'Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem'

If you've ever missed the days when before Bowser, when Donkey Kong was Mario's greatest adversary and you had to move Mario through a series of ladders and platforms to get up to him and save Mario's then-girlfriend, Pauline, Mario vs. Donkey Kong Mini-Land Mayhem! for the DS was made for you. And for those who've never played the original Donkey Kong games, this DS crossover sequel is just as fun an experience, with a gameplay style different than much of what's currently out there.

The "Mario Vs. Donkey Kong" series has existed since the Game Boy Advance, and while "Mario vs. Donkey Kong Mini-Land Mayhem!" doesn't do anything much different from the last "MvDK" game for DS, this sequel retains the fun and challenge of the series with new puzzles and ways to interact with the environment, including a level creation mode akin to Littlebigplanet's Play, Create, Share philosophy.

The story harkens back to when Mario was still carpenter, before he was made out to be an Italian plumber. He has opened an amusement park and his brunette girlfriend Pauline is giving out autographed photos of herself to all the toadstool people. Being a huge fan, Donkey Kong arrives but is devastated to find she's all out of photographs, so he kidnaps Pauline herself instead. Mario chases Donkey Kong through the amusement park's eight themed sections employing windup mini Mario toys to work their way toward Donkey Kong in each area as Mario re-routes the pieces of each area in order to aid the wind-up minis.

In each level, you must drag construction beams between rivets with the stylus. When you're ready to start a level you can tap a mini to wind them up, however, once you start a mini you can't stop him, and you'll have to rearrange the environment around them accordingly within your allowed number of beams. You can route the minis to collect items that give you more beam length or you can remove an already placed beam by tapping on its rivet, giving you the opportunity to use that length of beam somewhere else. As the game goes on you'll use conveyor belts, ladders, springboards, and the infamous pipes to move the toy Marios from their starting point to a door that ends the level. And just to add to the challenge, once one mini enters the door any other minis will have a short period of time to follow before the door locks and the level is failed. Though the game has a "Lemmings" feel to it, it more largely resembles the PSP's echochrome, having you manipulate the world around your mindlessly marching toys.

The levels start off very easy, but each world builds upon the principles of the previous one with new tools and ways to travel, becoming more and more complex as you go. With only the occasionally tricky level, it's a game children may find thought provoking but adults may be disappointed to breeze through. The maps never get very large, but even in their concise layout they remain fun.

For variation, sometimes a door is locked and one of your mini Mario toys has the key. The trick is to plan your minis' moves so that the Mario with the key will approach the door before the others, unlocking it for the rest even if he didn't start out in the front of the line. You'll also encounter Donkey Kong robots that throw the mini Marios into the air, and typical Mario series enemies that cause you to lose the level if they destroy even one mini toy. They can be avoided in some cases or defeated by picking up the classic Donkey Kong mega hammer item and bashing them. You'll even have to maneuver rotating canons reminiscent of the barrels that shot the Kongs to higher platforms in Donkey Kong Country. Later levels will have you re-routing other mini toys as well, representing Toad, Peach, Pauline, and even Donkey Kong, with the goal of getting each of them to their respective doors -- but without the time limit on getting everyone to the exit at once.

"Mini-Land Mayhem's" difficulty is set to an even balance between the inexperienced and experienced gamer, but even when it may feel too easy it retains a constant level of fun. It's a game that will teach kids to plan several moves ahead while making sure adults' minds don't get rusty. Pick this one up either for yourself or your family. It will pull you in with its simplicity and keep you coming back for just one more level.

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Video Games: 'Mario Vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem'

Article: Copyright © Tribune Media Services