Mario Vs. Donkey Kong (2024) Game Review – A Decent, Mini-Sized Mario Outing

Before a child would touch an NES controller, they’d often attend local arcades to get their gaming fix in. From classics like Pac-Man to more technical titles like Street Fighter, arcades were safe havens for many geeks, nerds, and gaming enthusiasts alike. One title that set the world ablaze was 1981’s Donkey Kong.

Not only did it lead to one of the most interesting court cases in gaming history, but it also introduced folks to Nintendo’s favorable mascots, Donkey Kong and Mario (who was known as Jump-Man at the time). Although Donkey Kong would feature in more heroic roles in Rareware’s Donkey Kong Country titles, Nintendo’s not afraid to give their beloved ape the antagonist role.

Enter 2024’s Mario Vs. Donkey Kong. This is a Nintendo Switch remake of the Game Boy Advance (GBA) game of the same name. Unlike its GBA predecessor, this title is jam-packed with nice cutscenes, bewitching graphics, and a few new add-ons to give it that revitalized experience, much like last year’s Super Mario RPG remake (to a degree).

After watching a television ad for Mario’s shiny Mini-Mario Toys, Donkey Kong decides to visit Mario’s company. Unlike most civilized customers, Donkey Kong robs one of Mario’s Toy Company facilities of their Mini-Mario Toys. After Mario witnesses this ape steal his valuables, he chases after Donkey Kong, hoping to retrieve his toys and teach Donkey Kong a lesson. 

This game gives players agency over Mario. In addition to his Mini-Mario Toys, you must help Mario obtain presents, letterboxes, and keys. Additionally, some levels will have you lead a pack of toys to a chest. However, each Mario Vs. Donkey Kong world closes with an exhilarating battle between Mario and Donkey Kong, with some obstacles and tools sprinkled in for good measure. 

For the most part, Mario Vs. Donkey Kong’s gameplay offers an enjoyable experience. While some levels feel easier than others, players will admire the thought-provoking puzzles found in later levels like Twilight City or Spooky House. Puzzles in these areas often require players to think outside the box, which makes them feel rewarding to conquer afterward. 

At the same time, some levels feel simple, dull, and repetitive, making one question if the game’s high price tag is warranted. For example, the “Plus levels,” while occasionally admirable, feel like an unnecessary addition. To spice things up, it would’ve been in Nintendo’s best interest to give players “new” worlds to explore, enemies to tackle, and tools to use during the Plus Levels. 

While one’s definition of a “remake” varies, it would’ve been stellar seeing Nintendo expand upon the “Plus levels” more conceptually. On that note, the controls are fine, yet, many players will find themselves using the directional pad to move around rather than their analog stick. Mario’s sluggish movements and short hops lend themselves better to the former than the latter. 

Therefore, those who love controlling Mario in games like Super Mario Bros. Wonder may not adore Mario’s slow mobile efforts in Mario Vs. Donkey Kong. Fortunately, performing tactics like the Handstand Jump and Backflip feel amazing. These tricks are fun to perform and allow players to develop different solutions to puzzles others may not have thought of. 

While the thought of that could hurt some folks’ views of this game, others will appreciate the developers’ decision to give Mario access to those different techniques. On top of techniques, Mario Vs. Donkey Kong’s hammer item delivers a delightful experience. Players will enjoy the adrenaline boost they’ll receive while bashing Shy Guys, robot dinosaurs, and others with this metal mallet. 

While it would’ve been great to see the hammer implemented in more levels, the ones that feature it will likely appeal to fans the most. Lastly, Mario Vs. Donkey Kong could’ve benefitted from having more modes. Whether it’s including a favorable online mode or implementing a level editor as in the previous Mario Vs. Donkey Kong games, the final product’s modes aren’t replay-worthy.

While playing with your partner, who’ll control a Toad, can be fun for a few sessions, having an exhilarating online or level creator mode would increase this title’s life span and fans’ interest in it by a huge margin. Although the gameplay feels repetitive, mildly slow, and superficial, folks who grew up with the original arcade classic or the GBA game will find this remake’s gameplay satisfying. 

As with other Mario games, don’t expect a cinematic masterpiece with this one’s tale. Its story, if not its short cutscenes, is simple, lighthearted, and somewhat comedic. Compared to the GBA game’s slideshow storytelling format, players will appreciate seeing Mario, Donkey Kong, and others fully animated this time around. While it’d been great to have more cutscenes sprinkled throughout the game, the ones included will make many folks chuckle and smile. 

Graphically, the game looks marvelous from its character models to its multiple landscapes. Compared to the GBA title, players will cherish the graphical depth given to Mario, Donkey Kong, and the rest of the cast’s designs. No longer do they look like stiff, pixelated monstrosities. Moreover, the worlds (levels) from Spooky House to new additions like Merry Mini-Land look beautiful, too. 

They all capture their respective themes well, evoking the sensations you’d expect from a creepy manor or joyful amusement park site. Additionally, the enemies look stunning alongside the game’s numerous switches, platforms, and structures. While the art style doesn’t evoke creativity like the newly released Mario games, players will adore Mario Vs. Donkey Kong’s polish and quality. 

As with its graphics, Mario Vs. Donkey Kong’s soundtrack is dazzling. From Twilight City’s laid-back vibes to the pleasant jingles its title theme evokes, many players will find themselves humming or whistling to the beats presented in it. Additionally, Charles Martinet, the original voice actor of Mario, makes a nice return in Mario Vs Donkey Kong’s Nintendo Switch remake, too. 

Fans will love hearing the “wahoos” and “let’s go little guys” voice lines Charles uses throughout the game. While the voice work and line deliveries were solid, some players may find the Mini-Mario Toy’s lines a bit annoying. For instance, when you’re far away from those toys, they’ll consistently say, “Come back Mario” or “Oh Mario” until you return.

While it’s amusing at first, it becomes mildly irritating to the point where you’ll wish the game implemented Super Mario Bros. Wonder’s “turn off” feature regarding its “talking flower” characters. That minor grievance aside, Mario Vs Donkey Kong’s music, voice acting, and sound effects are great to listen to. 

Mario Vs. Donkey Kong isn’t one of Mario or Donkey Kong’s prolific titles. It has its share of issues that prevent it from achieving that glorious masterpiece status that past games of there’s have done. Yet, that’s not to say this is a horrible game. It has enough elegance and thought-provoking depth to warrant fans’ attention. While this Mario and Donkey Kong mini-themed altercation isn’t immaculate, several veterans and newcomers will find this game’s subtle offerings to their taste. 

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  • Verdict - 7/10

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