Mini Mario & Friends: amiibo Challenge (Wii U, 3DS)

MINI_BOXThere’s a new free-to-play puzzler in town that’s downloadable on the Wii U and 3DS (reviewed on Wii U here). It stars everyone’s favorite wind-up toys from the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series.  Help Mini Mario and pals make it to the goal in each level, and you unlock new characters by scanning amiibo figures.  I guess that’s why the game is free-to-play.

Even though you can download and play it on both the Wii U and 3DS, I opted for the Wii U version because it’s easier to scan amiibo figures on it as opposed to the 3DS. I don’t have a New 3DS, so I have to use the remote infrared scanner to read my amiibo figures.  Plus, while I can take my 3DS anywhere I go, I generally don’t take my amiibo figures out and about with me, as they’re not quite as portable.  And you need to scan an amiibo to start the game anyway.

So this game is a lot like most of the other titles in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series. A little wind-up toy of Mario or another character will march forward, never stopping, only turning around if it hits a wall.  You must use the stylus to draw girders, create springpads, and other items to guide the wind-up to safety.  Avoid hitting spikes, pits, or enemies or it’s Game Over.  So yeah, it’s a lot like Lemmings.  Except in this one you only guide one wind-up at a time so it’s less taxing.  Gather coins and make it to the door quickly to earn a gold trophy for your high score.

There are 12 regular stages that any of the amiibo characters can do. Most of these stages have an alternate exit door that only one of the characters can reach with his or her special skill.  Once you go through the door with that character, you’ll open an alternate exit and can complete four extra stages designed around that character.  At the end of the 12 regular stages, you can open up Star Road, with ten super challenging stages.  But you’ll need amiibo cards to unlock these levels.  Scattered about the other stages are amiibo cards with a character’s face on them.  That lets you know which character can reach them.  They can be in challenging spots to reach, though, but that’s the only way you can unlock all the extra stages.  Let’s take a look at the compatible amiibo figures and the special stages and skills they have.  I own all the amiibo figures so I was able to play all the stages!

Mini Donkey Kong

His stages are set in a jungle and they play the main Donkey Kong Country theme in the background. Donkey Kong can run up slopes quickly without sliding.  His stages feature barrel cannons.   Hop into one and tap it to blast yourself in the direction the barrel is pointing.  You can unlock Donkey Kong by scanning his Smash Bros. or Skylanders amiibo.

Mini Diddy Kong

His levels are called Mine Cart Cove and they play the bonus stage music from Donkey Kong Country. Diddy Kong can grab onto a ledge under him if he falls, and can pull himself back up.  In his stages, if you hop into a mine cart and tap it, you can roll in it until you hit a wall.

Mini Yoshi

Yoshi’s wind-up can eat enemies in his path. His levels look like the ones in Yoshi’s Woolly World, but they play the main Yoshi’s Island theme in the background.  His levels feature egg launchers.  Hop inside one and tap the button and Yoshi will bounce around in an egg, just like how he throws eggs in the Yoshi games.  There are tons of Yoshi amiibo figures you can use; even the Yarn Yoshi will work.

Mini Mario

His levels look like standard Mario fare, with green hills and a flag and castle in the background. Mini Mario can wall jump, and his stages feature dash pads.  Go across them to run fast in the direction of the arrows.  If Mario touches a dash pad on the walls and ceilings, he’ll be able to run up those surfaces, too, making his levels extra zippy.  Like Yoshi, there are tons of Mario amiibo figures you can scan, even the blocky retro one!

Mini Peach

Her levels are full of pink blocks and her castle is in the background. They even play her castle music from Mario 64.  Peach can glide over small pits, and her levels have balloons that you can hold onto to rise into the air diagonally.  You can pop them by tapping the balloons with the stylus.  You can scan either a Smash Peach or Mario series Peach to unlock her.

Mini Toad

Little Toad can wriggle into small spaces, and his levels feature lots of mushrooms that can bounce you high in the air if you tap on them. I don’t recognize the song from his levels; you’d think they could’ve used Captain Toad’s theme or something.  But oh well.  Toad is my favorite Mario character, by the way.

