Watch that step, and that one, and that one.
Most people associate Donkey Kong with the arcade game. Nintendo's big ape has gone from kidnapping and big-armed banana-robbery to king of the country, but roots laid down as Nintendo's first big hit go deep and I picked them up in Donkey Kong for Game Boy. That title introduced puzzle-platforming to players after the first four levels mimicked Donkey Kong as played in the arcades. I loved that game, but it and my Game Boy Pocket have been lost in time and space for years. Thankfully, Mario and DK have been teaming up for puzzle games on and off since 2004.
Mario vs Donkey Kong has honed in on Mini Marios, mechanical toys that task you with shepherding them safely to the goal. Minis on the Move is the latest and is only available from the 3DS eShop. Nintendo takes their puzzling spin-off to new depths in Minis on the Move, stretching the definition of a handheld downloadable in content and depth.
Obviously, Nintendo isn't calling this Mario vs Donkey Kong. Bill Trinen of Nintendo Treehouse said at a recent 3DS software showcase that this title features Mario and Donkey Kong working together, but I didn't see the two characters in gameplay. In each mode, you'll be controlling the Minis as they move about levels by laying tiles for them towards the goal. You can see the level in 3D on the top screen or in 2D from a top-down perspective, but you can only play with the touchscreen. The stylus will let you pick up and place tiles, among other things as levels get harder.
Mario's Main Event is the first mode unlocked. Tiles will enter your green pipe, and placing them throughout the level to pick up three medals will give you a perfect score, so long as time doesn't run out. You can also fail the level by letting your pipe spill over or watching cruelly as your Mini falls off an unfinished bridge to the end. And all he wanted was to help you play a game, you monster.
Play a few levels from the Main Event and you'll quickly unlock Puzzle Palace and a Peach Mini. This mode gives you a set stock of tiles and tasks you with figuring out how to most efficiently finish the level with three medals. Many Mini Mayhem tasks you with guiding multiple Minis to the goal. The three modes come from standard twists on a puzzle concept, but Giant Jungle offers the greatest challenge and the greatest reward.
There are only three Giant Jungle levels, but they're huge and contain 10 stars apiece. The first level alone will take a few tries to navigate, but the herculean task of obtaining all 10 stars in one try will put more fur on your chest than the ape has. Each level requires you to feel out and plan your path through slowly, and random tiles coming your way will make sure you can never count on a left turn when you need to take one. Traps, bounce-pads, and road blocks also complicate the plan, but conquering the mountain feels incredibly satisfying.
All told, Giant Jungle's three levels and 30 stars join the remaining 170 levels for hours and hours… and hours of gameplay. Obsessive-compulsive puzzlers like me call that Saturday night. Even if you get frustrated, Nintendo's added four mini-games with varying difficulty levels, you know, just for fun. Mini Target Smash, Fly Guy Grab, and Cube Crash involve flinging Minis at stuff in 3D for high scores. Elevation Station is the weakest game, asking players to turn a crank, but I only felt frustrated trying to maintain a circular motion on the touchscreen.
In fact, I only wish Minis on the Move could have offered a few tactile control options. The stylus works well, but as the puzzles get more difficult and the action more frantic, you can't appreciate the graphics on the top screen. I also realize some might call the genre niche, but at only $9.99 I will chase you down the block waving a big stick until you play this game. There's even a level creator for gamers who want to create and share they're own designs, meaning you'll never have to stop playing.
I'll understand if you don't have a 3DS or if puzzle games aren't for you, but anyone with a classic sense of play can't deny the appeal of a brain-teaser. With so much content and puzzles that grow deeper and more complicated as you play, you need to get a move on and play Minis on the Move.
Code provided by publisher. Exclusive to 3DS.