Mini Mario & Friends amiibo Challenge is the latest entry in Nintendo’s Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, even though it doesn’t have “vs.” or “Donkey Kong” in the title. The game is designed in a manner similar to Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars, which is great, but clearly incentivizes purchasing all the amiibo as you play.
This goes beyond the whole amiibo ownership as a perquisite to playing. Every time someone turns on Mini Mario & Friends amiibo Challenge, you have to scan in one of the 10 main character or any standard amiibo character to play. While this isn’t a bother for the Nintendo Wii U version of the game, it’s a bit troublesome for the Nintendo 3DS iteration. The game won’t save and recognize owned amiibo, so it is impossible to play on the go.
The over 60 levels aren’t equally divided among characters. There are a number of shared levels, which can be played by all 10 major characters and Mini Spek. Some of these shared levels will have a special door in them, leading to character-specific areas. The first one belongs to Donkey Kong and is the Barrel Blast Jungle. To access it, you have to send him to the correct door. Then, you can go through four levels designed especially for him. These utilize barrel cannons.
Players can clearly see these extra worlds on the map and doors in the levels. The basic, free levels are never very difficult. It almost feels like filler. You’re going through the motions in these minor areas so you can eventually unlock these special levels for the Mario, Luigi, Peach, Toad, Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong, Bowser, Bowser Jr., Yoshi, and Rosalina Minis. You see the standard challenges, but Mini Mario & Friends amiibo Challenge is always showing you what you could have.
This pops up in levels that don’t have character-specific doors in them as well. Sometimes, you’ll see a special amiibo Token in an area. It’s always just out of reach, only accessible by specific Minis. When enough are collected, you earn more levels in Star World. Again, these are levels that are better than the basic ones accessible by all Minis and Mini Spek.
It’s not a bad game, for what it is. People just need to know going in that Mini Mario & Friends amiibo Challenge is essentially one big commercial. Nintendo is using it to hopefully get people to purchase not only amiibo, but Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars. There’s even an ad for the latter that can be pulled up by tapping on the touch screen. Owning one, or even two, amiibo isn’t going to make grabbing this free-to-play game worthwhile.
And, the thing is, Mini Mario & Friends amiibo Challenge is worth it if you do have more than one. That’s what makes these hints at what you could access if you own everything so devious. Barrel Blast Jungle, Mine Cart Cove, Egg Launch Land, Boost Pad Bonanza, Balloon Float Castle, Mushroom Hills, Moonlight Mansion, Air Tumble Rumble, Fire Ride Fortress, and Gravity Galaxy have some clever mechanics implemented. I especially enjoyed Yoshi’s Egg Launch Land, with ricocheting eggs, Luigi’s Moonlight Mansion and it’s hidden blocks, and the liberal use of Pull Stars in Rosalina’s Gravity Galaxy.
Even the music is pretty good. Every area has a theme song inspired by a previous game. Barrel Blast Jungle has a “Jungle Hijinxs” remix playing in the background. Moonlight Mansion has music from Luigi’s Mansion. Each one is referencing other games, both with mechanics and atmosphere, making borrowing or buying an amiibo all the more tempting so you can enjoy those four themed levels.
It’s not a bad game, for what it is. People just need to know going in that Mini Mario & Friends amiibo Challenge is essentially one big commercial. Nintendo is using it to hopefully get people to purchase not only amiibo, but Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars. There’s even an ad for the latter that can be pulled up by tapping on the touch screen. Owning one, or even two, amiibo isn’t going to make grabbing this free-to-play game worthwhile. But, if you’re someone who happens to have accumulated all 10 of the characters needed to unlock Minis, it’s a promising little adventure.
Mini Mario & Friends amiibo Challenge is immediately available for the Nintendo 3DS or Nintendo Wii U if people purchase an amiibo from Amazon, Best Buy, or GameStop. The game will be available for free via the Nintendo eShop on April 28, 2016.