Mario vs. Donkey Kong Remake – On 20-Year Foundations

REVIEW – Nintendo has remade the game that was released for the Game Boy Advance in 2004. Like Super Mario RPG Remake, this one isn’t bad, but there’s not much in the way of progress or development to make it a recommended purchase.



So this franchise is a spin-off and combination of the Mario and Donkey Kong IPs, and its origins can be traced back to 1994’s Game Boy Donkey Kong: what at first appears to be a remake of the original arcade puzzle-platformer suddenly opens up and gets more complicated with its 96 levels… and there, too, Mario fights DK and his traps.





The story is pretty forgettable, as it consists of Donkey Kong kidnapping a bunch of plastic mini-Mario’s, raising the question of why the hell they were needed in the first place. (Is Mario worshipped that much?) Then our mustachioed plumber goes on a journey to reclaim what’s his (?) in a series of 2D platforming puzzles that not only borrow the gameplay of both protagonists’ IPs, but also a bit of Lemmings. While the gameplay is basically unchanged between the GBA and its great-granddaughter Switch, the Switch version, which is slowly approaching 7 years old, is understandably outclassed by the GBA original in other factors. There are some new cutscenes that are pleasing to the eye, and the visuals have been redesigned from the ground up. The backgrounds are also very detailed, so there are no pre-rendered sprites. But we’ve seen better on the Switch, even if you’re just looking at Mario games (Super Mario Bros. Wonder is far better if you’re talking about a 2D title), but it’s probably not even the most beautiful game on the platform.

As usual, the soundtrack has been tinkered with: since one of the GBA’s weaknesses was the sound chip (sometimes it could hold back the excellent tunes quite a bit), we get music that is miles ahead of the game, but the same can be said here, we’ve heard better, but it’s fit for purpose. When it comes to gameplay, keep in mind that every jump Mario makes counts, and while it’s not difficult at first, it can become quite a puzzle later on in Mario vs. Donkey Kong Remake… if you want to get all the mini-Mario figures. This can also be made easier (a nice touch for beginners) by turning off the countdown timer, so you’re not rushed through the game’s eight worlds. There is, however, one small innovation. Two of them were not in the original. Otherwise, they all have the same format. You have to guide Mario through the obstacles, hit the switches, clear the path and collect the keys to get to the next level. This was the same in Donkey Kong ’94, and as in that game, there are unique themes and challenges per world, so Nintendo brings its usual level of skill to this one with ease.





The Game Boy origins are also reflected in the fact that you have to fight Donkey Kong at the end of each world, and in this case there is no copy-paste approach. Each boss battle is different from world to world and builds on the theme. This is important, even if it seems like a positive plus: it makes the game feel less repetitive, but it also can’t hide the fact that the concept has remained the same. As a result, the levels remain short, which used to be useful when we were using batteries to power handheld platforms (where was USB-C charging back then?). But that’s probably the biggest downside of Mario vs. Donkey Kong Remake: it’s a remake, not a whole new episode, so it doesn’t really deviate much from what we saw on Game Boy Advance.

You can complete the story in just 5 hours if you see everything and turn over every stone. And once you’ve done that, there’s not much left to pull from the game catalog. It’s an old-fashioned game with all the positives and negatives, and as such it won’t be one of the killer apps of the Nintendo Switch. Maybe Nintendo didn’t intend it that way, but if this is the only game of this caliber coming to the Switch this year (aside from the rumored Metroid Prime 4), there won’t be any major new releases from the Japanese company this year, which will definitely hold back some projects for the Switch’s successor…



Game Over


Reviewing Mario vs. Donkey Kong Remake is not easy. If we talk about the execution of the remake, we can’t really complain about it, 9/10. If we look at the gameplay of the game, it’s not that great, it just does the obligatory and nothing more, 6/10. The latter has more weight, and as a result, you could probably give the game no more than a 7/10. The addition of a casual mode was a good idea, and the two new worlds are a nice plus, but beyond that there is nothing else to say. It can be a puzzle, but not for everyone. This is an average project from Nintendo. Super Mario RPG Remake was a bigger concept on the SNES, but modernizing a handheld game isn’t that easy, and it doesn’t always work. Maybe it didn’t here either.



+ Two new worlds
+ Also recommended for beginners
+ The scenes and the soundtrack


– It’s not that hard
– Not so long
– No replayability

Publisher: Nintendo

Developer: Nintendo Software Technology

Style: 2D puzzle platformer

Release: February 16, 2024.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong Remake

Gameplay - 7.6
Graphics - 7.9
Story - 5.2
Music/Audio - 7.8
Ambience - 7



It delivers the basics, but no more.

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Grabbing controllers since the middle of the nineties. Mostly he has no idea what he does - and he loves Diablo III. (Not.)

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