Mini Luigi

This is where the levels start getting a little trickier. Like in other games, Luigi can jump high and reach ledges that other mini toys can’t.  Of course his levels are set in a spooky mansion filled with wind-up Boos, and they play a remix of Luigi’s Mansion themes as the background music.  Luigi’s levels feature candles.  Tap them on the touch screen to light them, which will make certain blocks appear and make roving Boos transparent so you can pass through them without getting hit.  Timing is tricky as the Boos move and you can only light so many candles at once.  Both the Smash and Mario series Luigi amiibo will scan.

Mini Bowser Jr.

Since he rides in his Clown Copter, he can hover over obstacles. But it’s different than Peach’s glide.  He’ll still fall, but he can hover over spiky surfaces.  His levels have an airship theme, with fans that can blow you around when you tap them.  You’d think they’d play the Mario 3 airship music, but the background tune is something more upbeat.

Mini Bowser

He can jump and crush breakable blocks below him, but he has to be able to jump first. So walking over blocks won’t work.  His levels feature fire jets that you can turn off and on.  Some even have lids you can walk on; just make sure that he doesn’t run into any fires!  They play the Bowser battle music from Mario 64 in his stages.  You can scan either the Smash, Mario series, or Skylander Bowser amiibo figures to unlock him.

Mini Rosalina

This Galaxy starlet can fly super high in the air. You’d think that would make Luigi’s jump obsolete, but Luigi will actually jump to the next ledge.  Rosalina just goes up and comes back down.  So you have to make sure there is an upper ledge she can go through if you want her to go higher.  Ah, video game logic.  You know those stars in Mario Galaxy that you could point to with the Wii Remote, and Mario would be drawn to them by gravity.  Well, that’s how the special stars work in Rosalina’s stages, and that’s how you’ll get around mostly.  She can even go through walls with them.  Her stages have a crystal outer space look to them, and they play a piano remix of the Comet Observatory theme in the background.

Mini Toy

If you scan any other amiibo figure, you’ll just get the Mini Toy, a standard wind-up grey block with eyes. Too bad you can’t get like a wind-up Ryu or whatever.  It has no special skills, but sometimes that can be good if you want to solve a level without any of the other characters’ skills getting in the way.  By the way, the Star Road map and music looks just like the one in Super Mario World, which is a cool reference.  The levels also have a spacey look, and mix up the special items in other stages for extra challenge.  The stages will either play a remix of the Star Road/Invincible theme, or the ‘athletic’ theme from Mario 3. I’m a little disappointed there are no Mini Wario levels, as there is a Wario amiibo.

And those are all the characters! Personally, I had a blast with the game, even if it is a bit short. The mini toys will even dance together on the title screen, which I thought was adorable.  But while the game is free, it’s definitely not worth the price of buying a bunch of amiibo figures just to play this game.  I really consider it as more of a reward for folks who have avidly collected the figures over the past couple of years.  And it’s too bad that it may be hard to unlock some of the levels and characters as some of the figures have gotten rather hard to get.  Like Bowser Jr. and Rosalina, who were store exclusive at Toys R Us and Target, respectively.  But if you do have a lot of amiibo figures, especially ones in the Mario department, I’d definitely download this!   If you don’t have any amiibo figures but want to play a game like this, I recommend Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars.  It’s not free, but it has a lot more levels and you can make and share your own using a tool that’s similar to the one found in Super Mario Maker.


Kid Factor:

Mini Mario & Friends: amiibo Challenge is rated E for Everyone with an ESRB descriptor of Mild Fantasy Violence. If a mini toy hits an enemy or spikes, it’ll explode.  But since they are just robots, nobody really dies and they’ll just start right back again at the beginning.  Reading skill is helpful for some of the text, but since most everything has picture cues, it’s not really necessary.  Since the game encourages using thinking skills, it might be considered somewhat educational.  Younger gamers might get frustrated at the tougher puzzles, though.  But the most important thing to ask yourself is this: Are your kids responsible enough to take care of their toys and not lose them?  Because this game requires amiibo figures to play, and if they lost or broke theirs, they won’t be able to enjoy the game (but at least it’s free).

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