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Column: 'Critical Reception: Nintendo's Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2'

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Nintendo's Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis for the Nintendo DS, a unique title that blends elements from the action and puzzle genres.
This week's edition of the regular Critical Reception column examines online reaction to Nintendo's Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis for the Nintendo DS, a unique title that blends elements from the action and puzzle genres. Interestingly, Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2 seems to bear little resemblance to its prequel in terms of gameplay. Whereas the original Mario vs. Donkey Kong is an arcade-styled action title in the vein of 1994's Donkey Kong for the Game Boy, Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2's gameplay instead offers limited, indirect control over several on-screen characters, ala Lemmings and its sequels. Reaction to this radical change has been mixed but generally positive, earning the title an average review ratio of 78% at Gamerankings.com. The lack of scores that exceed 90% indicates that many critics were left slightly disappointed in Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2, however. IGN's Craig Harris awards the title a score of 7 out of 10, but admits that its gameplay does not live up to the high standards set by the original Mario vs. Donkey Kong. "As clever as it is, and as much effort that has been poured into this DS puzzler," says Harris, "it doesn't click as a truly awesome game." Despite Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2's gameplay being only above average, however, Harris commends the inclusion of a feature that allows for the trading of user-created levels and challenges over Nintendo's Wi-Fi service. "It's a wonderful addition because, even as loosey-goosey as the game design is, it gives endless replay thanks to players all over the planet building their own creations," Harris explains. In the end, however, gamers are left with a title that is "merely a pretty good puzzler," according to Harris. Harris concludes: "Its similarities to the first game are only in looks; the concept goes in a refreshingly different -- but just not as successful, addictive or challenging -- direction for Nintendo DS gamers." "Tenacious Moses" of GamePro disagrees. Calling Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2, "A step up from the original," he asserts: "If you like Lemmings, you'll love Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis for the Nintendo DS." "Tenacious Moses" appears to be almost entirely pleased with the title, scoring it at 4.25 out of 5. Only a few complaints are to be found in his review. "Intuitive as the controls are, grouped mini Marios are difficult to manage as they bump into each other and start walking in the opposite direction," he states. This does not detract from his overall enjoyment of the title, however. "As a sequel, Mario vs. Donkey Kong: March of the Minis surpasses the original by leaps and bounds backed by the capabilities of the Nintendo DS," he summarizes. "However the new control scheme does take some getting used to." GameSpy's Sterling McGarvey is decidedly less positive. "It is with a degree of disappointment that I say that while Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis is a rather fun game," McGarvey says, "it doesn't quite dazzle on the DS the way that its predecessor shone on the GBA." McGarvey's rating of 3.5 of 5 suggests that while there's a decent amount of fun to be found in Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2, the gameplay quirks may prove to be troublesome. "Even if Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2 apes Lemmings on PSP," McGarvey concludes, "it emulates most of that game's best elements, although its flaws seem to be rooted in both the hardware and its inability to sustain the previous game's sense of joy." Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2 has become a big seller in the week following its release, but it seems to have inspired disappointment in gamers expecting gameplay similar to that of its prequel. For those who do not have prior experience with the series, however, Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2 could become a favorite due to the strength of its unique gameplay mechanics.

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