A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this is a downloadable game available only as DSiWare through the DSi Shop. It has some violence -- the miniature Mario robots will explode should they come in contact with obstacles such as spiky floors and fireballs -- but it is mild. Players can design their own levels and share them over the Internet, but all uploaded puzzles are vetted for inappropriate content by Nintendo before being distributed to the public.
What's it about?
The third entry in the habit-forming Mario vs. Donkey Kong franchise, MARIO VS. DONKEY KONG: MINIS MARCH AGAIN, is only available for the Nintendo DSi as a downloadable title through Nintendo's DSi Shop. Like its two predecessors, it cleverly melds platforming and puzzle play by having players manipulate game environments (moving pipes, creating steps, activating spring boards, etc.) to make them safe for small groups of Mario robots to traverse on their way to level exit doors.
The core game is composed of about 40 puzzles and features a level editing application that allows players to create their own environments and share them with other DSi owners -- once they've been vetted by Nintendo. Nintendo is also promising to release fresh downloadable puzzle packs every week.
Is it any good?
The genius of Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again is in the way it gets players to not only think strategically but also act quickly to ensure the safety of their miniature Marios. Players begin by analyzing the game environment and trying to envision which pieces need to be moved, and when. They then set everything in motion by tapping each tiny Mario to start them off on their short journeys. Sometimes things will go exactly to plan, but just as often you'll need to make adjustments to your strategy on the fly (the Marios can't be stopped once in motion) by piling up blocks to keep the robots from moving too quickly or removing a pipe bridge so that one can fall to a lower level to retrieve a missed card or coin. It keeps players thinking far more than an average platformer while offering a challenging test of reflexes that is rarely seen in most puzzlers. Bonus: It's just as much fun for adults as it is for kids.
It's not particularly long -- you can play through the initial 40 or so levels in a single afternoon -- but the ability to create your own puzzles and try those that others have created means you could be playing Minis March Again for months. Not bad value for an $8 download.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about authoring their own video game content. What sort of creativity is required? Artistic? Architectural? Does the satisfaction of authoring a game level come from the building of it or from sharing it with others? Do you prefer making levels that are difficult or levels that are just plain fun to play? What is the most difficult part of designing your own puzzles in Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again?
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