Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem!
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! is an action puzzle game for the Nintendo DS and the fourth game in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series. Notably, it is also the last Mario game released for the console, being first launched in late 2010. The base gameplay and objectives of this game are mostly the same as in previous titles, being centered on bringing all the Mini toys safely to the goal in each level. However, the gameplay is now focused on tracing paths and bridges for the Minis to use, more so than simply toggling blocks and buttons to determine their path as in previous games. Most future titles in the series, such as Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars and Mini Mario & Friends: amiibo Challenge, would continue to follow this construction-based gimmick. Mini Pauline toys make their debut with this game, joining the cast of Minis. They are the highlight of Mario's new theme park, despite them appearing late in the game as playable characters. Alongside the main game, a level editor is also present in a mode called the Construction Zone, where players can design their own levels. A significant feature of the game was its Wi-Fi compatibility, using the same system as in Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis. Every two weeks, Nintendo held challenge contests where the player could submit a level that was subsequently judged by other players, with the top-rated level being announced as a winner candidate at the end of a contest.
Mario is opening his new theme park with his honored guest Pauline, and as an opening gift he is giving Mini Pauline toys to the first 100 guests to arrive at the park. Donkey Kong desperately wants a Mini Pauline and charges through the line of Toads to get to the front, only to find out that he is the 101st guest to arrive and Mario informs him they are all out of stock. Donkey Kong loses his temper and kidnaps the real Pauline in a fit of rage, leaving Mario and his force of Mini Marios to rescue her.
After venturing through many attractions, the Minis reach the Final Ferris Wheel and defeat Donkey Kong. Pauline is then freed and Mario runs to hug her. However, Donkey Kong jumps and kidnaps her again, which allows the player to play the Plus Mode. In the second ending, when Donkey Kong is about to kidnap Pauline a third time, Mario offers him a Mini Pauline. Happy, Donkey Kong takes it and gets into the Ferris wheel along with Mario, Pauline, and some other Minis. Several Toads can be seen celebrating the end of the conflict between Mario and Donkey Kong.
The game inherits the basic gameplay of its two closest predecessors, Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis and Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again!, in which the player has to complete levels by guiding a number of automated Mini toys to the exit door, under a time limit of 300 seconds (5 minutes). The Minis move by themselves and rely completely on the player dragging and moving objects such as girders, springs, conveyor belts, pipes, and ladders to modify their path, using the touchscreen to perform any action. In most levels, Minis can be initiated by tapping on them, and their course can be set before as well as after initiation. Minis are also set marching if other toys bump into them. If a Mini touches an enemy, falls onto spikes or any other dangerous obstacle, or falls from a height of ten or more blocks, it breaks and causes a Game Over, forcing the player to restart or exit the level.
Many levels feature sloped ground of varying angles. If the angle of a slope is steep enough, it will cause Minis to slide down on it uncontrollably, which can be used to attack enemies. Other ways to destroy enemies include using Hammers picked up along the way and shooting from a Cannon.
Most levels end in a single exit door that all Minis share. Once the door is entered by a Mini, a timer is activated on it. If the door is not entered in time by another Mini, it will lock itself, leaving any other toys out and resulting in a Game Over. As such, the toys have to head for the exit in close succession. Other levels designated as Multi-Door levels contain multiple doors that are only used by Minis shown on them and which do not activate a timer upon being entered. In these levels, most Minis are trapped in capsules which can only be broken by a free Mini.
Levels are laid across eleven attractions of the Mini-Land, two of which are extra attractions whose levels are unlocked under certain conditions. An M-Token is found alongside a Mini Mario Card in each level. Collecting M-Tokens is necessary to unlock levels in Rainbow Summit, a bonus attraction, while Mini Mario Cards enable the player to play minigames in each attraction.
The player's performance in a level is measured with a score, which takes into account the items collected along the way and the time remaining to complete the level. A goal score is established for every level, which the player can pass to earn a gold trophy. With every ten trophies that are earned, the player unlocks a new level in Secret Storage, another bonus attraction besides Rainbow Summit.
