Nintendo are adding to their Amiibo supported games with their latest entry in the Mario VS Donkey Kong series of puzzle games. In Mini Mario & Friends: Amiibo Challenge, players will be able to bring their Amiibo figures to life as adorable toy versions of Nintendo characters. Using the touch screen, players will be guiding their minis through many puzzles, coaxing the characters to the goal as they trot forward automatically. Through Mini Mario & Friends, Nintendo builds upon their puzzle-centric series with gameplay elements that are challenging and fun to use, while also making one questioning design choice.
To start things off, Mini Mario & Friends was made available as an Early Access title about a month or two prior to release. Customers who bought Amiibo figures during this window at Gamestop, Best Buy, and Amazon were given codes for both the 3DS version and the Wii U version. This gesture toward Amiibo collectors didn’t go unappreciated as it gave another game to use with the popular toys and became an added incentive to sell more Amiibo. Smart move by Nintendo.
Getting into the game, those familiar with the Mario VS Donkey Kong series will feel right at home. The figures lay dormant until they are tapped on the touch screen, giving the player a chance to plan their route before winding them up. Most of the gameplay revolves around making and tearing down walls, placing springs, and managing the way the toy is facing. Each wall is worth so many points to build the walls, so there is a resource management element. Aside from that, once the path is laid out, there isn’t a whole lot of input needed on most levels. Later levels do require some tricks depending on what character is being used, but I found the core path to be fairly straightforward. Careful planning and experimentation is the name of this game, there are few moments in which quick reflexes are needed.
During the main course of levels there will be secondary exits that can only be reached by certain characters. For example, one of the first branching paths required Donkey Kong, who can sprint up slopes that all other characters cannot climb. Once his levels are unlocked the theme changes to barrel blasting puzzles similar to segments of Donkey Kong Country. All of the characters are a joy to play with and their levels celebrate their themes and style. In fact, the entire game has a sharp presentation that makes it hard not to smile.
Really the only criticism I have for the game is its main feature. Players will need a compatible Amiibo to play as those characters. Some Amiibo, of course, are harder than others to acquire. I’ve actually never seen a Rosalina figure, but that’s not the main problem. Using an amiibo doesn’t unlock the character permanently; players must tap that character each time they want to switch.
While this isn’t a huge problem on the Wii U version, it is a bit of a downer on the 3DS. This need to have the figure on hand cuts down the portability of the title, which is a shame because I enjoyed it much more on the handheld. Due to this, I kept at least one Amiibo in my backpack along with my 3DS to be able to play at all.
Other than that minor design flaw, Mini Mario and Friends: Amiibo Challenge is delightful, relaxing, and still remains challenging enough with its puzzles. These aren’t the puzzles of Prof. Layton that sometimes take weeks to discern, but they do require out of the box thinking on occasion. As another positive note, the game is free to download right now on the 3DS and the Wii U. The game is also another reason to enjoy the Amiibo platform, so fans of the toy line will find a lot of fun trying out various characters to see their abilities.
There isn’t much of a reason not to download this one, unless you lack a compatible Amiibo figure that is.
Note, all screenshots come from the 3DS version of the game, which is the version I played the most.