Mario vs Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem review

  • Simple and undemanding fun
  • Great soundtrack filled with remixed Mario classics
  • Lots to unlock and uncover
  • Not very deep gameplay
  • Pretty similar to earlier games
  • Will we ever get an official Donkey Kong 2?

An important thing to learn as a reviewer is to review the game you have, not what you want it to be. Despite Mario vs Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem being the third game in the series to be on the DS, we still hoped it would be a spiritual sequel to the arcade classic Donkey Kong, with Mario jumping his way through devilish platforming puzzles. Instead we’re given more of the same puzzle adventures featuring Mario and his tiny doppelgangers, but when we got used to that idea, it wasn’t so bad after all.

The set-up is pretty much the same as previous entries, as Mini-Land Mayhem begins with the confused ape Donkey Kong getting pissed about not getting some toy, which leads him to kidnapping Mario’s special friend Pauline. Instead of Mario taking on the gorilla himself, he sets loose his army of wind-up toys to save the day. The Mini-Marios only walk in straight lines, so the player needs to guide them through obstacles through their journey.

As we began it was a little too easy. A stage starts with the Minis on one side and the door on the other. Once you start them going, they keep walking and you use the familiar red girders of the arcade original to make a path for them towards the door using only the touch screen. The Minis march at a leisurely pace, so it’s not too much of a rush to set up the paths, but it does take some quick thinking to make sure all the little guys make it safely to the exit. The whole adventure is helped along by a great soundtrack filled with classic Mario songs that have been redone.

Fortunately MvDK:MM (that’s not too complicated, huh?) is more diverse than just setting up girders, with new enemies, items, even different Minis entering the mix at a steady rate. Soon enough some very quick stylus reflexes are needed, with some quick switching back and forth between tools to securely get the Marios where they needed to be. After the rather simple beginning, we were pleasantly surprised to see how much more complex the game had become without us noticing.

In spite of that, it never really felt challenging enough. First off, up until some pretty late puzzles, every area just felt really small, cramped even. If all you wanted was to beat the level, skipping all the collectible coins, cards and other items, the path was pretty clear. In fact, we picked up all the items in virtually every stage just to keep things interesting, though even that felt too simple most of the time.

On top of that, even with the later complexity, it often felt too shallow for a retail game. And when we reached the end of the normal game and its 72 levels, we weren’t feeling too great about Mini-Land after such a brief play through. After the credits wrapped, we were pleasantly surprised to see the game keep going with an expert mode opening up. Each level had been remixed with new and more difficult settings, and we finally felt a real challenge in the game. By the time we beat it a second time and got the “real” ending, we were feeling a bit more satisfied.

 In the end, Mini-Land Mayhem isn’t that different from the previous games in the series, and those looking for a spiritual Donkey Kong sequel should instead download Super Meat Boy on XBLA. Still, MvDK:MM is a consistently fun time filler that keeps the series’ above-average quality streak alive. It may not be the best Mario or Donkey Kong game this year, but out of the few big DS releases this holiday, it’s one of the better ones.

Nov 15, 2010

More Info

Release date: Nov 14 2010 - DS (US)
Available Platforms: DS
Genre: Puzzle
Published by: Nintendo
Developed by: Nintendo
Franchise: Mario
ESRB Rating:
Everyone: Comic Mischief
PEGI Rating:




  • HarryBalls - November 15, 2010 7:37 p.m.

  • tomtatoe - November 15, 2010 7:59 p.m.

    Well, they sort of did a sequel with Donkey Kong for the Gameboy, and it sounds like it's exactly the game you wanted this one to be. It's a lot less "puzzly" and much more "actiony" than the current Mario vs. Donkey Kong games. For some reason no one seems to remember it, and it was surprisingly hard tracking down a copy. Maybe it's because the game gets hard relatively quickly? Who knows. It's a good game. Get it.
  • WonsAuto - November 15, 2010 8:22 p.m.

    After spending some time with Super Meat Boy, I'm not sure I get the recommendation for people looking for a spiritual Donkey Kong successor?
  • gamebrain8505 - November 15, 2010 8:23 p.m.

    7? An 8 would be good...
  • SwaggerPancakes - November 15, 2010 8:24 p.m.

    Nintendo will slap Mario/DK onto anything.
  • thedonut - November 15, 2010 8:50 p.m.

    Nothing can beat Mario vs. DK on gameboy, except maybe a remake.
  • Tenfey - November 15, 2010 8:54 p.m.

    Wonder if we'll ever just get an HD remake of the Gameboy Donkey Kong. Such a thing would be delicious to me, like bacon.
  • ViolentLee - November 15, 2010 8:59 p.m.

    I enjoyed the first Mario vs. DK DS game. It was a surprisingly fun little puzzler.
  • 510BrotherPanda - November 15, 2010 9:14 p.m.

    Man, GB Donkey Kong was great with all the backflips and handstands and triple jumps. I've still got 83 or more lives at the final battle part. Why won't they do it???
  • Mexicutioner - November 15, 2010 10:53 p.m.

    A huge Mario geek gave a Mario game a 7?! Man, this game must suck then......but I'll at least give it a go.
  • KielbasaNinja - November 15, 2010 11:40 p.m.

    Dear Mama Gilbert, Your dearest Henry has written yet another descriptive piece packed with exactly the type of information we faithful followers are looking for. I hope this news makes you happy and proud. Sincerely, KB P.S. Hank has a severe Amazon addiction that may require an intervention. Just sayin'.
  • jarboy - December 20, 2010 8:43 p.m.

    if you need a games for Golden Sun Dark Dawn here it is sonic color Mario vs. Donkey Kong Mini-land Mayhem call of duty black opp

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