It was a wonderful, festive day. Mario's new amusement park was being opened and the air was full of expectation. But if you've been paying attention to Mario's 30 years in the industry or so, you know what happens next. An ill-willing baddie kidnaps his female companion. This time her name is Pauline, and the bad guy none other than Donkey Kong. Everything has been properly Nintendofied, and you don't really feel any ill will towards the perpetrator, instead you go, "Oh my, what a dastardly gorilla", and let out a jolly good laugh. Another day on the job for Mario.
In fact, Mario seems almost a little to relaxed about the whole predicament. In fact, he's quite happy leaning back and letting mini-robots that look like Mario and his friends do the dirty work. The hunt for the overgrown monkey and the damsel in distress takes us through varied environments on the amusement park theme complete with a Ferris wheel, lethal spikes and living fireballs. The premise is virtually the same for every level. Make sure all your little ones make it to the end of the level. For a veteran gamer Lemmings immediately comes to mind. Your Mini Mario troops walks straight forward into the jaws of death unless you help them out.
In order to help them all to the end of the level you manipulate the surroundings with your stylus. The interface is wonderfully user friendly. You will be building bridges, tearing down walls, digging sewers, and putting up trampolines while frantically trying to stay one step ahead of the little ones. Because once they start walking they don't stop so you better have your plan ready and prepared. You often lose a few little ones before you figure out just how to keep them all alive to the end of the level.
At times it's a breeze completing the level once you have a plan in place, while other levels put high demands on timing and precision. It becomes even more challenging if you want to collect all the trophies handed out at the end of the level by getting all the bonus items and finished the level within the time limit. Trophies in turn unlock bonus levels, and this allows for players who may not want more difficult levels to make all the way to the end of the game.
For those of you who are a bit worried that the game won't provide enough of a challenge there is no need to. Sure, even with the trophies, the difficulty may not be very high for an experienced player, but I still enjoyed even the easier challenges. It's simply a joy to sit back and enjoy watching the little ones run, climb and jump their way through the environments.
However, there is no room for relaxation when you take on the unlockable extra levels. The difficulty level is often significantly higher than in the main campaign, and you will find yourself coming back to the land of the Mini Marios to try and master them. These bonus challenges, and the flexible level editor paired with an active community helps up the lasting appeal of the game considerably. They also add a much needed boost to the degree of variation to a game that can sometimes become a bit monotonous.