From the Super Mario Wiki
Direction Switches (originally referred to as switches) are lever-like objects that appear in Donkey Kong for the Game Boy. They are used to control conveyor belts, moving platforms and elevators. They can also be used to make bridges appear and disappear, as well as opening and closing gates. The player can pull switches by walking up to them and holding the B button while moving Mario with the D-Pad in the desired direction. In some boss stages, Donkey Kong Jr. will also operate switches to hinder Mario's progress.
In Mario vs. Donkey Kong, Direction Switches act much like how the switches do in Donkey Kong, being used to control the direction of conveyor belts and moving platforms. However, they are activated by jumping on them. Donkey Kong also uses Direction Switches in some of his battles, using them to change the direction of conveyor belts at specific times.
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