The latest mobile game to come out from Nintendo is Dr. Mario World and it makes a great first impression. However, after playing for several hours it once again feels like a Nintendo mobile game that is handicapped by its free-to-play model. Other than Super Mario Run, all of Nintendo’s mobile offerings have gone down this monetization route with energy meters to restrict playtime and microtransactions for players to purchase. Fire Emblem Heroes and Dragalia Lost both succeed in that front as their characters gel well with the in-game gacha mechanics, but Dr. Mario isn’t filled with that same sort of allure. Instead, it feels like a Dr. Mario World Switch version would have been a much better value proposition and a better game.
Perhaps the most frustrating thing is that Dr. Mario World is a fantastic playing title. It’s a slight departure from past Dr. Mario games as it has the capsules coming from the bottom of the screen rather than the top and it’s controlled by the touch screen. There are also advanced maneuvers where the player can drag capsules past walls and into empty spaces, which opens up the opportunity for some amazing chain reactions and shocking comebacks when played competitively.
Even without changing anything, this could still work as a touchscreen-only game on Switch. The system’s screen is about the same size as most new phones and not nearly enough games use the Switch’s screen vertically. This wouldn’t even have to be a replacement of the mobile title but rather a supplemental game. Imagine a Dr. Mario World DX that is devoid of any progression blocks, microtransactions and throws in a few additional modes. It’d easily be worth $40 and reach a different market than its free-to-play brethren.
Dr. Mario World Switch wouldn’t have inefficient microtransactions ruining the game
Most of Dr. Mario World‘s problems can’t be seen in the opening hours. Rather than introducing its energy system at the start, the player has infinite tries to get through the first 20 or so levels. This allows even for those struggling to better their scores and retry stages that are giving them trouble. However, after that point they receive a choice between three characters (Mario, Bowser, and Peach) and then it’s off to the microtransaction races as the game wants players to spend dollars for random characters and for more hearts to play stages with.
The problem with this model is that it isn’t very effective or balanced well. If you’re actually good at Dr. Mario World and aren’t playing it for several hours at a time, then you will find out that the game is overly generous with hearts. I never came close to running out of hearts despite playing it during any free moment I had during the past few days. Instead, I cleared stages and was occasionally gifted with more hearts just for playing. It might become more of a grind once you’re further in its 200 or so levels, but I will already have had my Dr. Mario fill by then.
Other players have had a very different experience, though, and it’s important to point it out. Those that are struggling with the early stages, and they can be pretty tricky if you don’t realize the amount of leeway players have with capsule movement, are stuck in a grind of using up all their hearts on each stage. It becomes a repetitive loop that isn’t fun to play and that means the people that need hearts aren’t having an enjoyable time. If you’re not liking what you’re playing then why would you spend more money so you can continue to have a bad time? The entire progression model is flawed. This isn’t like Mario Kart Tour, where I regularly found myself out of hearts and wanting to play more.
Everything would work better in Dr. Mario World Switch
Limiting how much of the game players can play isn’t the only way that Nintendo is attempting to get players to fork over money, though. The other way is using a gacha method where players spend in-game coins or premium-bought diamonds in order to randomly get a new character. The issue is that most of the characters are assistants rather than an actual doctor, and they just have a side effect (such as gaining more coins) rather than an actual skill like Bowser.
So, if you’re trying to get Dr. Waluigi, like all players of taste are, then you have a less than 3% chance of getting it. Even if there is a character you want, their in-game skills don’t change things that drastically, so it’s not that much of a draw. Nobody is going to spend $100 trying to get Dr. Baby Mario and that is the entire problem with its monetization method. A premium version of the game could have characters being unlocked throughout its many stages as rewards and give players a reason for progressing through the main mode.
Multiplayer is another area where Dr. Mario World comes up short despite it openly telling players that it’s a game that is “better with friends.” The issue is that it pulls in players’ friends from the Switch and other Nintendo mobile games, but they also have to send another request on top of it. It’s a ridiculous loop that shouldn’t be there in the first place and if the game was on Switch then it could just connect to your already existing friends list without having to do anything.
Every single part of Dr. Mario World screams out that it would be better played on a Nintendo Switch than on a mobile phone. It is a great evolution on the established Dr. Mario formula that is bound to poor progression systems and most of the characters will never be seen by players due to the grind and randomness to unlocking them. The mobile version just isn’t a success and that’s a bummer when the core is so good. Hopefully, it will get a second chance to shine on Switch since it deserves it.