Mario vs. Donkey Kong – Hands-on Preview

Fans of cross-species rivalries, rejoice! The remake of 2004’s Mario vs. Donkey Kong is almost here, with the Game Boy Advance hit finally ready to make its debut on the Switch. With this upgrade comes a new look, quality of life changes, and the introduction of Mario’s good friend Toad, who is more than ready to join him on his quest to stop Donkey Kong from wreaking havoc. We’ve spent some time with the game ahead of its release on February 16th thanks to Nintendo Australia, and are here to tell you what you can look forward to.

Cutscene screenshot

The real enemy is capitalism

For those who didn’t play the original, the game’s premise revolves around Donkey Kong’s desire to be the owner of the latest and greatest toy, the coveted Mini Mario. However, when he goes to the store to buy not one, but all, of said Mini Marios, he finds the shelves already bare. His solution is to storm the factory – conveniently located right down the street – and steal the entire production line of the toys instead. The Mini Marios are sort of clockwork robots, but also sentient beings? It’s a little confusing, but either way, Donkey Kong steals them all – and it’s Mario’s job to get them back. But really, we should all be mad that capitalism has such a strong hold over DK that it leads him to commit these acts in the first place.

It’s the same game you know and love…

At its core, the game remains largely unchanged from the GBA original. It’s a puzzle-platformer mix that requires Mario to navigate levels by jumping, climbing, and generally not-dying as he collects the key he needs in order to unlock the door at the end of each level and follow Donkey Kong on this wild gorilla chase. You’ll need to press buttons to activate and deactivate blocks, platforms, gusts of wind, and even some enemies in the world in order to navigate it and complete your goals.

…but it looks perfect as a modern day title

Everything has received a graphical upgrade, from the animations to the look of the buttons and collectibles. What were once still-image montages that represented the best of what the GBA could offer as cutscenes are now full-blown animations brought to life with modern day tech. Now you can see every moment of Donkey Kong’s factory heist – it’s great fun to watch the whole thing play out properly.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong screenshot

Execution is everything

Though many of this game’s puzzles are simple, success will often come down to precision. Enemy hit boxes are finicky beasts, and if you find yourself slightly off-centre, it’s likely that they’ll get you before you can get them. Be prepared to be clipped by things you would have sworn wouldn’t hit you, and to miss your targets by the smallest margin. The punishment for these mistakes isn’t usually too terrible – especially if you’re playing in co-op mode. But it can still take some getting used to, and adds some extra difficulty to an otherwise straightforward challenge.

The game is Toad-ally better with two

The game’s biggest addition is the arrival of Toad, who adds extra challenge but also extra fun to the experience. Playing a level in two-player mode can fundamentally change your approach, introducing a second key to the mix and requiring players to undo a second lock before they can progress through the end of a level. But what it adds in challenge it more than makes up for in new ways to game the system – you can make jumps a little easier by jumping on each others’ heads, or pass keys between you to outsmart a timer. It’s also way more fun to solve puzzles with the help of a friend!

Mario vs. Donkey Kong screenshot

Mario vs. Donkey Kong releases on February 16th on Nintendo Switch! You can preorder it now. 

Time Until Launch (February 16, 2024)


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