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Mario vs. Donkey Kong review: can we skip to the good part?
4:02 pm | February 14, 2024

Author: admin | Category: Computers Consoles & PC Gadgets Gaming Nintendo | Tags: | Comments: Off
Review info

Platform reviewed: Nintendo Switch
Available on: Nintendo Switch
Release date:
February 16, 2024

Mario vs. Donkey Kong is full of charm and head-scratching puzzles that are oh-so-satisfying to solve, but it struggles to cement itself as a must-play Nintendo Switch release. Nintendo’s latest puzzle-platformer is an expanded remake of the Game Boy Advance title which was released back in 2004, and, while it certainly looks much brighter for a fresh coat of paint (and significantly more pixels to play with), frustrations and clunkiness hold it back from reaching its full potential. 

The short-but-sweet puzzler has a simple premise. Donkey Kong becomes enamored with Mini Marios - cute, seemingly sentient wind-up toys based on everyone’s favorite red-hatted plumber - and, in a fit of desperation, ends up breaking into the toy production factory to take the lot for himself. Mario, set on getting his own in-universe merch back on the shelves, embarks on a chase to catch Donkey Kong and take the Mini Marios back from him. God forbid a gorilla have hobbies, I suppose. 

The opening cutscenes depicting all this look fantastic on the Nintendo Switch OLED model, with gorgeous colors and details (such as Donkey Kong’s soft fur texture) that make me genuinely want to see some kind of short animated series created in the same style. While not quite as spectacular, the in-game visuals are also delightful, and with smooth, reorchestrated music to seal the deal, the entire package looks and sounds significantly more polished than ever before.

Big brain moments

Mario vs. Donkey Kong jungle level.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

At the heart of Mario vs. Donkey Kong is its puzzle-platforming action, which consists of a series of bite-size levels to navigate Mario through, with the goal generally being to collect three presents (collectibles) and a Mini Mario from each. Players are introduced to a wide variety of different elements - from colored switches which activate certain platforms, to climbable ropes, throwable springs, and more - all of which you’ll have to master to ‘perfect’ each level.

Best bit

Mario leading a group of Mini Mario toys in a Mario vs. Donkey Kong level.

(Image credit: Nintendo / Future)

Levels where players lead a troop of Mini Marios into a toy box before taking on a boss fight were my personal favorite, largely because they add some variety to the puzzling action which can, at times, feel samey. The lil’ fellas also make really cute noises, which adds to their charm. 

The way these elements work in tandem is a joy - there’s little more rewarding than working out innovative ways to utilize all the different tools on offer to progress, especially when the solution is not immediately obvious. At the same time, it doesn’t feel like every puzzle has a set method that you have to follow to grab all the presents and get to the goal. Mario is equipped with some particularly nimble special moves, including a backflip, handstand, and handstand jump, which can be executed to launch him to taller platforms and collectibles. Bouncing around in this way feels brilliant, and just about offsets the fact that Mario’s regular jump is much less impressive than usual in this game. 

These regular puzzles are broken up into a handful of slightly different levels. You can expect to take on shorter challenges to chase down a key to unlock a chest full of 1-Ups, boss fights against Donkey Kong (which involve throwing objects at him repeatedly), and also stages in which you have to lead a line of Mini Marios safely into a toy box. These add some much-needed novelty to the overall experience, and I really wish that Mario vs. Donkey Kong leaned more into this variety.

Trials and tribulations 

A Fire Mountain level in Mario vs. Donkey Kong.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Unfortunately, despite the game’s relatively short runtime (I perfected every level in around 11 hours), things take far longer than you’d hope to become challenging enough to be interesting. Most of my first five hours with the game felt like a drag. Of course, some level of difficulty curve is to be expected, and I’m sure no one would expect the stages to be extremely challenging from the get-go. However, this was the case throughout the majority of the game’s initial worlds - I was only really hooked on it once I unlocked the extra ‘plus’ worlds, which are only available after a significant number of levels are completed.

Even though the early puzzles weren’t particularly mind-boggling, you can still expect to lose your fair share of lives on them just due to the general clunkiness of the game. Players are taught early on that they can pick up and throw enemies around to use as extra platforms and knock other foes off the screen entirely. To do this, you’ve first got to jump on top of their heads, which is very simple in theory, but, in practice, this isn’t always the case. 