The final score of a level, or "Total Score," is the sum of the following:
Every attraction culminates with a battle against Donkey Kong, where the objective is slightly changed from other levels. Instead of an exit door, Minis have to be brought into certain devices or objects that inflict damage on Donkey Kong. Meanwhile, Donkey Kong tries to impede them by changing the environment, such as making certain Red Girder rivets unusable, or by sending direct attacks.
Additionally, the game features an optional "Mini Guide" that becomes available in a level after 5 Game Overs in a row. If the player chooses to play the guide, they can see an example of how to get the Mini Marios to the end of the stage. The music played during these guides is an arrangement of the series' invincibility theme.
While in a regular level, the top screen of the console shows information related to it, such as time remaining, Mini status, and current score. By pressing the button, the player can switch to a schematic map of the entire level. On said map, the player can see where the Minis and enemies are located. Pressing the button again switches back to the information screen.
There is an optional level in every attraction that consists of a minigame. It is unlocked after all nine Mini Mario Cards are collected in that attraction. With regard to gameplay, these minigames are similar to pachinko machines. The player must use objects such as Red Girders and conveyor belts to lead Minis from the top into toy boxes located at the bottom. The player scores points for each Mini that reaches its goal. There is also a time limit of 60 seconds (1 minute), however, the remaining time can be increased with ten seconds by leading the Minis into clock items that occasionally spawn on the screen. The layout of each minigame varies from one attraction to another.
In odd-numbered minigames, there are star-stamped toy boxes called Score Boxes which offer different point values that change regularly between them. They can multiply the number of points by 1, 2, 3, or 4, with 100 being the default amount of points. However, there are also distinct, black-colored Minus Boxes that feature a red cross sign. If entered, they decrease the score with up to 2 times their value.
In even-numbered minigames, each Mini has to be driven into a specific box that depicts its face, obtaining 100 points. Dropping a Mini in the wrong box yields no points.
There are three goal scores established for every minigame. Passing one of them awards the player with an M-Token, making it possible to earn up to three M-Tokens in each minigame.
While in a level, the player can press the button on the console to enter Help Mode. During this mode, the game is paused and the player can tap any interactive object on-screen to learn how it functions with visual tips.
Construction Zone is a mode which allows players to build their own levels, using assets that are unlocked over the course of the main game. To start using features in the Construction Zone, the player is required to create a user name.
Level Creation 101
Before the player can design their own levels, they must first complete a short tutorial in a mode called Level Creation 101 (or simply Tutorial in the British English version.) The tutorial is presented in four short lessons, each of which brings the player in a nearly finalized level where a specific type and amount of elements must be placed in order to make the level possible to pass when play-tested.
When play-tested, these lessons function as actual levels where the Minis can collect M-Tokens and Mini Mario Cards, and the player can earn a score based on their performance. Once all of these lessons are complete, the player can begin using all features of the Construction Zone.
The Create feature represents the level editor, which is grid-based. Before starting a new level, the player must choose a Game Rule and Template Type for the level. The Game Rule refers to any of the four level types, whether they are Normal, Multi-Door, Key, or Magnet-based. Template Type refers to the default proportions of a level, designated as standard, wide, or tall. The dimensions of a level can later be adjusted in horizontal, vertical, or all directions (depending on the Template Type chosen) by dragging a special cursor on the top-right corner of the editing space. Preferences for Game Rule and Template Type are unlocked as the player progresses through the game; for example, the "Key" and "Multi-Door" Game Rules become available after completing Coaster Hills. After choosing a preference, the player should tap "OK" to begin editing.
Building starts out from a floor of ground tiles, where two Mini Marios, a Mini Mario Card and an M-Token are ordered before an exit door. These elements cannot be removed, as they are mandatory to exist in each level. There are ten sets of elements that can be used to build a level, eight main and two extra, based on each attraction of the game. These sets include objects and background themes. The Coaster Hills set, which includes ground tiles and Red Girders, is accessible from the start; more sets are unlocked once their corresponding attractions are completed. Beating Final Ferris Wheel grants access to both the Rainbow Summit and Secret Storage sets.
