unforgiving time limit to provide some extra motivation. The hammer from the original Donkey Kong returns, accompanied by the classic "hammer time" tune, and it works on most enemies as long as its available. Each stage begins with a tutorial on how to deal with an obstacle or stipulation introduced in the following stage for the first time, and there are also many Help? blocks in the beginning to teach you some advanced techniques. This ensures comfortable play... for a while, at least. I won't even begin to go over all the different dangers or stepping stones on your path, there are way too many of them, but I have to mention a few... on a negative note.
|Probably the most annoying boss fight in|
the game. Bob-ombs equal doom.
If you get all three presents in each stage, you'll be granted a bonus chance in which you can win up to five extra lives. This challenge varies between a normal "stop the arrow" game and a swapping game in which you have to switch presents under Donkey Kong's crushing fist, until the last present remaining is the one you want.
|The handstand's a cool manouver. It even|
defends Mario from all kind of falling crap.
...In the boss fights, in which each saved Mini becomes a health point. The boss fights against Donkey Kong are nothing short of epic, and counting out a couple of exceptions, these boss fights might be my favourite parts of the game - especially the last fight of the normal round, since it's so deliciously nostalgic. All of the boss fights are unique, but the basic idea is to use all resources available to damage Donkey Kong four times - by throwing enemies at him in the genuine Super Mario Bros. 2 fashion, dropping stuff on him, or simply by using quick action to turn his own artillery against him before he can even realize what hit him.
|It's not quite wise to laugh at an already|
pissed off gorilla...
Like I said, a while into the game I was ready to start off the review on an extremely high note, and I did, but I was also ready to end the review with a note just as high. Mario vs. Donkey Kong could've been a brilliant, unique puzzle game with incredible physics - instead it turned out a very good, still unique puzzle-based platformer with great theoretical physics, but not the seamless and all the way comfortable control to back them up. Just imagine what would've happened in any old Mario game if Mario, for some reason, refused to jump at any point when you wanted him to. In this game his occasional and seemingly random incompetence screams bloody murder.
Graphics : 8.7
Sound : 8.9
Playability : 7.9
Challenge : 9.5
Overall : 8.2
a.k.a. Donkey Kong Plus