A combination of Mario’s generally heavy feel in this game (his regular jump doesn’t go nearly as high as it does in the regular platforming games) and awkward enemy hitboxes mean that, at some point or another, you’re very likely going to end up taking damage from them when it appears you were perfectly lined up to land safely on their head. I noticed this was particularly prevalent with the explosive Bob-ombs. Perhaps it’s their rounded shape, but it seems far easier than it should be to catch your foot on the corner of them and, assuming that you’re playing on the ‘classic’ difficulty mode, be forced to restart the entire level as a result. 

Diamonds in the rough

A Merry Mini-Land level in Mario vs. Donkey Kong.

(Image credit: Nintendo / Future)

Levels typically aren’t long, so losing lives in this way will never set you back too far. However, the frustration comes from knowing exactly what you need to do to complete the level, yet still being made to redo it all because the controls and mechanics let you down. The game’s emphasis is placed on puzzles rather than platforming, meaning you’re never really meant to pull off any particularly difficult jumps. However, it feels that poor execution in this area bloats out the whole experience with annoyance. 

If you’re able to push through these grievances, however, there’s still plenty to enjoy. There are two new world themes to enjoy that weren’t included in the original GBA version - the amusement park-themed Merry Mini-Land, and the icy Slippery Summit. Both of these also have additional ‘plus’ versions, adding a generous handful of new levels that are totally fresh. 

Accessibility features

Other than the choice of two difficulty modes which can be switched between whenever you want, there are no dedicated accessibility features in Mario vs. Donkey Kong, nor are there any options to change the game’s controls from the default settings. 

The easier ‘casual’ difficulty setting allows you to take five extra hits from hazards like enemies or spikes before you lose a life, and utilize additional checkpoints in levels to respawn from when you do take damage. Casual mode also turns off the time limit for each level entirely.

As well as two-player local co-op, which changes levels up slightly and offers an alternative way to play, you’re able to unlock a Time Attack mode, which challenges you to beat everything as fast as you possibly can. Doing so will earn you a shiny medal on the level’s icon on the menu. It may be a relatively small incentive, but it certainly helps add a bit more replayability, since there’s otherwise little point in diving straight back in as you already know all the puzzle solutions. 

All in all, Mario vs. Donkey Kong is a mixed bag. Once the extra ‘plus’ worlds were unlocked, I couldn’t put the game down, but the thanks to the boredom I’d faced up to that point as well; as the hitbox-related frustrations, perfecting every level didn’t come with the sense of fulfillment I’d hoped for. There’s plenty of fun to be had here, no doubt, but it’s perhaps best enjoyed in smaller chunks, and only for those who have the patience to retrace their steps even when they feel they shouldn’t need to.

Looking for more games to play? You can find some excellent recommendations on our list of the best Nintendo Switch games. You can also check out what’s releasing soon with our roundup of upcoming Switch games. 

WarioWare: Move It! review – innovative and ambitious
5:01 pm | November 1, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Consoles & PC Gadgets Gaming Nintendo | Tags: | Comments: Off
Review info

Platform reviewed: Nintendo Switch
Available on: Nintendo Switch
Release date: November 3, 2023

If there’s one thing you can count on the WarioWare series for, it’s simple, silly fun. On that, WarioWare: Move It! certainly delivers - the latest in Intelligent Systems’ fast-paced party microgame series has pulled out all the stops to ensure that anyone playing looks as ridiculous as possible, with motion control-based activities that are designed to utilize all of the Joy-Con controllers’ features, and your entire body to play. 

The story’s premise is simple: Mario’s garlic-munching rival manages to win himself and his friends a holiday to a faraway vacation resort, where they’re each handed their own Form Stones (which, spoiler alert, look suspiciously like your own Nintendo Switch Joy-Con controllers). Everyone must then partake in microgames (incredibly short minigames which are played back to back until you lose all your lives, and increase in speed the longer you keep going), which require the mastery of various Forms, using said ‘stones’. 

Throughout the short but sweet story mode, you’ll gradually be introduced to these Forms - such as Choo Choo (in which you must position your arms like you’re impersonating a train) and Knight (which has you place your Joy-Con controllers on top of each other, holding them like a sword). Different microgames call for different Forms, and as you progress, you’ll be expected to switch between Forms freely to perform numerous motions.

Before a microgame starts, you’re clearly instructed as to which Form position to take, but the actual movement within the game switches around based on what’s happening on the screen. For the most part, if you allow yourself to get lost in the game and pretend that you’re acting out a motion rather than trying to input a specific control, it’s clear what you should be doing. You might find yourself imitating a car’s windscreen wiper, scrubbing a floor with a broom, or adjusting your arms to block a giant nose’s nostrils. The free-flowing movement is extremely satisfying, and when it works properly (and it usually does), you feel truly engrossed in the action.

