Mario vs. Donkey Kong review – the Switch’s protracted farewell continues in style

February 14, 2024
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The Switch is safely into its Vegas residency era now. So safely, in fact, that with the greatest hits out of the way it’s offering up some deep cuts and B-sides. I am all for this. Following on from the Super Mario RPG remake, here’s Mario vs. Donkey Kong, a gentle reworking of an old Game Boy Advance charmer. It’s lovely stuff.

And it’s interesting, too. It makes one think. Not just because it’s Mario at its most puzzley, with each mini-challenge playing out like the weird equivalent of a Mario Sudoku or some other newspaper brainteaser. It makes me think because it’s another reminder of how Mario, of all game series, is sort of a language that players like me have spent the last few decades learning to speak.

As with language, I’m still learning to recognise how much of the grammar I didn’t consciously know that I understand, as it were. What I get in a game like this, then, is a series of actions and reactions I am surprised to learn I can anticipate. Ice will cause me to slide, sure. But when precisely did I learn that a certain kind of block will cause me to teleport, while another will vanish if a switch is flipped? Elsewhere, from a truly ancient part of my brain I somehow retained the information that I will climb up faster if I’m holding two ropes, but descend faster if I’m only holding one. This kind of recall? From a man who regularly calls his dog “doghead”, because her precise name cannot be grasped in the moment? (It’s Cricket – I just checked.)

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