Toys and trains, girders and conveyors, this must be clockwork Mario.
Continuing the Mario vs. Donkey Kong Mini Land series, Mini Land Mayhem offers few changes but enhances connectivity features. It's a very polished, user-friendly experience with a lot to offer in every section.
The game draws you in with its comical introduction and cut-scenes. Donkey Kong is of course gallivanting away with Pauline in every scene, but it's the reasons behind it and Mario's reactions and methods of chasing after him that will keep you amused. Still images and game graphics are used in combination to present these sections, giving detailed, cartoon-like scenes.
The main game presents you with an abundance of levels, which are unlockable in sequence. In each level you arrange girders, ladders, conveyers, tunnels, and more to guide the wind-up toy Mini Marios through levels filled with various enemies and obstacles to get them through the goal door while collecting coins and bonuses, all within a time limit. It's Lemmings-style gameplay with a Mario twist. There is some room for advanced planning, as the Minis normally don't start to move until you tap them, but you'll have to constantly move things around to keep up with their constant forward movement.
While the early stages don't present much of a challenge, they serve the purpose of a tutorial for how to use the obstacles in the construction mode, as well as being a great resource for ideas for when you start building your own levels. Playing through the normal mode is required to unlock new objects for the construction mode, but if you do become stuck on a level, the Mini Guide acts as a video walkthrough, giving you a chance to copy the guide or just skip to the next level.
Each section mixes things up by including a collect-the-Minis level, a DK boss battle, and a falling toys mini-game. These levels are some of the best parts of the game. The first has you send wind-up Mario to knock open capsule toys containing wind-up Peach, Toad, DK, and even Daisy in a race to get them all to their own doors. The boss battles are styled like Donkey Kong levels, and you have to make your way to the top of the screen while avoiding barrels, bombs, and enemies. These play very actively in comparison to the main levels, and getting a perfect score can be quite challenging. It becomes a combination of pattern recognition and sheer luck against DK's attacks, which usually cause your Minis to make unintended movements.
The falling toys mini-game has you guide Minis falling from tunnels on the top screen to boxes at the bottom of the touch screen for a high score. This simple challenge was the only time I had visual problems with the game. As the Minis fall from the top screen, the vertical scrolling is a bit detached due to the gap between the two screens. However, scrolling around in the main mode levels has no issues, so this problem is isolated.
Once you're through with the first run, the expert levels are unlocked to greatly increase the difficulty, though ultimately you're still doing the same thing.
There is a large emphasis on WiFi features, with even the title screen stating the WiFi connection is available. It is possible to submit levels that you have created, download other levels from Nintendo or other people, and play in the scheduled challenges. The challenge mode starts with a template download. Fixed items and screen size are in place, and you can design the level around these as you wish. It is easy to create new levels using whatever combination of objects you desire, as everything is laid out on a grid and you simply select and drag with the stylus to place your objects.
Mini Land Mayhem is a very well-presented title packed with levels as well as an easy-to-use construction mode to make more. Whimsical Mario remixes fill the background as you work and play. New downloadable puzzles and challenges offer continuing content to extend the title, giving you something to come back to when the main game is eventually over.