The player has a number of editing options to choose from a toolbar at the top of the screen. In order, the toolbar contains:
In addition, the toolbar features a blue bar that drains as more elements are placed on the screen. When the bar is completely empty, no more elements can be placed.
In the process of saving a level, the player has to give it a name. After play-testing a level, the player is given the option to retry it, edit it, create a new level, or exit.
Play & Edit
The Play & Edit feature lists the player's own levels, as well as levels downloaded from other users. Levels that had been uploaded online and those that were downloaded are marked accordingly as "Uploaded" or "Downloaded". Selecting a level from the list on the bottom screen allows the player to view its layout on the top screen. Tapping the level a second time opens a window where the player can see its name, creator, high score, number of downloads from other users, and type of level. Here, the player can also choose to play, edit, or delete the level. If a level has not been completed in Play mode, then it will be marked as incomplete. The levels can be sorted by latest, name, creator's name, and size. Up to 160 levels on eight pages can be found here. The topmost level of each page is viewed on the top automatically after a change to the page number or a change to the sort type.
In addition, the Online Share menu would link to the Challenge Center menu.
Finally, the Challenge Mode feature allowed players to take part in level creation contests run by Nintendo every two weeks prior to the termination of the Nintendo WFC. Each competition had a theme that was announced by Nintendo via the newsletter in the Challenge Center. To enter a competition, players had to download a template issued by Nintendo and create a level based on the template, then submit their entry and wait for other players to vote them. The candidate that garnered the most votes would win the competition. Players could only participate with one entry per contest and could download up to sixty Challenge Mode levels overall onto their system.
Below is a list of all items that could be selected in the Challenge Menu, accompanied by a description of the action they allowed.
Additionally, the Challenge Center menu featured a button that linked the player back to the Online Share menu.
Separate from the Main Game and Construction Zone, on the title screen, there is also an Options menu. Although it mainly serves in adjusting various settings, it also features a collection of unlockables. In the Options menu, the player can perform the following actions:
Mario, one of the titular characters, only plays a role in the story cutscenes. In cutscenes that play between attractions, he is seen chasing Donkey Kong and Pauline in a locomotive, the Super Mini Mario Express, where he is accompanied by a few Minis. After dropping at a station, Mario demonstrates the elements of the new attraction with the Minis. Meanwhile, Pauline cries for help in Donkey Kong's arms. Aside from cutscenes, Donkey Kong also appears in boss levels, where he is fought. Pauline is always kept beside him, where she watches the actions of the Minis as they unravel. Toads appear as visitors of Mario's newly opened theme park, but they are only figurant characters.
Only the Minis are directly used in gameplay, the help of which Mario uses to rescue Pauline. Although they are miniature versions of various characters from the Mario franchise, Minis do not act differently from each other. Being automated clockwork toys, they simply walk from side to side and are likewise able to jump over blocks to continue their march. However, they turn around when encountering a wall of two or more blocks, a tight entrance, or a conveyor belt going in the opposite direction. They are destroyed on contact with obstacles such as Spikes, Shy Guys, Pokeys and Thwomps, but can fight back with a pair of Hammers or a Slope Slide.
There are a total of 103 levels in the game, counting both main levels and extra levels, spread across eleven attractions. As in previous games of the series, they can be selected from a menu. Each one of these attractions, except for Rainbow Summit and Secret Storage, acquaint the player with a new gameplay mechanic that is the focus of that attraction. The levels in all main attractions are built in a certain respect: a new mechanic is always introduced in the first level (and, sometimes, the second level), multiple doors appear in the fourth level, an enemy or more appear in the fifth level (though they are not exclusive to it), a type of Monkey Robot is present in the seventh level, a locked exit and a Mini Mario with a key are allocated to the eighth level, and the area closes with a boss battle.
Levels in the main game are unlocked one after the other in a classic manner, but levels in Rainbow Summit are unlocked with every ten M-Tokens collected in previous levels, while levels in Secret Storage require ten trophies each. Secret Storage is to be noted for puzzles that are more complex to solve than those of earlier levels, serving as an ultimate challenge for the player.
