Mario Vs Donkey Kong
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Mario vs. Donkey Kong Review

Mario vs. Donkey Kong is a remake of the 2004 Game Boy Advance game that sees Mario chase after Donkey Kong to take back stolen Mini Marios the ape stole during a fit of rage. The game starts out with innocent Donkey Kong (he is honestly just misunderstood) as he wants to buy one of these new Mini Mario toys. However, when he realizes they are out of stock, he goes all Karen and breaks into the factory to steal them all.

Mario, being the goody-two-shoes he is, runs after Donkey Kong and has to complete various levels of puzzles to retrieve the stolen goods. These levels are all themed around certain environments and come with their own set of obstacles and mechanics that tie into them too.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong Review

Essentially, Mario vs. Donkey Kong doesn’t make much sense. Why are these levels designed as puzzles and who set them up? Did someone quickly craft platforms and switches and place down spikes when Donkey Kong stole the goods knowing Mario would follow? But some questions are best left unanswered in video games.

There’s a clear sense of nostalgia in Mario vs. Donkey Kong. The side-scrolling platforming means Mario can only move left, right, up and down. He can climb up ladders, use the iconic hammer pick-up and carry around a giant key that is vital to solving each level.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong Review

The idea of each world is that Mario has to collect six Mini Mario toys before completing a stage where he needs to pack them away in a box. Each collection stage is divided into two. You have the section where Mario has to find a key and take it to the locked door to get inside. The second section then sees Mario find the actual Mini Mario toy somewhere in the level and grab it.

These levels are cleverly designed but never felt too difficult. The later worlds did offer a bit more of a challenge. I found myself chasing the clock and forced to remember what switches I had to press and the order I had to retrace my steps.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong Review

The key levels are especially daunting. Mario has to drop the key every now and then and it would expire and vanish after 15 seconds. Often, these stages are designed around dropping the key and finding another way to grab it before it goes away.

There are also some levels which feel designed to kill Mario. For example, cannon fire has been perfectly timed to knock you when climbing up a ladder or falling from a ledge. Enemies are also on certain timers and if you don’t move accordingly, they bump into you.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong Review

Of course, Mario can use some enemies to his advantage. They can be picked up and thrown onto spike fields to act like a platform for a jump. The Bob-omb can be thrown at bricks to shatter them.

Once collected, Mario then takes the Mini Mario toys to a separate stage. Here, I had to move about while these toys followed me around. I had to walk certain paths to force the toys to collect the letters T O Y and in the end, get to a box to pack them away.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong Review

These levels are a nice break from the usual. They weren’t difficult by any means but I had to approach them in a completely different way. If a Mini Mario toy was destroyed, I could still complete the level but it would not be a perfect score. This means these toys don’t contribute to any mechanics in the stage either than collecting the optional TOY letters and getting to the end.

After that, the boss fights take place. These see Mario and Donkey Kong have a ho-down across another themed level. Each fight revolves around Mario tossing an object at Donkey Kong and beating him. These levels are fairly simple too. They relied on watching Donkey Kong’s movements and tossing the object at the right time.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong Review

So that covers the basic game in Mario vs. Donkey Kong. There are a handful of worlds to complete and two main difficulties. Assist Mode means Mario doesn’t die and there’s no timer. Time Attack is the normal game mode where Mario can die and I had to complete the level before the timer reached zero.

Each stage is also playable in co-op and these levels change slightly to accommodate the other player. For example, a second key is added so each player has to pick it up and get it to the door. Other switches and platforms are also added to aid in the whole “working together” mode.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong Review

I didn’t play the original game but I need to mention Mario’s movement because it is different from what I have seen. The remake features a slower Mario. He can’t run and even climbing up ladders and ropes is much slower. The game has been designed to take your time and even though there is a clock, it accommodates these changes.

Mario can also stand on his hands which essentially makes him immune to items falling from the sky. Bricks dropped by piles of bricks (you would never guess it) and eggs dropped by birds just bounce of his shoes. In this pose he can also jump higher than usual. I could then perfectly time another jump to leap even further into the air. I wasn’t always forced to use these jumps but they definitely came in handy at times.

Once I completed the main game, everything I mastered was put to the test during the game’s “Plus” mode. Here, the worlds are reworked to offer a more challenging experience. I revisited the previous worlds but the levels forced me to think about every mechanic and take into account the timer.

This mode is more difficult but I could see that Nintendo still made them accessible to everyone. I struggled on a few stages but nothing made me frustrated. That is okay though. The game’s casual approach is exactly what I enjoyed about it.

In closing, Mario vs. Donkey Kong is a robust remake. There are new worlds to complete, and the sheer amount of content here will take a while to get through. The co-op mode is also a welcome addition and is exactly why I love Nintendo so much. The company always puts family and friends ahead of other features. Not to mention the visuals and soundtrack are a wonderful add-on to the remake. It feels like Nintendo thought of everything.

This Mario vs Donkey Kong review is based on a code sent to us by Nintendo. The game launches on 16 February on Switch starting at R999.


Mario vs. Donkey Kong is a simple puzzle platformer that doesn’t take itself too seriously. The game is highly accessible and shines thanks to its remade visuals. You won’t find yourself scratching your head at any of the puzzles but the easy-going gameplay is charming and great to play in co-op.

Marco is the owner and founder of GLITCHED. South Africa’s largest gaming and pop culture website. GLITCHED quickly established itself with tech and gaming enthusiasts with on-point opinions, quick coverage of breaking events and unbiased reviews across its website, social platforms, and YouTube channel.

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