Wii

North America

Dr. Mario Online Rx

by Jonathan Metts - June 3, 2008, 11:57 pm PDT
Total comments: 22

6

Don't trust any physician who wears a blank CD strapped to his head.

Since earning his M.D. in 1990, Mario has always provided sharp commentary on the over-medication of modern society. The Dr. Mario series continues to warn us about the dangers of hypochondria by depicting the futile application of more and more drugs, at ever increasing rates, to apparently harmless microbes. In the end, it is not the virus that kills us but rather the accumulation of incorrectly prescribed pills. Clearly, the venerable Dr. Mario franchise is a scathingly effective satire of medical malpractice. It is not, unfortunately, a timeless puzzle game.

Dr. Mario has always lived in the shadow of Tetris, so it's probably wise of Nintendo to release the new WiiWare version now, before Hudson's similarly upgraded take on Tetris launches this summer. The objective in Dr. Mario Online Rx, like all the previous iterations, is to destroy a field of viruses by placing colored pills that fall from the top of the screen. Judging from the title of the game, Nintendo wants you to believe that adding an online mode to Dr. Mario is a really big deal. In practice, playing online against another person is indistinguishable from playing against the computer, which is also an option here. There is so little interaction between players in the Vs. mode, and so little communication available (just phrase chat between rounds), that the smooth online functionality adds very little to this package. If you're really a junkie for multiplayer Dr. Mario, you should look for a copy of Dr. Mario 64 (probably coming to Virtual Console at some point) or import Nintendo Puzzle Collection for GameCube, both of which support four players simultaneously. This new version of Dr. Mario can only handle two.

However, you can get four players together for the excellent Virus Buster mode, which is completely separate from the classic Dr. Mario but is included in the same download. Virus Buster first appeared as a hidden game in Brain Age 2, where you drag pills on the touch screen in a modified version of Dr. Mario's gameplay. It works the same way on Wii, simply replacing the stylus control with the Wii Remote's pointer function. Virus Buster was arguably the best part of Brain Age 2, and it's even better on Wii because there are more difficulty settings and a new cooperative multiplayer feature. The game doesn't really explain how to set up multiplayer, so you might not even realize it's possible at first. There is no setting for the number of players; the game will automatically detect the number of Wii Remotes. If players two through four want to help move pills, they just need to pick up their controllers and start playing.

Virus Buster is already a hectic little game, and it gets even crazier when you have multiple people working in the same space. It's perfect for friends and family, because you need to talk to each other to coordinate some kind of strategy. It's ironic that Virus Buster can't be played online, because it's better suited for human interaction than the classic mode. Still, the local co-op feature is fantastic, and Virus Buster is so much fun that it makes up for the blandness of Dr. Mario itself.

There's one other feature that may seem interesting. Dr. Mario Online Rx allows you to send a free demo to anyone (or everyone) on your Wii system friends list. Sounds cool, right? It's actually cumbersome and pointless. Your friend will receive a message with a special link to the Wii Shop Channel, where the demo can be downloaded only by people who received such invitations. The demo itself is so limited that your friends might download it and never get a chance to play it. That's because it can only be played online – not only do you have to arrange a time to play each other through some other means, but you'll still have to exchange game-specific friend codes before you're allowed to play. Maybe I've become spoiled by Mario Kart Wii, but it seems like the friend codes could have been registered automatically, since a link between the systems has already been established. It's not worth all this effort to play a five-minute game of Dr. Mario's Vs. mode and realize that it's exactly the same as it was on the NES.

Dr. Mario Online Rx is a fine puzzle game, but it is mostly redundant the many previous versions of Dr. Mario. The online mode works great but adds nothing to the experience, and the demo-sharing feature is a wonderful idea crushed by Nintendo's online architecture. The improved Virus Buster mode is the real reason to download this game, and it makes the package just barely worth its price tag.

Score

Graphics Sound Control Gameplay Lastability Final
6 4 9 7 6 6
Graphics
6

The 3D characters look nice, but the actual game field in Dr. Mario looks no better than the Nintendo 64 version. Virus Buster has a cleaner, zoomed-in presentation.

Sound
4

The classic Dr. Mario songs are still there, and they are still annoying. What's up with only two out of four songs being available in Virus Buster?

Control
9

Dr. Mario supports all four controller types, but the Wii Remote is perfectly sufficient in the horizontal position. Virus Buster translates beautifully from the DS touch screen to the Wii pointer. Transitioning between games can be confusing, because most of the menus don't support pointer control, while others require it.

