Mario, Donkey Kong, and Pauline show up for a very robust DSiWare sequel.
Mario vs. DK: Minis March Again is basically an expansion pack for 2006's Mario vs. DK 2: March of the Minis, which you can read all about in our review of that game. It takes almost all of its assets from that game, as well as a lot of the same gameplay elements. There are some minor gameplay differences from the previous game, but nothing that changes its fundamentals.
For people that aren't familiar with the original game, this DSiWare title is kind of like Lemmings. Mario has an army of Mini Marios, little wind-up toys, that he must guide to the exit of each room. Once the Minis begin moving, they won't stop unless they hit a wall and turn around, die, or get to the goal. It's the player's job to make sure the Minis get around the obstacles and make it to the exit.
There are various gameplay mechanics that make this more challenging. For example, every Mini must reach the exit at around the same time, since once one Mini reaches the exit, a timer begins to count down. If the other Minis don't get there in time, then you lose a life. Also, there are pink blocks that you can move around to help you guide the Minis to various collectable items such as coins, extra lives, and letter cards. The coins give you an extra life after you collect 100, and if you get all the letter cards in a world (they spell out Mini Mario), then you unlock a special level.
There are eight different floors in the game with 10 levels each, along with 20 other bonus levels that are unlocked by beating the game and getting high scores. Each floor has eight normal levels, a boss battle, and an unlockable special level. The final four floors change up the gameplay a little bit by having the Minis begin moving as soon as the level starts, which makes the game a lot more fast-paced.
The boss battles, all against the villainous Donkey Kong, are pretty lackluster. You control a Mini-shooting cannon via the touch screen that you aim by spinning a dial on screen and fire off by touching a button on screen. You have a limited number of Minis and they can die if they hit an obstacle after they're fired off. Oftentimes I would try to spin the dial to move my cannon and instead fire off a Mini, usually to his certain doom. Luckily, these levels are relatively easy and only show up once per world.
On the other hand, the normal levels are fantastic, especially since each floor adds in a new gameplay mechanic that changes up the formula enough to keep it interesting. For example, the third floor, dubbed Magnet Mania, adds in magnet platforms that the Minis can walk on even if they're upside-down. All these levels have a high score mechanic that, while not as in depth as the DS precursor, is still interesting enough to drive the player to get gold stars, especially when there are even more levels to be unlocked.
The gameplay laid throughout the game is addictive and fun. It evokes a lot of that "just one more level" feeling, especially when each level is a short and intriguing puzzle.
In addition to all of this gameplay is Construction Zone, which is an upgraded version of the level editor that was available in March of the Minis. If you want to easily share levels with friends you still have to break out friend codes, but you can also submit your levels to Nintendo and wait for them to put it up. The whole sharing aspect is better integrated, as you can go through a large list of levels, including some created by Nintendo. (Supposedly they will be releasing more Nintendo-made levels as time goes on.) You have 140 open spots to use to download levels, and there are multiple ways to browse for levels, such as top rating (after you complete a downloadable level, you grade it on a scale of one to five) or most recently added.
Mario vs. DK: Minis March Again is without a doubt the most notable game on DSiWare to date and probably the best. It is full of fun and strategy and has tons of replayability, even without the level editing and sharing. If you own a DSi, this is a must.