Platform: Game Boy Advance
Developed by Nintendo STC
Published by Nintendo
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Mario vs. Donkey Kong is a Game Boy Advance title that was released in 2004 and it showcases the large rivalry between Donkey Kong and Mario. A lot of fans think that this game is the successor of the Donkey Kong title that was released back in 1994 for the Game Boy. The large popularity acquired by the title lead to the release of a sequel named Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis that was released in 2006.
Overall, the game keeps the same popular aspect of the platforming genre that we can see in all Mario games, but it also includes numerous puzzles that need to be solved in order to proceed. Sometimes you will have to help Mario find keys scattered all over the game world, rescue mini Mario's and find bosses.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong places you into the shoes of Mario who is trying to reach Donkey Kong. The latter has stolen numerous Mini-Mario toys and Mario is set to bring Donkey Kong down and save the toys. There are numerous twists and turns in the overall game story, and the game explains that pretty well thanks to the numerous cutscenes that are added between levels.
Mario pursues Donkey Kong up his many platforms, with grim determination.
The puzzle elements in Mario vs. Donkey Kong are cleverly designed as they always tend to test your agility. The most popular puzzle type is the locked door puzzle where Mario needs to find a key in order to open these doors. These usually contain toys stolen by Donkey Kong. Another puzzle comes into the form of guiding the Mario toys to a box located further in the level, while trying to protect them from harm. Then you also get the Plus level where you need to find a mini-Mario that holds the key to the end of the level. Of course, you also get an expert type of level which is similar to the first one, but the overall difficulty of the game is ramped up tremendously.
The main objective of the level is to get the Mini-Marios, but you will also have to interact with the game world through switches and other options, something that brings a lot of life into the game.
One of the major differences when compared to other titles in the series is that when hit, Mario loses a life when he takes even a single hit, so the game overall is quite challenging. He can also lose a life from a long jump or when he gets squished.
In order to ramp up the gameplay, Mario vs. Donkey Kong comes with a time limit for each level, which definitely makes the whole experience a lot more alert. When you are running out of time, you get an alarm message that entices you to push further and finish the game in the designated time limit.
Unlike previous Mario games though, you get the opportunity to perform backflips and handstands which enhance the gameplay quite a lot.
When Mario completes enough presents, he can actually enter a mini-game where he can earn extra lives. The mini-games are quite interesting, and most of the time they will test your skill in controlling Mario.
The controls are simple, you press A to jump, B to pick up item, the arrow keys to move Mario, the L/R to select the worlds and the Start button to pause or continue the game at your own pace. The in-game moves you can perform with Mario are Jump(A), Handstand (Down+A), Handstand jump (A while performing a handstand), Backflip (Left+A) and many others.
It looks like Donkey Kong is up to his old tricks again!
Over in the Mushroom Kingdom, Mario has become so famous that he's started his own toy company. His new Mini-Mario action figures are all the rage, and this cute li'l wind-up toy is just flying off the shelves. In fact, these toys are so popular that stores can't even keep them in stock. Donkey Kong just loves these new toys, but when he showed up at the store, they were all gone!
Donkey Kong's not famous for his patience, and he wasn't about to wait for the next shipment, so he just went straight to the factory and started grabbing all the new mini Mario's for himself. Mario arrived just in time to see Donkey Kong run off with all his inventory. Now it's up to you to help Mario recover his stolen trinkets and give Donkey Kong a good talking-to for not pre-ordering.
Donkey Kong stealing all the Mini Mario toys. What a cheeky monkey.
There are multiple game worlds that you can play, and each one has around 8 levels, with the last one being the boss battle.
The first game world is called the Mario Toy Company in which you can find mini shy guys, trash cans and other interesting items. After that you get into the Donkey Kong Jungle where you will navigate through ramrams, venus fire traps and ropes. Then you get to the Fire Mountain, which is a very interesting game world since it features volcanoes, lava, podoboos and fiery nitpickers. The following levels are the Spooky House, Mystic Forest and Twilight City. Each one of them comes with its own range of unique enemies, and the latter even brings a massive final battle against Donkey Kong. Most levels also have a Plus version which is harder to complete.
There are multiple items that can be found in the game as you play. Keys are used to unlock doors and are a very important part of the gameplay, and so are the Mini Marios, which are the objectives.
The 1-up mushrooms will give you an extra life and these are very important, although hard to find. Then you also get switches, conveyor belts, donut lifts, trash cans, elevators, hammers, presents, toy boxes and letters. All of these play an interesting role in the way the game is played, and all of them will help Mario get through certain obstacles present in the game world. The toy boxes in particular are located in the Mini Mario levels and they contain the letters TOY that you can collect as you play. Here is a full item list including a bit of info about each one.
