Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move is, as far as I’m concerned, the ideal 3DS experience, providing bite-sized bursts of fun through what seem, at first glance, like simple puzzles that prove deceptively more challenging as the game goes on. And while the game’s tailor-made for on-the-go play, once you’re hooked, it’s easy to lose track of time tackling just one more puzzle, just one more puzzle—until, suddenly, hours have gone by.
Initially, Minis seems too minimalistic—little more than a series of glorified sliding-tile puzzles shamelessly branded with Mario’s name to bolster sales. But after the first 10 stages, when the game begins to open up, it proves itself a product worthy of that association. At its core, Minis on the Move revolves around laying down, shifting, and manipulating tiles to create a path for wind-up-toy versions of iconic Nintendo characters to get from Point A to Point B while collecting coins along the way. But after those first 10 or so stages, which are really just tutorials, the curveballs begin to fly.
Again, on paper, Mario and Donkey Kong’s latest collaboration doesn’t sound very robust—the four main modes are all variations on arranging and rearranging tile configurations. To varying degrees of complexity, you solve these puzzles by laying down random tiles as they drop in the same vein as countless other puzzlers, by working with an arranged set of tiles, or by shifting and rotating tiles to get the Minis to the goal before time runs out.
The challenge comes from navigating the obstacles thrown at you—spike traps, dead ends, enemies blocking the way, and so on—through a combination quick-thinking and on-the-fly manipulation of specialized tiles. These redirect your Mini, or launch them over gaps, or contain power-ups that allow you to power through, say, a Shy Guy (to the tune of the classic Donkey Kong hammer theme, no less).
Four minigames supplement the experience, but honestly, they feel tacked on (describing to you how, in one, you snatch Shy Guys out of the sky is more fun than the actual minigame itself). More interesting, however, is the puzzle editor, which allows players to build their own puzzles, upload them to the community, and download other user-generated submissions. Unlike the minigames, this addition feels at home with the rest of the title.
Ultimately, the heart of Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move—those four sliding puzzle-based modes—is genuinely fun. Nothing groundbreaking, just solid puzzle mechanics wrapped up in Mario’s trademark charm. But it’s more than enough to carry the game, and it’s more than enough reason to drop 10 bucks on this charming downloadable puzzler.
|Developer: NST • Publisher: Nintendo • ESRB: E – Everyone • Release Date: 05.09.2013|
Minis on the Move is a welcome addition to Mario’s many offshoots, boasting smartly crafted puzzles that demand an adroit touch—well, tap.
|The Good||Seemingly simple puzzles that pack a surprising amount of depth.|
|The Bad||Four minigames that don’t quite add anything to the overall experience.|
|The Ugly||Another missed opportunity to revive DK Rap.|
|Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move is available exclusively on Nintendo 3DS.|