After defeating him in Final Ferris Wheel, Donkey Kong manages to run off with Pauline once more, prompting the player to traverse all levels again in a new mode called Plus Mode. During Plus Mode, Minis must enter the exit door in a certain order, which is indicated at the beginning of each stage and also shown on the top screen of the console. While this complicates gameplay, there are otherwise no changes in level layout, although the background in each attraction gains slightly different aesthetics. In Plus Mode, all M-Tokens and Mini Mario Cards have to be collected again. The player can switch to Plus Mode anytime by tapping on the "Plus" button on the level select menu. In Plus Mode, the name of each attraction is written with a "+" at the end, such as:
Pauline is rescued and the game is beaten after defeating Donkey Kong in Final Ferris Wheel+.
Items and objects
The game presents a wide variety of objects that fulfill certain purposes. The most represented objects in the game are the resource items, which can be taken, stored, and repositioned in special designated areas. There are also numerous objects that are fixed, but are similarly used to the player's advantage. Most collectable items have a direct role in completing the game, but a few others only have a function within levels.
Enemies encountered over the course of the game, not counting boss-exclusive obstacles such as barrels, are represented by two types. The first type are malevolent enemies that destroy the Minis by touching or attacking them; however, most of them can be defeated with Hammers, a slope slide or a Cannon blast. The second type consists of large Donkey Kong-like robots that use the Minis in characteristic ways. Their actions may be helpful or dangerous, although they never inflict damage on the Minis. These enemies are invulnerable, but can be stunned by attacking them by the same means described earlier, which is necessary in certain situations.
Critical reception of Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! was positive, and the game was repeatedly stated to offer an entertaining experience delivered with an appealing presentation. It currently has a score of 79% based on 51 reviews on Metacritic, as well as an 80.08% score on GameRankings.
Daemon Hatfield of IGN "[could not] stress enough that [the game] is pure joy to play", stating that the variety of collectables brings a significant contribution to the game's replay value. He also described the game as "absolutely adorable," and the puzzles as "satisfying to work out" despite not being particularly difficult. However, he added that a speed-up option would have been beneficial for gameplay, as he found the movement of the Minis to be rather sluggish, especially in earlier levels.
Philip J Reed of Nintendo Life debuted his review by describing the game as "stellar" and "an excellent place to start" for those unfamiliar with the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series. He noted that part of the fun stems from the game's spirit of discovery, which properly defines the levels from a design standpoint. He made mention of the game's level editor, describing it as simple to grasp, and further noted the ability to share and download custom levels, which he praised for greatly extending the game's replayability. The graphics were said to compose a "sweet, sunny atmosphere," and the cutscenes as well as soundtrack were also complimented.
Nathan Meunier of GameSpot referred to the game's story as "bare-bones" and "esentially the same plot" as in past games, but favored the gameplay of Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! over other titles in the series. In this regard, he appreciated the game's concept of building the environment for the Minis, instead of simply toggling blocks and other features to form their way as in past games.
The game was developed under the direction of Yuki Shimura by the Nintendo Software Technology Corporation, which is also accounted for previous Mario vs. Donkey Kong projects. Development of the game was assisted by the Nintendo Software Planning & Development Group No. 3. Notably, the game's lead level designer, Stephen Mortimer, would be promoted to direct subsequent titles in the series. For Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem!, Mortimer designed over 50 stages, while the rest were created by two other designers under his supervision. In addition, he assisted the development of level editor features, and helped design various objects from the game as well. The audio direction was provided by Lawrence Schwedler, whose work for Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem! would be one of his last contributions at Nintendo before leaving the company in 2012.
During Area 5-DK, the player should connect a Red Girder from the top left to the bottom right rivet, located by the Mini Mario Card. A Fireball should be present next to the top left rivet. Eventually, the Fireball will go down the Red Girder, fall through the floor at the end, and the life lost jingle will play.
References to other games
Names in other languages