Analysis of Mario vs. Donkey Kong, a remake made with love and enthusiasm

The Nintendo Switch doesn't have much left, but games keep coming and Mario vs. Donkey Kong is the proof.

Analysis of Mario vs. Donkey Kong, a remake made with love and enthusiasm
Chema Carvajal Sarabia

Chema Carvajal Sarabia

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When they announced Mario vs. Donkey Kong in a Nintendo Direct last year, I was glad. I hadn’t played the original game from 2004 developed for Game Boy Advance, so a remake for Switch sounded good.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong DOWNLOAD

With the Nintendo Switch 2 grabbing headlines without even being announced yet, Nintendo has the obligation to continue nurturing the game catalog of its current generation. With one eye on 2025, but remembering that they have to keep selling consoles and games this 2024.

And that’s where completely new games come in, such as Princess Peach: Showtime!, which is coming out on March 22nd and has got us all excited; or the game we’re focusing on today, Mario vs. Donkey Kong, a remake that comes 20 years after its original.

A game that starts from a very curious premise

Mario vs. Donkey Kong belongs to a curious lineage of Mario platform games, almost an alternative history of what the games would be like if the revolutionary Super Mario Bros. of 1985 had never existed.

In these games, the original Donkey Kong arcade serves as the template: Mario has a limited set of movements and much less momentum, and he runs back and forth in narrow single-screen levels filled with puzzles.

After Mario vs. Donkey Kong, the series mutated again into something else, a sort of automatic platformer for Nintendo DS consoles where the player controlled Mario’s mechanical toys called “Minis” with the stylus. The overarching theme is that Mario vs. Donkey Kong marks the debut of these Minis.

A story that continues to work and puzzles that are very well thought out

The premise is that Kong, eager for trouble, has raided Mario’s toy factory and stolen a sack full of the cute mechanical plumbers.

In each of the themed levels, Mario must individually rescue six of the toys and then bring them back to a toy chest before facing off against Kong in a boss battle.

After Super Mario Bros. Wonder perfectly captured the delights of 2D Bros. games, the precise and limited gameplay of Mario vs. Donkey Kong requires a slight adjustment.

Mario has a few useful moves – he can jump higher from a handstand or from a direction change by sliding – but controlling the plumber in a 2D platformer without a jump button or wall kick is like playing with one hand tied behind your back.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong isn’t about acrobatics. It’s a cerebral platformer where figuring out the route to the goal – whether it’s a Mini in its capsule or a key that needs to be taken to a closed door to reach the next screen – is as important as making the jumps.

The game constantly introduces new mechanics and types of enemies, although “enemy” is a somewhat misleading term, as most of them serve some other function in each level’s locking system: they often serve as moving platforms.

In Mario vs. Donkey Kong, you can stand on the heads of most enemies, as well as pick them up and throw them, as in Super Mario Bros. 2. There are color-coded switches that activate and deactivate platforms, walls, and stairs; springs that can move around the level to reach higher points; teleporting blocks, floating Shy Guys that can become platforms, and much more.

A single way to beat the levels, which can be challenging for certain players

There’s no room for improvisation here, as there’s only one solution for each level. Mario vs. Donkey Kong isn’t easy as the game progresses, for many reasons: tight timings, precise jumps, only one solution to the puzzles…

Fortunately, one of the main features of this new version for Switch is the “Casual” gameplay style, which removes the time limit and adds mid-level checkpoints, to which Mario returns in a bubble if he runs out of lives.

If you’re going to play with the little ones or you don’t enjoy suffering while playing, there’s nothing to lose by activating this mode as far as solving puzzles in Mario vs. Donkey Kong is concerned, and it makes the game much less irritating and repetitive. There are also new modes for two players and time trials.

The game has also been enriched with two new “worlds,” or sets of levels, expanding it from six to eight worlds. These levels are notably well-designed, with some clever additions to the game’s toolbox, such as the icy surfaces of Slippery Summit; they are more challenging and played more smoothly than the original levels.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong DOWNLOAD

Even with these additions, Mario vs. Donkey Kong isn’t a very long game, lasting between 5 and 10 hours, although it’s longer than it initially appears, with additional “Plus” levels for each world unlocked after defeating the final boss.

If you enjoy Mario and Donkey Kong games but want to try a completely different approach from what we’ve seen in the past two decades, Mario vs. Donkey Kong is a game that could be the ideal candidate to end up in your Nintendo Switch library.

Chema Carvajal Sarabia

Chema Carvajal Sarabia

Journalist specialized in technology, entertainment and video games. Writing about what I'm passionate about (gadgets, games and movies) allows me to stay sane and wake up with a smile on my face when the alarm clock goes off. PS: this is not true 100% of the time.

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