Get in formation

WarioWare: Move It! screenshot depicting a microgame where you must pretend to be a train.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

Anyone who’s played WarioWare: Smooth Moves on the Wii will immediately see a resemblance between the 2006 game and Move It!, and for good reason. In many ways, Move It! very much feels like Smooth Moves if it was created solely for the Nintendo Switch, and that’s not a bad thing. Some of the quirky poses you’re forced to pull, like Ba-KAW! (which, as the name might suggest, has you impersonate a chicken using a Joy-Con for your beak and tail) could only ever work with the Joy-Con controllers’ more advanced motion controls. 

Best bit

Kat and Ana in WarioWare: Move It!

(Image credit: Nintendo / Future)

The first time the game prompted me to use the Hand Model Form, I was tasked with making gestures at the Joy-Con controller’s infrared sensor. It was exceptionally impressive for this to work as flawlessly as it did, but it was made even cooler since the infrared scan of my actual hand was shown on screen as part of the microgame.

This is a double-edged sword, however, as despite the motion controls working most of the time, the precision needed and expected from you means that you won’t always be able to complete a microgame’s action successfully before the time is up, either due to it not being detected properly or simply because you were holding the controllers slightly wrong before starting. It needs to be said that when you’re getting used to the different Forms, switching between them when they all require the Joy-Con to be held or placed in different ways can be overwhelming. This makes it difficult for anyone who’s not already familiarized themselves with the Forms via Story Mode to simply pick up some controllers and join in - far from ideal for a party game that’s got a significant focus on multiplayer.

Additionally, since the actions you must perform are so varied, it isn’t always obvious what you’re actually supposed to be doing, especially at the first time of asking. Given that you’re only given a few seconds to both work out the action and perform it correctly, it’s infuriating to lose a life when you feel you were just thrown in at the deep end with no concrete guidance - and that’s coming from someone who’s played the game for several hours. Again, it’s hard to imagine this being a game that can easily be shared amongst a group of people who haven’t played before, given that there’s pretty much no time to explain what to do from game to game. 

This confusion is ramped up a notch further when you unlock the microgames that call for button inputs as well as motion controls. When the button-control Form is first explained, the game tells you to simply go with your heart when choosing which buttons to use from game to game. You’d be forgiven for thinking that this means any will do, but that’s not the case. Specific ones must be pressed, and despite the game’s belief that your heart will tell you the answer, chances are you’re going to guess wrong. Practice makes perfect, of course, but WarioWare games thrive on offering simple games that are immediately understandable with even the briefest instruction on what to do, and many of Move It!’s additions fail to fit this brief. Not only that, but there are no options to change button mapping to make the controls more accessible, and this is just one fault that the game has when it comes to accessibility (discussed further below).

Switch hardware at its finest

WarioWare: Move It! screenshot depicting a microgame where you must block a giant nose's nostrils with a doll's arms.

(Image credit: Nintendo)

For those who can get used to WarioWare: Move It!’s restrictions and frustrations, there are some genuinely genius uses of the Switch’s hardware to marvel at. My favorite microgames are those that ask you to use the Hand Model Form, where you hold up the right Joy-Con so that it’s facing your palm, and make gestures that are detected by the infrared sensor. For example, you can close your fingers together to catch a frisbee, or make different hand gestures in order to crack a safe. It’s not often that Switch games use the Joy-Con’s infrared sensor like this, and in Move It!’s case, it never loses its charm.

Another surprisingly innovative feature is Move It!’s use of the Joy-Con wrist straps. I’ll admit, in the seven years I’ve owned a Switch, I’ve not once attached the straps to my Joy-Con, never mind my wrists, so when the game instructed me to do so, I let out a sigh as I had to dig them out of my console’s box. However, this slight inconvenience is well worth it - certain microgames will have you purposely drop your controllers (one has you swing the remote like it’s on a vine to reunite two characters), and some will have you pull them back up with the straps, too - one has you drop food into oil and pull it back out when it’s cooked.

All in all, WarioWare: Move It! is heaps of fun, and I can imagine it being a hit with groups of friends who are all willing to put in the time to learn the different whacky Forms in order to play. Sadly, this only goes for anyone who’s comfortable with playing most of it standing up, as those who can’t may well find its inflexible control scheme limiting and frustrating.

Accessibility features

A screenshot showing the left and right hand option in WarioWare: Move It!

