A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this game.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know Mini Mario & Friends Amiibo Challenge is a straightforward puzzle game with minimal violence. All the characters are windup toys that simply break apart should they walk into enemies or hazards. There's no story or overt messaging, just a series of unlockable puzzle levels where players must safely guide a toy from start to finish. These levels contain little in the way of iffy content but could prove a bit frustrating for younger players as well as older kids who lack the patience to figure them out. The game is free to download, but it requires at least one amiibo character, sold separately for about $13. To unlock all content, players must own 10 different amiibo figurines.
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What's it about?
MINI MARIO & FRIENDS AMIIBO CHALLENGE follows the same formula established by previous games starring a windup version of Nintendo's dungaree-clad plumber. Each small level consists of a series of platforms, hazards, enemies, and collectibles. Your goal is to guide a little mindless marching toy from level start to level end by using the stylus to draw bridges, ramps, and walls or drag key items such as spring platforms to the right areas at the right time. What separates this entry from those that came before is that players can swap out Mini Mario for mini versions of nine other characters, including Yoshi, Bowser, Rosalina, and Luigi. Each has his or her own special power -- Donkey Kong can scrabble up ramps, Princess Peach can flutter across gaps -- necessary to access and beat specific puzzles. But characters can only be unlocked with specific amiibo figurines, which are sold separately. At least one amiibo figurine is required to play the base levels.
Is it any good?
A free game without in-game purchases would be a no-brainer for most players, but whether you should download this puzzler depends less on its cost and more on how many (and which) amiibo you currently own. If you don't own any, you can't play. If you own one, you can do the base levels. But to get the most out of it, you need about $130 worth of amiibo characters. Avid collectors -- of which there are admittedly many -- probably have enough figurines to make it worthwhile, but players who have none or only one or two won't get much out of the experience.
The puzzle action will prove very familiar to any who has played previous Mini Mario games. The only new elements come from the special abilities that come with each amiibo character. Most of them aren't particularly revolutionary (we've seen Yoshi gobble up enemies in countless other games), but at least they create fresh possibilities within the Mini Mario formula. If you happen to have most of the required amiibo figurines, you'll likely have some fun playing each character's handful of levels. But there's the rub: If you don't have many characters, there's really not enough to do to make it worth downloading. Since it's so short (only a few hours), it's also not worth spending money on figures. Best to think of it as a little gift from Nintendo to serious amiibo collectors.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about consumerism. Games that appear free to start can sometimes end up causing players to spend more by luring them to spend money on in-game purchases or, in this case, requiring them to buy toys to unlock abilities and level. Do you research the potential hidden costs in games prior to playing them?
Families can talk about screen time. Some families create simple rules to combat inactivity, such as ensuring kids spend one hour outside for every hour spend in front of a screen; how do you make sure you're living a balanced and active life?
- Platforms: Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Wii U
- Pricing structure: Free (This game is free to download, but requires at least one Amiibo (about $13) in order to play.)
- Available online? Available online
- Developer: Nintendo of America
- Release date: April 29, 2016
- Genre: Puzzle
- Topics: Princesses, Fairies, Mermaids, and More
- ESRB rating: E for No Descriptors
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.