Well, we’ve managed to not scare him off. Jake ‘The Voice’ Parr is back after his excellent review of the Jaguar version of Wolfenstein 3D. Check what he’s up to on Twitter and also on his YouTube channel which is a must for any retro gamer!
A doctor is indeed in the house, and it’s none other than everyone’s favourite Italian plumber (for unexplained reasons). This 1990 falling-block puzzle game was Nintendo’s take on Tetris, but with their own twist. In other words, Dr. Mario is a pixelated-prescription with no bitter aftertaste, so long as it’s taken in moderation.
In each stage, coloured viruses appear in a jar. As Mario tosses capsules inside, your job is to plop them onto their corresponding colours. Popping medicine will free up space, but the objective is to purge all viruses by making a chain of four of the same colour in order to defeat them, earning points in the process. When the infection has been purged, it’s onto the next stage, but if the bottle is too full, then kiss your doctorate goodbye.
There’s no steep learning curve with this title. The controls are responsive and very easy to get to grips with. Its graphics are very vibrant and colourful, and the nasty viruses have some creative, toon-like designs to them (the good doctor does look a bit odd with blonde hair, he looks like a rejected member of the Bee Gees). Its handful of songs on offer are great listens, especially the peppy track “Fever” and the appropriately-named “Chill”. Anyone who prefers the silent treatment can turn off the chiptune music, but it goes perfectly with the satisfying 8-bit sound effects, so it’d be a wasted opportunity to mute it.
Dr. Mario is quite flexible with its difficulty settings. You can alter the virus level from 1 to 20, and alter how fast the pills drop, thus making it an excellent choice for players who want to ease into the game gradually with a chilled, mellow experience, or for anyone wanting to test their reflexes. It’s a nice ‘pick up and play’ title that you can leap into straight away.
Likely due to cartridge limitations, there are no other game modes to behold, although it does have a multiplayer mode. You can’t play against the computer competitively, so you’ll need a second person to duel with. Same rules apply: bust the viruses, but don’t let the jar get too full. Considering that players need three victories to win, matches may drag on a bit. Luckily, you can customize the game settings for either player. Want to make one of the players battle fewer germs, or play at a higher speed? Well, you can do just that.
Titles like Dr. Mario are best played in bursts, considering its lack of additional single player modes and depth. On the flip-side, its luscious visuals, catchy music and lovely sound effects give the title a quirky charm, while the speed and difficulty sliders turns an otherwise-simplistic title into a tense puzzle game. While being able to battle with an AI opponent would have been a nice addition, the two-player mode is still a great addition. Say your prayers and take your vitamins, brother, because Dr. Mario is an NES owner’s cure for boredom.