|Keys||You can find them in the first half of each level. These items are mostly used to unlock the doors to the second half of the level and they aren’t that hard to get.|
|Mini-Mario||They are the objective for the second portion of each level. Mini-Marios will follow Mario in levels and they need to be rescued from orbs first. Also, Mario needs to keep them out of harm at all times.|
|1-up Mushroom||This is the classic mushroom that will provide Mario with an extra life. Hard to get, this item is very useful as you play.|
|Switch||Switches make ladders, blocks and platforms available for general use. They come in three colors, which can be either blue, red or yellow.|
|Spring||The only benefit of this item is that it makes Mario jump higher and get to unreachable places.|
|Conveyor belts||Depending on the level, they can appear in large numbers and you can use them to transport keys. They can also help Mario get safely through narrow areas. Usually you are able to change their direction with the help of a switch.|
|Donut lifts||These platforms aren’t sturdy and they will simply fall if Mario sits for a long time on them.|
|Elevator||These move on lines and help Mario get to the upper portion of a level. You can change their direction with the help of a switch.|
|Trash can||Trash cans are items that Marion can carry and throw when engaging an opponent.|
|Hammer||A great weapon, the hammer can be used to defeat numerous enemies that Mario encounters in the game world.|
|Presents||These are usually found at the end of the level, in various color variations and provide you with numerous bonuses.|
|Letter boxes||You need to collect the TOY letters scattered all over the game world. The letters need to be collected by the Mini-Marios if you want to open the toy box.|
|Toy box||This is the main goal that you need to achieve during the Mini Mario levels, and you can open them only when you find the TOY letters.|
Each enemy type can be found in a certainly level. The enemies you will encounter in Mario vs. Donkey Kongare the bats, brick monsters, boo, bob-omb, the black shy guy, the blowtorch guy, candle, cannon and cannonball, falling spike, fire, mini ninji, mini shy guy, monchee, nitpicker, oil, podoboo, polterguy, RamRam, shovalot, sleeping spear guy, snapjaw, thwomp blocks and the venus fire traps. Of course, the main enemy in the game still remains Donkey Kong and you will fight him multiple times during the game, each time in a different manner. Heres a little bit more info on them all.
|Bat||They fly horizontally through the stage, and when they do touch Mario, they will latch on to him.|
|Black Shy Guy||A monster that appears only in the Twilight City. The main attack that he does is that he throws wrenches towards Mario.|
|Blowtorch Guy||This is an enemy that you can find in the Fire Mountain level. Not only it walks from side to side, but it can even blow fire which can cause a lot of harm to Mario.|
|Boo||An enemy you encounter in the Spooky House level, this one is not that frightening and it just follows Mario around.|
|Bob-omb||These fuse when they get close to Mario and explode a few moments after, so you need to stay clear from them.|
|Brick monster||This type of enemy can be found usually on platforms, and the only way to avoid them is to perform a handstand while they are throwing bricks.|
|Candles||These are dangerous enemies that can be found in the Spooky House level. Thanks to the ability to float up and down, they are very unpredictable and if Mario touches them he loses a life.|
|Cannonballs and cannons||
Cannons in the game are moving up and down, shooting cannonballs towards Mario
|Falling spikes||These fall from the ceiling and can harm Mario. When on the ground though, they can be used as platforms.|
|Fire||A funny enemy, it patrols a certain area and burns Mario when they get in contact with him.|
|Mini-ninjis||These are simply jumping up and down, so they can be useful when it comes to helping Mario reach higher areas.|
|Mini Shy Guy||This enemy moves from side to side at all times, and has to be avoided.|
|Monchees||These monkeys hang below the platforms, so Mario can use their tails as ropes, although if you do touch their body you lose a life.|
|Nitpickers||Small birds that simply start floating once you get near their nest. Additionally, they drop eggs on Mario.|
|Oil||This enemy will burn Mario if he touches them. Oil cans move up and down and can prove to be perilous.|
|Podoboo||Fun creatures, these are usually encountered at Lava levels as they jump in and out of the lava|
|Polterguys||Enemies that move from side to side, the polterguys come in three different color variations, although if you press a switch they will transform into blocks that you can walk or jump on.|
|Ram Rams||A creature that can be found usually in the jungle levels, the ram ram can be destroyed only with a fruit. Mario can however use them as platforms.|
|Sir Shovalot||Although they usually walk on platforms and might help Mario get through narrow places, these enemies are quite dangerous at times.|
|Sleeping spear guy||These enemies are sleeping at first, then when they see Mario they start following him. Once they get to the end of the platform, they start sleeping again.|
|Snapjaw||A regular in forest levels, this enemy can be destroyed only with the help of fruit.|
|Thwimp||A small enemy that jumps from side to side, this one is invincible so it can’t be destroyed|
|Thwomp||Large pieces of rock, these will simply crush Mario when he walks under them. The collision can be avoided though if you use switches.|
|Thwomp blocks||These blocks fall from ceilings and Mario can use them as platforms if needed.|
|Trash cans||Just like the item with the same name, these can help Mario defeat other enemies|
|Venus fire traps||This enemy spits fireballs that can harm Mario and can usually be found near ropes, sitting on platforms.|
|Donkey Kong||The only boss in the game, you will engage him in multiple fights, although you will have to deal with various types of attacks each time.|
Mario vs. Donkey Kong had a great reception as most critics praised it for being a great Mario tribute with lots of new items to keep the recipe interesting. They also liked the inclusion of Donkey Kong as well as the large number of levels that bring new challenges to the handheld platform it was released on. The game has a Metacritic average of 81/100 and around 79% on GameRankings.
A North American TV Commercial
A Japanese TV Commercial
The official gameplay trailer
It is a little known fact that some special edition e-reader cards were released for use in Mario vs. Donkey Kong in Japan, it is said to be as few as 1000 that were given out as competition prizes. There were five different varieties of cards despite there being 12 slots for cards available in the game.
The original plan for the game we now know as Mario vs. Donkey Kong was for it to be a remake of Donkey Kong (SNES) which was planned to be re-released as "Donkey Kong Plus" - a game which was featured at E3 in 2002.
The game was set to include a level editor but this doesn’t appear in the released game. Despite that, the level editor does exist in the game memory and you can access it from there.