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Newest 'Minis' is big on sharing

Dec 15, 2010

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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MinisThere have been some great video game rivalries to develop over the years - Ken vs. Ryu, Samus vs. Ridley, Mega Man vs. Dr. Wily, Kratos vs. his smile. The list goes on and on.

There's another rivalry that isn't quite as prevalent in the 21st century, but is still one of the oldest and most enduring. It involves a plumber and a monkey, a damsel in distress, and a whole bunch of ladders.

Yes, to this day, Mario and Donkey Kong are still waging a back-and-forth battle for the affections of Pauline (note to DK: you may want to hold off on the whole kidnapping thing and try something more classic, like dinner and a movie).

Things are different in 2010 though. In 1981's 'Donkey Kong', Mario (a.k.a. Jumpman) had only his abilities to leap and wield a hammer to get the best of the big ape. Fast forward several decades, and while the stakes are the same, the moustachio'ed plumber has had the help of wind-up Mini Mario toys for several games that have appeared on Nintendo handhelds. The fourth game in the 'Minis' series, 'Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem!", doesn't change the recipe a lot, but is still a superb overall package.

MinisAt its heart, Mini-Land Mayhem is a puzzle game. Each level tasks you with one basic objective: get all the Mini Marios into the exit door. To get them Minis moving, you simply tap them with the stylus. Once they've started moving, though, they only stop for one of two reasons - because they've died, or because they've reached the exit. Getting them to the exit door requires a lot of planning, as well as the manipulation of plenty of environmental objects.

Early levels, for instance, give the player the ability to add or subtract girders at different places on the map. There may be a bridge you want to build using girders, but six of them are required, and you only have five in your inventory. You now have to get your Minis to travel elsewhere on the map in order to pick up more girders. Along the way, you have to make sure none of them walk onto spikes, run into enemies, or fall too far off a ledge. All of these things are lethal to the admittedly fragile Minis, and if even one dies in a level, it's game over.

Each of the eight stages adds a new environmental object, whether it be springs, warp pipes, conveyer belts, and many others. Each stage holds several levels, and culminates in an old-school battle where you have to guide Minis up girders and ladders to specific platforms that hold weapons that will take Donkey Kong out.

MinisFinishing each level unlocks a new one, and in each level are several non-mandatory items that allow you to unlock bonus stages. Then there are the time challenges for those who simply need to do the best at each stage, and love seeing gold trophies on the level select menu that prove you're just that.

Though the initial eight stages are fun but not terribly challenging, completing them all serves two important purposes. First, a new set of even more challenging levels open up, but more importantly, finishing each stage earns you the ability to use new objects in your own user-created levels. This, folks, is the real heart of Mini-Land Mayhem.

Nintendo has done an absolutely wonderful job at creating a community of players that are able to easily play, create and share (sound familiar?) levels with each other locally or, more importantly, online.

Creating levels in Mini-Land Mayhem is beyond simple. You're given a canvas of your choosing - big, small, wide, tall - and you simply add objects as you see fit to make the perfect level. Everything is laid out simply, and placing objects or deleting them is dead-simple. Of course you can easily play through your level to test it out, and move back into editing without a problem. Once you've completed your level and played it to completion, you're then able to upload it for other gamers to check out and rate.

MinisThere's so much more to the online than that though. There are several parameters you can use to search for other levels, and once you've found one you like, you can actually follow its creator, making it easy to see new levels he or she has made. Like any online level creation game, rating is key, and in Mini-Land Mayhem, it's very simple to do.

Not only that, but Nintendo itself releases several of its own levels each week, all for free. There's even a Challenge Mode where Nintendo sends out weekly themes for gamers to follow. For instance, you may be asked to download a template where you can only use ladders and warp pipes. It sounds simple enough, but it's something to keep the community coming back regularly, whether as a level creator, or simply as a voter.

The moral here is that as fun as the basic levels are in Mini-Land Mayhem, this game lives and dies by its community. Thankfully, Nintendo has made a creation and sharing system that can be picked up and used by even the most casual gamer.

But besides being user-friendly, this game is just a heck of a lot of fun. That's language that every gamer speaks, no matter how new or old.

 

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem!
Format: Nintendo DS
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
ESRB Rating: T for Teen
Official Site: http://mariovsdk.nintendo.com/

Rating: 9 / 10

 
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About G4 in Canada
G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.