Mario seems to be a literal jack-of-all-trades: a plumber, construction worker, racer, even a tennis player. Clearly, this man’s resumé is rather colourful, especially with the addition of medical practitioner on that list. I’m not sure how much I’d trust the medical advice from a man who has ingested thousands of poison mushrooms, but I do know that his virus-killing antics are the sort of thing that can keep me amused for hours. However, is this latest edition of the long-running Mario sub-series just what the doctor ordered or is it merely a placebo?
A pill to make you numb
For those of you not in the know, here’s an introductory primer: it’s a vaguely Tetris-like puzzle game with pieces that are continually falling from the top of the screen. In keeping with the Hippocrates theme, these pieces are presented in the form of multicoloured pills, which are actually “Megavitamin” capsules. The playing field is littered with squirming viruses, and the goal is to eliminate all the offending micro-organisms by dropping pills onto them. Should you match at least four colours, be they viruses or parts of the pill casings, all parts of the same colour will disappear from the screen. The challenge comes from not allowing pills to get stacked too high and creating colour-matching chains in the most efficient way possible. In addition, the infamous “Dr. Luigi” scenarios make a return, whereby pieces are not single pills but two capsules encased in an “L”-shaped blister pack, requiring new strategies and quick reflexes for proper placement.
Dr Mario: Miracle Cure introduces a few new twists to Mario’s prescription puzzler. The titular “miracle cure” involves a thermometer-shaped meter on the right of the screen which slowly fills, granting players a bonus power-up once it’s full; these range from a powerful bomb to an orb which destroys all viruses and vitamins of a specific colour. It definitely adds a bit of variety to the mix, but it also seems to unbalance the affair somewhat and make it a tad too easy. Fortunately, there’s a “custom clinic” mode which features an option to turn off the miracle cure if you’d prefer the original, more brutal style of gameplay.
If you’ve had enough of Mario and Luigi in the single-player mode, you can rope your mates into playing with you via online and local multiplayer modes. These include Download Play and Local Play: the former requires one player to connect and download the title from somebody who owns a copy of the game and the latter functions if each player has their own copy.
A good multiplayer game gives you plenty of chances to be a total jerk to the other player, and Dr Mario: Miracle Cure is no exception. New power-ups are introduced with multiple players, such as freezing your opponent’s ability to rotate pills and increasing the rate by which capsules drop. It’s all sorts of crazy fun and guaranteed to make you a few enemies. If, however, you’re a more amicable sort, you can choose to face the viral onslaught together and work towards a common, inclusive goal.
It’s a good game and an all-round fun little lark, but it’s strictly catered towards fans of the series instead of an attempt to appeal to new players. Besides some cute graphics and the odd new gameplay mechanic, there’s not much difference between this and other entries in the Dr Mario library. It doesn’t even make full use of the 3DS’s features; there’s a touchscreen mode which feels like an afterthought and there aren’t even 3D effects during gameplay. Of course, these are not necessary for the game to be fun, but having players think in three-dimensional spaces would have gone a long way to creating a more memorable experience. If you enjoyed the previous Dr Mario games, then get this. If you’re a general puzzle fan and you’re looking for something new and interesting, you might want to gloss this one over.