(Image credit: Nintendo / Future)

Accessibility is a huge problem in WarioWare: Move It!. Although it provides the option to specify whether you’re right or left-handed and presents alternative instructions for the different Forms, there are no further ways to customize the controls in any way.

This is problematic since a number of the Forms - such as Squat, At Attention, and Big Cheese - are clearly intended to be performed in a standing position (upon loading the game, a message states that the “best results” can be achieved standing up). It’s difficult to replicate all of these sat down, and as such, some microgames can be very finicky to complete for those who aren’t able to play the game standing up. 

Additionally, for the microgames that require the use of the Joy-Con button controls, there’s no way to adjust button mapping for ease of interaction. One of the games asks players to press several random buttons simultaneously while the Joy-Con controllers sit flat, and this could prove troublesome for anyone with limited mobility in their hands. 

How we reviewed

I spent around six hours playing WarioWare: Move It!, and in that time, I completed the main story (in around two hours), unlocked all of the 200+ microgames, and tested out the game’s various single-player modes. I played on a Nintendo Switch OLED console mainly in docked mode on my TV, although I tested it in handheld mode too (by using the console’s kickstand with the Joy-Con detached). 

If you’re on the lookout for more fantastic games to play on Nintendo’s hybrid console, be sure to check out our list of the best Nintendo Switch games. To keep up with future releases, you can also read our roundup of upcoming Switch games.

Super Mario Bros. Wonder review – sheer joy in video game form
4:00 pm | October 18, 2023

Author: admin | Category: Computers Gadgets Gaming Nintendo | Tags: | Comments: Off
Review info:

Platform reviewed: Nintendo Switch

Available on: Nintendo Switch

Release date: October 20, 2023

Playing Super Mario Bros. Wonder reminded me what video games are all about: having fun. Nintendo’s latest side-scrolling platformer has refined and built upon the 2D Mario installments that came before it, adding an onslaught of original, creative ideas that never feel old, loads of secrets to uncover, visuals that pop, and tiny details that are a genuine joy to spot. 

From start to finish, Super Mario Bros. Wonder is a delight. With this new Nintendo Switch release, the developers have been afforded more creativity than ever before when it comes to spicing up the numerous levels for Mario and his friends to traverse, thanks to the inclusion of the titular Wonder Effects. Triggered by finding a Wonder Flower in a course, these are weird and wonderful events that can alter the very way that a level is played and make each one a truly memorable experience. 

Some Wonder Effects offer an additional amount of challenge, others are a visual spectacle to behold, and others exist seemingly with the sole purpose of making players smile. I wrote in my extended preview that I’ve never played a game that’s made me smile as fast as Super Mario Bros. Wonder, and now that I’ve completed it, I can confirm that I never stopped smiling throughout my time with the game, with the Wonder Effects being one of the main reasons why. Of course, discovering these firsthand is a massive part of the fun, so I won’t go into specifics here beyond what I discussed in my preview, but needless to say, they’re so much more than a simple gimmick, but an intrinsic yet eccentric part of the experience. 

Best bit:

Peach seen avoiding a large enemy during a Wonder Effect in Super Mario Bros. Wonder.

(Image credit: Nintendo / Future)

After I thought I’d finished the game, I revisited one of the worlds and found a hidden area that I’d completely missed the first time around and had the thrilling realization that I had plenty more to explore. 

More intrinsic still is Wonder’s overall charm, which goes far beyond its bright, colorful coat of paint. Everyone and everything is so expressive: characters’ hats are seen almost flying off their heads when they plummet down gaps, their gaze grows more determined as they shift from a gentle stroll to a faster sprint, and Goombas look up in fear as they see you about to land on their heads. Certain details are hidden in the game’s music and sound effects, too: ground pounds are preceded by drum rolls, and background tracks lower in pitch when someone transforms into their chunky elephant form using an Elephant power-up. There are too many to list here, but all of these things contribute to Wonder feeling like the liveliest 2D Mario game to date - it feels like walking into a side-scrolling version of The Super Mario Bros. Movie.

 Badge of honor 

Luigi seen using the Parachute Cap badge in Super Mario Bros. Wonder.

(Image credit: Nintendo / Future)

Super Mario Bros. Wonder doesn’t rely solely on Wonder Effects to spice up its platforming experience - the addition of Badges is an enormous deal for replayability, accessibility, and accommodating differing playstyles. There are numerous to unlock throughout the game, and they’re divided into three categories - Action, Boost, and Expert - and one can be equipped at a time. 