Gameplay
7

Dr. Mario is decent for a falling-block type of puzzle game. It gets old fast but can be enjoyable in brief sessions. Its versus modes (online and local) are pathetic, as there is very little interaction between players. Virus Buster is refreshingly fast in comparison, and the cooperative multiplayer is a cool addition.

Lastability
6

Both games in this package will wear thin after a week or two, but they are fun to revisit every now and then. The online features add almost nothing to the experience, unless you are obsessed with your online ranking.

Final
6

It's hard to get excited over such a mediocre puzzle game, especially when this new version adds so little of value and even retracts some features (four-player versus). Virus Buster is the saving grace here, but it's still little more than a clever mini-game.

Summary

Pros
  • Feels like two games in one
  • Four-player Virus Buster
  • Slick online gameplay
Cons
  • Archaic graphics and sound
  • Non-random online play isn't worth the trouble
  • Only two-player Dr. Mario
Review Page 2: Conclusion

Talkback

shammackJune 04, 2008

This seems a little harsh.  It's true that playing online is pretty much the same as playing against the computer, but that's also true of pretty much any online Wii game -- especially Mario Kart, whose online features were extensively praised.  I'll admit the lack of four-player vs. is disappointing, but I'm not really at a point in my life when I often have three other people around who want to play Dr. Mario.

I don't really understand the hate on the Dr. Mario puzzle design, either.  I've always found it much more interesting to play than Tetris because of the added complexity of the color matching and having an actual goal besides just getting a high score.  Diff'rent strokes, I guess.

TanookisuitJune 04, 2008

I totally disagree with this score.  I love this game.  I like the music.  Multiplayer is a blast.  But hey, to each his own.

I don't really like Tetris or Dr. Mario, but Tetris is most certainly a better-designed game.

D_AverageJune 04, 2008

I agree with this score, if it were not for the fact that my wife loves destroying me in this game, it'd be a total loss, as the one player mode is pretty lifeless. 

TanookisuitJune 04, 2008

Quote from: TheYoungerPlumber

I don't really like Tetris or Dr. Mario, but Tetris is most certainly a better-designed game.

But, they're different games.  They require different strategies and are fun in different ways.  I used to be of the "it's a worse Tetris" camp, but now I can appreciate it on it's own merits.  I have room in my heart for Dr. Mario, Tetris, and Puzzle League.  Dr Mario Online Rx is at least better than Tetris Worlds for the Cube.

LuigiHannJune 04, 2008

Dr. Mario 64 had roughly 16-bit graphics: http://www.mobygames.com/images/i/31/26/541726.jpeg

This Wii version has simple graphics, but it's a needless insult to suggest that the 64 version is better.

vuduJune 04, 2008

Quote from: Jonnyboy117

Since earning his M.D. in 1990, Mario has always provided sharp commentary on the over-medication of modern society.  The Dr. Mario series continues to warn us about the dangers of hypochondria by depicting the futile application of more and more drugs, at ever increasing rates, to apparently harmless microbes.  In the end, it is not the virus that kills us but rather the accumulation of incorrectly prescribed pills.  Clearly, the venerable Dr. Mario franchise is a scathingly effective satire of medical malpractice.

This is the best opening paragraph in the history of video game reviews.  Congratulations, sir!

DAaaMan64June 04, 2008

It is well written :P

Why, thank you!  I should clarify further that I do not at all hate Dr. Mario -- I've never loved it, either.  I probably would have scored this game higher if it had been the first Dr. Mario and not such a direct copy of previous versions, or if they had added more useful features that made it substantially different than the other versions.  Online Rx doesn't manage either of those conditions.  But while the game is just barely above average due to these problems, I still think it's worth downloading and is fairly priced at $10.  This is one of those cases where there is a significant gap between my criticism of the game and my recommendation to the consumer.  These things are not the same and can logically differ, although they are connected in many ways.

D_AverageJune 04, 2008

Quote from: vudu

Quote from: Jonnyboy117

Since earning his M.D. in 1990, Mario has always provided sharp commentary on the over-medication of modern society.  The Dr. Mario series continues to warn us about the dangers of hypochondria by depicting the futile application of more and more drugs, at ever increasing rates, to apparently harmless microbes.  In the end, it is not the virus that kills us but rather the accumulation of incorrectly prescribed pills.  Clearly, the venerable Dr. Mario franchise is a scathingly effective satire of medical malpractice.

