Preview: Mario vs. Donkey Kong


Mario vs. Donkey Kong for Nintendo Switch takes the spin-off series back to its roots as a from-the-ground-up remake of the classic 2004 Game Boy Advance title. Despite being one of the most iconic games of the GBA era, the upcoming remake is likely a big reason as to why the original hasn’t yet been added to the library of games available in the Nintendo Switch Online + Expansion Pack subscription service. For those unfamiliar with the series, Mario vs. Donkey Kong is an evolution of the Donkey Kong arcade games, combining a familiar platforming style of gameplay with unique puzzle-solving elements to create for something unique. Having now played through the first four worlds of the remake, let’s go over some of the differences I noticed and give my first impressions to help you determine whether or not it’s worth a pre-order.

Twenty years ago, Mario vs. Donkey Kong opened with a charming slideshow of illustrations to tell the story of the game, but now, it’s a fully animated cutscene that remains faithful to the source material. Donkey Kong is shown at home lounging on the couch and flipping through television channels when a commercial comes on advertising a “Mini Mario” toy. Infatuated with the new product, DK immediately runs to the store only to find that it has unfortunately sold out (something that’s ironically relatable if you’re someone who collects amiibo). Disappointed with the lack of stock, the antagonistic ape bursts through the factory doors of the Mario Toy Company and steals the Mini Mario figures directly from the production line. Mario himself catches him in the devious act as he tries to make his escape, chasing after him to retrieve the stolen inventory.

Despite his retirement as the voice of Mario in mid-2023, the vocal talent of Charles Martinet makes an unexpected return in Mario vs. Donkey Kong. This is because a lot of the voice acting is reused from the GBA original, only now it’s uncompressed and in a much higher audio quality. It will be interesting to see if Nintendo continues to use archival recordings of Martinet’s voice in future remakes and re-releases of games in the Mario series, or if the new voice actor, Kevin Afghani, will take over for all projects going forward. Regardless, I was happy to hear that that aspect of the game remained unchanged.

When it comes to gameplay, one of the biggest changes is that the score counter has been removed. Perfecting a level and getting a gold star no longer requires you to defeat all the enemies and get to the end as fast as you can; you now only have to worry about getting all three presents found across the stage before the timer runs out. Obtaining these presents often requires additional puzzle-solving skills that aren’t necessarily needed to just complete the current stage and get to the Mini Mario at the end (which is your main objective). 

Instead of being like a traditional side-scrolling platformer where you’re constantly traversing from left to right, in Mario vs. Donkey Kong you see everything laid out in front of you from the get-go. If the stage is too complex to fit on the screen, you can use free-scroll mode to examine all of your surroundings to plan what you need to do next. For example, if there is a key in one area of the stage and a door with a lock somewhere else, you need to figure out how to get the key and bring it over to the door to unlock it. There are oftentimes multiple different solutions to 100% completing a stage.

Playing as Mario, you’re able to jump, crouch, handstand, backflip, pick up and throw items and enemies, activate color switches, spin on wires, and climb ladders, ropes and chains, all by using just two buttons and the left joystick. The controls feel tight and responsive and the difficulty gradually increases with each level as more enemies and obstacles are introduced. Touching something you aren’t supposed to will result in losing a life and having to restart from the beginning of the section. However, if you choose to play using the newly introduced “Casual” play style mode, which can be activated at any time from the pause or level select menus, Mario will instead get into a bubble and float back to where you left off before taking damage.

Much like how it works in the main series Super Mario games, the stages in Mario vs. Donkey Kong are split up into worlds, each with a different theme. The remake features two brand new worlds that weren’t in the original, including Merry Mini-Land and Slippery Summit. There are six regular stages in each world, followed by a Mini Mario stage and a DK stage. Mini Mario stages have you guiding an army of Mini Marios through areas that Mario himself can’t fit through, collecting three Letter Blocks to spell out the word “TOY” and leading them to a toybox. DK stages are intense boss battles that put you head-to-head with Donkey Kong, and you win by avoiding his various attacks and dealing enough damage to deplete all his stocks.

Although Mario vs. Donkey Kong is far from being the most graphically impressive game on Switch, comparing the remake side-by-side with the original is a clear night and day difference. The technology that’s used for game development has obviously advanced a lot in the last two decades, meaning virtually none of the sprites, models or assets were able to be reused, and pretty much everything in the game had to be rebuilt from the ground up. The visual style manages to maintain the charm of the original while also featuring more modern interpretations of the iconic world and characters. Of course, many of the animations had to be completely reworked as well, as seeing Mario be burnt to a crisp in 16-bit was already scary enough, an HD version of that would have been straight up nightmare fuel. Thank you Nintendo for taking creative liberties.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong on Switch is about as faithful as it gets when it comes to remakes. With a completely new coat of paint and just a few tweaks to gameplay to make it feel more modern, first impressions reveal that this will undoubtedly be the definitive way to play what was already a masterclass in puzzle-platforming game design. Make sure to keep an eye out for our full review when Mario vs. Donkey Kong launches exclusively for Nintendo Switch on 16 February 2024.

A copy of Mario vs. Donkey Kong for preview purposes was provided by Nintendo UK.


Article source


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here