It’s impossible not to smile when you listen to Charles Martinet giving voice to Mario between jumps, bounces and falls. It was 20 years ago, when it was released Mario vs. Donkey Kong on Game Boy Advance, and it remains so on Switch with an updated, expanded revision and with extra care. A delicious remake that, as I tell you, preserves all the charm of the classic platformer and takes it further. Because when a game is good it is good forever, but that doesn’t stop it from being even better. And why not? Even more fun.
If you played Mario vs. Donkey Kong I have the best news for you: everything is in its place. Nintendo repeats a winning move very similar to the one we saw in 2023 with Advance Wars or Super Mario RPG, giving its appearance and gameplay a review while taking the opportunity to add more content and features that make the difference. Combining the legacy of the first Mario and DK games with the most recent ones. And if you haven’t played it, I’ll warn you: this game is very addictive. It’s quite an obsession, but always in the best of ways.
Because the way in which the saga Mario vs. Donkey Kong reinvents platform games is a genius: Mario jumps, uses objects, does tricks and climbs as he did in his debut in the original Donkey Kong, but the big difference is that each level is solved like a puzzle. And that is a genius that never goes out of style. Above all, when new playable elements are added that did not exist in the 2004 game and that round out the value of a series that has taken too long to return, but does so in an impeccable manner.
In the end, we cannot forget that almost ten years have passed since the last installment of Mario vs. Donkey Kong. The remake that we have before us today is the definitive revalidation of the original game. Not in any way, mind you, but with that special touch that the Big N has when remaking the best of its legacy. Taking even more into account those who are not as skilled with the crosshairs and buttons, but want to have a good time.
Why make a remake of the Game Boy Advance game when you can rescue the classic through the Switch Online Service? At VidaExtra we have been able to play at length with the new Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2024 and the successes soon appear: the reborn rivalry between the superstar and the monkey with a tie has never suited a Nintendo console so well. Both on a laptop and when playing with someone sharing a sofa and Joy-Con.
The playable premise of Mario vs. Donkey Kong is summed up in record time: in each phase there is a huge golden key and a door, so the general idea is to open the second with the first. However, to achieve this we will have to solve a scenario with platforms, switches, traps and stairs. There are also enemies, and some are placed with a certain mischief, but even if you fail you will always know that it was because you did not think carefully about what you were doing. Because in this game, skill with the buttons helps, but ingenuity is what makes the difference.
Instead of the classic formula that consists of crossing a stage from one end to the other, the new Mario vs. Donkey Kong goes for more compact levels that are resolved in a non-linear way: you will have to undo your steps, activate and deactivate platforms, dodge laser beams and, if everything goes well, rescue some hilarious Mini-Marios. Because those special toys are the reason why good Mario got into this mess.
Nintendo devotes very little space to the context of the game and it does well: instead of world maps and an elaborate story, it focuses on making it easier for us to progress with simple menus and levels designed so that we stop to see how everything works and what it is the most effective way to proceed. Promoting that we do experiments before the timer runs out and ultimately rewarding skill, ingenuity and creativity.
Once we advance, our double objective will be to rescue the Mini Mario toy that awaits us at the end of each level and, as far as possible, recover three colored gifts distributed so that we can squeeze out all the possibilities of each screen. We can choose to go directly to the door or to the wind-up doll, but if we want to get the most out of the game we will have to see how and in what way to get to that point that seemed almost inaccessible two attempts ago. But never impossible.
What does DK have to do with all this? By solving the six levels that each World consists of, we will have a challenge that we will solve together with the Mini-Marios – who will follow us like chicks – and, finally, we will face Mario’s first adversary face to face, putting the dynamics to the test learned from each scenario. Recovering the arcade spirit that Nintendo had before its jump to consoles with the Donkey Kong original or the mythical Mario Bros. from 1983. One that suits Switch wonderfully, all things considered.
To be fair, all of the above was already present two decades ago in the Game Boy Advance game, and it goes without saying that Nintendo has given the classic a complete overhaul so that it looks and feels with controls like a current game. However, it has also been used to expand content and add new features that round out the original at all levels. Including a new and always welcome multiplayer.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong is a remake that fully retains the original gameplay: the sensation when moving Mario, controller in hand, is very different from the Super Mario Bros. Wonder and its rhythm too. This is due to something as simple as the way to solve each scenario is different and requires more observation and interaction with the environment than anything else, but even in those, Nintendo knows how to adapt through this new version to all player profiles. Including those who are not so gamers.
Don’t get me wrong: if we want to advance in the most complicated and advanced levels, sooner or later we will have to master the double jump while doing a handstand. The success of Mario vs. Donkey Kong is how it proactively teaches us when and how to use it the first time and, from that moment on, it lets us use it freely. Without giving us clues about when it is best to use these types of techniques, but encouraging us, based on trial and error and exceptional gameplay, to constantly perform pirouettes to advance or avoid dangers.
The key to this initiative, and the greatness of this game, lies in a deliciously calculated difficulty curve in which no one is ever left behind. That knows how to provide acrobatic challenges through collectibles, but that at no time puts barriers to those who simply come to solve each phase as if it were a puzzle. Promoting that we enjoy the game sip by sip and, if we wish, in company.
To begin with, Nintendo has created a new game style called Relaxed in which there is no timer and, instead of having to start over if we take damage, we will return to a pennant in a bubble. Giving us several attempts if necessary.
But, in addition, a two player cooperative mode. One plays Mario and the other plays Toad, so it is possible to divide the tasks. However, to complete each level both must open the door with their respective keys.
However, the greatest incentive for those who were already in love with the original game (and plan to play it exactly the same as on the Game Boy Advance) is two new worlds created for the occasion with its own game dynamics, elements and, of course, final clashes with DK.
The news of the new Mario vs. Donkey Kong They don’t stay here, for the record. For now, it is enough to say that we will have fun for a while and more than enough challenges with New World+ variants for each of the worlds. Progressively raising both the level of challenge for those who want it, and the level of genuine fun for everyone.
Remember these words: When a game is good, it is good forever. Mario vs. Donkey Kong It is the umpteenth proof that Nintendo’s works are born to be enjoyed today, tomorrow and two decades from now. Sometimes you need to give them a little push here and there, and it never hurts to give them a more attractive appearance, but excellence prevails and prevails. And its fun, as always, is exquisitely timeless.
How much of a platform game and how much of a puzzle is there in Mario vs. Donkey Kong? It can be said that the way the game is planned, its levels are the total combination of both concepts without giving up one iota to the other. Preserving the best of each way of playing. The good thing is that, even in those, Nintendo always knows how to give prominence and options to whoever holds the controller so that they can investigate, try or dare to do different things if nothing works for them. Either by jumping or activating switches in a different order.
Giving you room to experiment and, if none of the above works, new solutions created for the occasion that go through a couple of adjustments by choosing the relaxed style or adding a second player to the experience. So it is not only an update of the content that we already liked, but also a sensational opportunity to discover a classic that the passage of time has done extremely well.
Our first contact with Mario vs. Donkey Kong It has left us with great feelings with a view to our final analysis. There we will have to address what we have left in the pipeline and the contents as a whole. However, we already told you that this return to the sensations of the classic Marios, the more arcade-like ones, suits Nintendo Switch wonderfully and will dazzle fans of the character.
In any case, the launch of Mario vs. Donkey Kong is not that far away: the rivalry between Nintendo’s superstar and its first icon will be reborn on February 16, 2024, two days after Valentine’s Day, which, in a way, has its logic: it is a love letter to Game Boy Advance game with enough improvements and new features to dazzle Mario fans and those who have always enjoyed the old Big N games.
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