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Dr. Mario World is Fun, But Flawed – IGN


The doctor is now on-call.

With oodles of Mushroom Kingdom charm and fast-paced gameplay, it’s no surprise Nintendo chose the Dr. Mario series as its next big mobile offering. Like Fire Emblem Heroes and Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp before it, Doctor Mario World is a free-to-play game that does its best to get you hooked before introducing its monetized in-game currency and time-locked progression system. While it’s a decidedly fun little puzzler, Dr. Mario World suffers from aggravating free-to-play barriers and a sometimes overwhelming amount of gameplay variables.

At first glance, long-time Dr. Mario fans are going to notice one major issue with Dr. Mario World: it has none of the fast-paced gameplay from the original series. Instead of rearranging colorful capsules as they fall from the top of the screen, you must instead select them at the bottom of the screen, letting them float slowly upwards or placing them directly in the best position to clear a cluster of viruses.

Exit Theatre Mode

Eliminating viruses is still the name of the game, but the simplicity and ever-increasing urgency of the original Dr. Mario is long gone. There is no timer to be found — just a limited amount of capsules to solving the puzzle at hand. In this way, Dr. Mario World is more about strategy and less about reaction. It almost feels like a completely different style of puzzle game that’s been given a Dr. Mario coat of paint (though this isn’t necessarily a bad thing).

The biggest issue facing Dr. Mario World, however, is not its redesigned puzzles. Like many mobile puzzle games, Dr. Mario World presents each of its puzzles as a single stage on a large overworld map. However, in order to access each stage, you have to offer up one of your hearts (or “lives”), which can only be replenished by purchasing more or waiting around for half an hour to earn one back. While it doesn’t make it unplayable, to be sure, it makes it very clear from the get-go where this Dr. Mario’s priorities lie.

As the stages progress, the adorable and helpful Dr. Toad pops up to give you tips and explain how to use new items and power-ups. It’s cute at first, but even before you clear the initial 20 tutorial stages it becomes apparent there are too many unnecessary factors involved in solving these seemingly simple puzzles. There are items that can be activated before the stage is started, a different set of items players can use during the stage, as well as various special power-ups that can be performed by both doctor and assistant characters (all of which can be purchased for real-world money, of course). It’s a lot to keep track of, especially for a Dr. Mario game.

The puzzles in Dr. Mario World also add new elements every few stages, with viruses being hidden behind bricks, frozen in ice, and locked behind barriers. Along with these new challenges come even more items, these ones placed within the puzzle itself. By simply placing a capsule, shells can be sent flying and bombs can be detonated to eliminate larger groups of viruses. These variations are a welcome change as you move forward, even if they add to the overall madness of each puzzle.

When it comes to Dr. Mario World’s Versus mode, its intricate puzzles have been replaced with a simple jumble of viruses. This mode is much more in line with classic Dr. Mario, pitting you against another player in a race to clear the most viruses as quickly as possible. Doing so doesn’t lead immediately to victory, but rather sends a swarm of new viruses to your opponent. The frantic and classic nature of this mode ended up being my favorite part of the Dr. Mario experience. Even though I was usually crushed by my opponent in the end, I thoroughly enjoyed almost every one of my hectic matchups.

The puzzles in the main game are well designed and the versus mode offers a fun competitive aspect. Completing a complicated stage, or emerging victorious in an online battle are satisfying experiences — which makes Dr. Mario World’s free-to-play model all the more unfortunate. It feels like everything grinds to a halt just when you’re getting invested, but I suppose that’s the point, right? You can gather up coins to pay for certain items and more play time, but Dr. Mario does its best to redirect you to the shop where you can spend real cash to grab a few in-game diamonds.

Even when you enter the “Staffing” section of Dr. Mario World (which lets you recruit new doctors and assistants) with enough coins or diamonds to recruit a new ally, it doesn’t allow you to pick the character you’d most like to add to your medical team. The gacha-esque system drops a random doctor or assistant in your lap, even allowing you to be saddled with the same character multiple times, regardless of whether you use real money or not.

Based on what I’ve played so far, Dr. Mario World feels like a decent spin on the decades-old series. It’s unfortunate that its attempts to keep things fresh and fun are a bit overshadowed by its overzealous options and annoying microtransaction-based roadblocks. That said, if you enjoy puzzles and pretending to have a medical degree, Dr. Mario World isn’t the worst choice.

Ben is a freelance writer hailing from Indianapolis. He enjoys gaming history and hugging his Donkey Kong arcade machine. He can be found on Twitter @SuperBentendo.

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