This is the best opening paragraph in the history of video game reviews.  Congratulations, sir!

Yes, the opening hooked me as well, which is rare in a game review.  Never looked at the game that way, well stated!

First, awesome intro.

I might be alone in this, but I think Dr. Mario is the better multiplayer game (4 player or no 4 player) while Tetris is the far superior singleplayer game.
And I have to admit, the music in this game is very infectious but not to the point of annoyance (at least for me).
And Virus Buster is a good training ground for Dr. Mario rookies.

And my girlfriend routinely kicks my ass at this game...
I actually want to offer a call to any male who has a female family member or girlfriend or wife that is not good at this game (at least after playing it for a while) because I do not believe such a person exists.

My girlfriend is pretty good at Dr. Mario, but I can usually beat her.

I think Tetris multiplayer is lame, too.  Most puzzle games that involve sending "junk" to another player are uninteresting to me.  Puzzle Quest is awesome for multiplayer, because you are both playing on the same board.  That's also why I like Virus Buster, although it's strictly cooperative.  A competitive version of Virus Buster might be fun -- you can steal credit for killing a virus if you complete the set before your opponent does, etc.

Quote from: nron10

I might be alone in this, but I think Dr. Mario is the better multiplayer game (4 player or no 4 player) while Tetris is the far superior singleplayer game.

I would agree with this, but say that Dr. Mario isn't even the best multiplayer puzzle game made by Nintendo (Panel de Pon/Puzzle League).

I would say it's nearly the worst.  I wish they'd quit rehashing it and remake Wario's Woods if they're bent on remaking puzzle games.

Quote from: insanolord

Quote from: nron10

I might be alone in this, but I think Dr. Mario is the better multiplayer game (4 player or no 4 player) while Tetris is the far superior singleplayer game.

I would agree with this, but say that Dr. Mario isn't even the best multiplayer puzzle game made by Nintendo (Panel de Pon/Puzzle League).

I'll agree to that as well.

D_AverageJune 05, 2008

Quote from: nron10

And my girlfriend routinely kicks my ass at this game...
I actually want to offer a call to any male who has a female family member or girlfriend or wife that is not good at this game (at least after playing it for a while) because I do not believe such a person exists.

Yup, my wife destroys me every time, and I always destroy her in Tetris.  I think it has somthing to do w/ the colors, she's a great artist, and perhaps she's quicker to spot color patterns.

UncleBobRichard Cook, Guest ContributorJune 05, 2008

Anyone who doesn't like Tetris multi-player, you need to play Tetris DS with 10 players.  It kicks butt. ;)

Quote from: UncleBob

Anyone who doesn't like Tetris multi-player, you need to play Tetris DS with 10 players.  It kicks butt. ;)

I'll take on 6 people in Wii Ware Tetris, and I'll use the balance board.

I don't consider vanilla Tetris multiplayer the same as TetriNET multiplayer (and Tetris DS by extension).  Attacks and actual strategy make all the difference.

shammackJune 05, 2008

My lifelong dream has been a Tetrinet-style version of Dr. Mario (with attacks and stuff) called Dr. Marionette.  Sadly this has not come to pass.

D_AverageJune 05, 2008

Quote from: insanolord

Quote from: UncleBob

Anyone who doesn't like Tetris multi-player, you need to play Tetris DS with 10 players.  It kicks butt. ;)

I'll take on 6 people in Wii Ware Tetris, and I'll use the balance board.

I'll take on 8 with the balance board and wii wheel!

Quote from: D_Average

Quote from: insanolord

Quote from: UncleBob

Anyone who doesn't like Tetris multi-player, you need to play Tetris DS with 10 players.  It kicks butt. ;)

I'll take on 6 people in Wii Ware Tetris, and I'll use the balance board.

I'll take on 8 with the balance board and wii wheel!

I was going based on the screen shots and assumed the limit is 6, I'll take on as many as possible. How would you play it with the Wii Wheel?

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Genre Puzzle
Developer Nintendo
Players1 - 4
OnlineYes
Controllers

Worldwide Releases

na: Dr. Mario Online Rx
Release May 26, 2008
PublisherNintendo
RatingEveryone
jpn: Dr. Mario & Virus Buster
Release Mar 25, 2008
PublisherNintendo
RatingAll Ages
eu: Dr. Mario & Germ Buster
Release May 20, 2008
PublisherNintendo
Rating3+
aus: Dr. Mario & Germ Buster
Release May 20, 2008
PublisherNintendo
RatingGeneral

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