Mario vs. Donkey Kong is a platforming-puzzle game for the Nintendo Switch. While the term “remake” might put some people off, this revamped Game Boy Advance title has plenty for new and returning players to enjoy. 

The first thing that stands out is the fun and family-friendly appeal of Mario vs. Donkey Kong. Even the story revolves around cute toys. The game’s intro is presented as a lovely cutscene that shows off a new, must-have item: Mini Mario toys. A bored Donkey Kong watches TV, flipping channels until he comes across a commercial for these wind-up toys. DK is instantly transfixed by the marketing, leading to a trip to the local toy store. When it’s revealed that the toys are sold out, what’s a hyped-up ape meant to do? Storm the toy factory, of course!

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Naturally, Mario is here to save the day. The premise is simple—follow Donkey Kong through various themed worlds to collect the missing toys. Along the way are traps, enemies, and switches to keep you on your toes. Not to mention spikes, lava, conveyor belts, ice, and much, much more. The variety within each world is simply terrific, providing a strong incentive to keep playing to see what’s next.

Eight levels comprise each world. Six of these are structured in two parts. Firstly, you seek the key hidden amongst the traps. This opens the door to part two, in which you seek the missing Mini Mario toy. Collecting all six of these toys—one from each level—unlocks the final two levels within that world.

The first presents a different type of puzzle. With your six Mario toys in tow, you lead them to the toy chest, collecting the letters T, O, and Y along the way. I can’t describe the cuteness of watching wind-up toys mimicking Mario as they follow him as if he’s some kind of red-and-blue Pied Piper. The toys emit all kinds of adorable squeaks and animations, like when they’re trapped. No wonder Donkey Kong was so desperate to have one!

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The second part serves as a boss fight. Here, you take on DK himself in different battle scenes. The variety is refreshing, with each challenge presenting a unique way to tackle the great ape. Perhaps you’ll need to throw trash cans at him, or perhaps you’ll need to hurl fruit from above. Whatever the premise, it’s super satisfying to take him out. Until he runs away, of course. Then, it’s onto the next world!

Another aspect I love about this title is the secondary objective of collecting three gifts within each level. Doing so earns you a gold star, and who doesn’t want one of those? It adds a replayability factor that will keep completionists coming back for more. The presents are typically hidden in hard-to-reach places, giving players another way to make the game more or less challenging.

I love that even the enemies are toys. Sure, they resemble traditional Mario enemies, such as Shy Guys, but there’s something so cute about them. They also double as handy items. For example, you can use them to traverse areas that Mario can’t typically walk on, like spikes. You can also hurl them at other enemies. In fact, Mario has quite a few moves to master.

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The game does a fantastic job of teaching you the ropes up front. World one is full of tips, from picking up objects and enemies to performing some cool jumps. Mario can also slide down vines, climb ladders, and do a handstand.

One of the new additions to this updated version of Mario vs. Donkey Kong is a local co-op mode. You can easily switch in and out of this mode, making it super accessible. The second player takes on the role of Toad, the traditional red variety. His moveset is exactly the same as Mario’s, making this a true co-op experience. It’s super fun having a friend to play with, and it adds a new way to work through levels by working together to collect everything. Levels even add an extra key to find, so there’s one for each of you. Either of you can collect them, but it’s a terrific touch that exemplifies the strength of this mode. It doesn’t feel like a simple add-on.

Another new feature is Casual mode, which provides a more relaxing way to play. This is a welcome addition for players who want to take things at their own pace. It does this in two ways. Firstly, by removing the sometimes-stressful timer. Secondly, you have access to five life-saving bubbles within each level. If you fall into a lava pit or are struck by an enemy, you’ll simply bubble back to the last checkpoint. These checkpoints resemble small flags, similar to the halfway point of Mario’s traditional platforming adventures. 

Of course, the graphics and soundtrack have also had a makeover, and it shows. Visually, Mario vs. Donkey Kong looks splendid, with colors that pop off the screen. This is evident in the way the characters move, the new cutscenes, and the level design. The accompanying audio also stands out, with bouncing tunes that vary between worlds, along with a small amount of character noises. In short, it looks lovely and sounds great.

Overall, Mario vs. Donkey Kong is a splendid remake. The updated visuals and quality-of-life improvements add plenty to this already-fun title. The puzzles are interesting and challenging, with plenty of variety to keep you hooked.