Boost Badges include the Auto Super Mushroom and Safety Bounce Badges - the first of which transforms player characters into their larger ‘Super’ forms at the start of each level (or each time they respawn), while the latter prevents them from dying by falling down pits or into lava. Elsewhere, Expert Badges such as Jet Run (which forces players to zoom forward without stopping) and Invisibility (you’ll never guess what that one does) exist to provide an extra challenge for anyone who dares take them on. 

Action Badges, like the self-explanatory Crouching High Jump and Parachute Cap Badges, give players new movement options which they can utilize at any point, giving Mario and his buddies new ways to run, leap, and soar. While none are required to access areas in any of the ‘regular’ levels (more on that shortly), they can make certain maneuvers easier, and it’s fantastic fun to explore stages in different ways by using alternate abilities. The feeling is almost akin to playing 3D Mario titles such as Odyssey, in which talented players can parkour and catapult themselves pretty much wherever they please with enough practice. 

I imagine that experimenting with Action Badges will be popular in the speedrunning community, although it’s worth noting that the double and triple jump,  previously included in past Mario games as built-in special moves, aren’t present in Wonder. This is a pity, as being able to combo these special jumps into Action Badges would have added even more possibilities for free-flowing action. 

Secrets, spice, and all things nice

Elephant Luigi seen taking out Piranha Plants in a Break Time! level in Super Mario Bros. Wonder.

(Image credit: Nintendo / Future)

Even if you’re not too bothered about mixing and matching the Badges you use during the majority of the game, Badge Challenge levels provide a short but sweet outlet to test your skills and learn the quirks of each ability in stages that are purpose-built to make use of them. These levels, alongside the bite-size ‘Break Time!’ stages (one of which, for example, has you knock out a few Piranha Plants on musical note blocks, before playing a nostalgic Mario tune) break up the longer regular stages nicely and help add even more variety to Wonder’s vast array of action. 

While some stages unlock in a linear manner, many can be accessed in any order in free-roam sections. Not only is this brilliant for the simple matter of being able to choose what sequence to play them in (which is a relief, as some are genuinely difficult), but these parts of the map can be home to secret areas and levels, encouraging players to investigate every last inch of the overworld. Secrets exist within courses, too - alternative exits and paths can be found in several levels, meaning there’s a great deal of replayability for anyone who wants to discover everything.

In case it wasn’t already abundantly clear, I adore Super Mario Bros. Wonder. Not only does it wholeheartedly feel like an innovative rebirth for 2D Mario, but it can’t be overstated how well-polished it is. As well as the adorable and amusing subtleties that populate every pixel and exude personality, the controls are responsive, everything runs smoothly even when the action gets chaotic, and in my time playing, I didn’t encounter any bugs or glitches. Although not an absolute necessity for enjoyment, Wonder looks stunning on the Nintendo Switch OLED, with the console’s screen suited to making vivid colors pop.

While I’ve completed literally everything that the game has to offer, I can’t stop thinking about Super Mario Bros. Wonder. It’s impossible to imagine it being anything but a must-play title for any Nintendo Switch owner - particularly for anyone who grew tired of the repetitive 2D New Super Mario Bros. series. If you like feeling happy, you’ll love Super Mario Bros. Wonder.

Accessibility features

The options menu in Super Mario Bros. Wonder.

(Image credit: Nintendo / Future)

Super Mario Bros. Wonder offers plenty of features for a more accessible experience. Controls can be adjusted, allowing players to swap the buttons used to jump and run, and controller vibration can be strengthened and weakened.

Of the 12 playable characters, Nabbit and the Yoshis are immune to damage, meaning that anyone can switch to them if they’re having trouble with a level. It does feel unfortunate, however, that this damage immunity can’t be applied to all characters, or removed from Yoshi and Nabbit if fans of the characters want to play without the additional feature.

The aforementioned Boost Badges, such as the Auto Super Mushroom Badge and Safety Bounce badge, are also very helpful in providing support to players as and when they need it. However, it’s worth noting that Badges must be unlocked, so they’re not all available right from the start of the game.

Elsewhere, Talking Flowers can speak in 15 different languages, and their dialogue is automatically subtitled - they can be adjusted to speak without subtitles, or just via in-game text.

How we reviewed

I spent around 27 hours playing Super Mario Bros. Wonder to 100% completion. It took me roughly 17 hours to finish the main story, but it could be done faster if players are less focused on finding all the collectibles and hidden levels. I played on a Nintendo Switch OLED model, in a mix of handheld and TV modes. 

For more Nintendo goodness, be sure to check out our list of the best Nintendo Switch games. You can also read our roundup of upcoming Switch games releasing in 2023 and beyond.