Review – Dr. Mario World for iOS

The unfortunate failure that was Super Mario Run put Nintendo in a tough place with future mobile releases. Nintendo tried and failed to implement a one-time purchase model where you could pay $10 for the full game (after a few free levels). Players did not react kindly and  Nintendo has clearly changed their tune. They’ve adopted an all-too familiar micro transaction model for future mobile titles. This is abundantly clear with their latest release, Dr. Mario World.

For fans of the original Dr. Mario, be warned that this is not similar enough to satiate your nostalgic appetites. Nintendo has taken the Dr. Mario IP and crafted a puzzle game specifically for the mobile gaming world in 2019. What I mean by this is that the game plays well on mobile and is full of micro transactions with clever ways to entice you to spend money. There are aspects of the old Dr. Mario that would not have worked on mobile though. Two notable differences are the gravitational pull of the puzzles being flipped upside down (since your thumb can move pills more naturally going up instead of going down) and a new “drag-after-the-fact” mechanic. This mechanic is the one when you clear a line of the same color and have extra ½ pills unused.  Those ½’s break off and start moving up. At which time you’re able to move them once again to a different section of the puzzle. I found this the most fun part of the game and the most obvious feature gameplay-wise that uniquely works for mobile.

The strongest aspects of the game are the graphics/aesthetic and the music. This game is polished with that Nintendo soul we’ve come to expect. Colors, characters, and sounds pop in all the ways they should. These things make it feel like a Mario game. Unfortunately, graphics and sounds don’t save this game from its problems. The first 20 minutes of the game were the least fun. Early puzzles were excruciatingly simple while only introducing one new mechanic/power-up per level. I felt like they could have gotten through the introduction in half the time.

The single player mode is where micro transactions play the biggest role. At first, it doesn’t seem like you’ll ever be hindered by the “heart” spending system, but once you get to the harder levels, one wrong move or accidental pill placement can ruin a whole round. Too many of these in a short time-frame and you’ll be waiting 30 real-world minutes to keep playing.

This is where the Multiplayer mode comes in. This is the one aspect of the game that makes the amount of micro transactions somewhat passable. As far as I can tell, you can play unlimited multiplayer rounds, so if you ever run out of hearts, you can hop over and play against real people while you wait. My feelings on the multiplayer went from bad to good then back to bad. Similar to most multiplayer puzzle games, the winner is determined by who just plays faster and makes fewer mistakes. I’m not exactly sure how they would have fixed this common problem, but they surely didn’t do anything to mitigate it.

There are redeeming qualities to Dr. Mario World, but it just lacks depth while feeling a bit too much like a typical cash grab mobile game to keep me interested.

  • Graphics
    • Looks great. Crisp aesthetic we expect from a Nintendo game.
  • Controls
    • The drag and drop works as well as one could hope.  Misplacing a pill is a little too easy and quite devastating when it happens.
  • Gameplay
    • While a fun experience before microtransactions start looking more necessary later in the game, it still just lacks a depth necessary to keep me engaged.
  • Sound
    • Music is fantastic.  The sounds work well except for some high pitched voice lines.
  • Story
    • No story.
  • Replayability
    • There are plenty of levels in the single player mode to keep you busy. The multiplayer mode got boring after ~25 plays.

Summary

There are redeeming qualities to Dr. Mario World, but it just lacks depth while feeling a bit too much like a typical cash grab mobile game to keep me interested.

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