'Dr. Mario World' Delivers Classic NES Puzzle Action, But May Be Too Much of a Grind for FTP Players

Bringing Dr. Mario to mobile devices feels like a no-brainer for Nintendo. But there's already plenty of match-three puzzle games available for Android and iOS So what lets Dr. Mario World stand out from the rest of the pack?

I had a chance to check out the new mobile game for a brief demo and found that there is plenty to love about Dr. Mario World. The core puzzle-solving mechanics are addictive, and the the classic Nintendo aesthetic makes this mobile title feel more substantial than just a re-skinned Candy Crush.

dr mario world release date gameplay
Nintendo

GAMEPLAY

Dr. Mario World's gameplay is simple. Swipe, slide and tap various capsules to dispatch viruses of the same color. You'll need to match at least three colors to wipe out the viruses before you run out of capsules.

That's the gist of the gameplay; however, as you progress to higher-numbered stages you'll encounter obstacles that make it more challenging. Blocks will get in your way, bombs can help you wipe out large swaths of viruses. Some stages see the pesky viruses encased in ice, forcing you to match them twice. Some levels will throw every obstacle you've encountered so far at you to make it even more difficult.

Thankfully, most of these stages aren't timed. You can take your time and look at the board to come up with strategies to complete each level and earn three gold stars. To get stars, you'll need to earn a certain number of points during the stage - a number that isn't shown - but learning how to efficiently use capsules will greatly improve your chances of getting them.

Challenge stages grant you unlimited capsules but are timed, so it's more about speed than efficiency. There are also stages with different objectives, like gathering a certain number of coins hidden in boxes. You'll need to match the viruses surrounding them to gain a coin. Dr. Mario World provides a variety of objectives and level structures to keep the gameplay from becoming stale.

dr mario gameplay stage
Nintendo

HEARTS FOR DAYS

Dr. Mario World will offer more than 200 stages when it launches July 10. While that may seem like a lot, I suspect most players will blow through those quickly, given how easy it is to earn hearts. A single heart is used to play a stage, and when you complete it for the first time you earn a heart. So, theoretically, you can keep playing over and over. Friends you make via Facebook, Line or your Nintendo Account can also send you one heart per day.

You can also stockpile hearts, which could make it a bit too easy to complete all the levels that will be available.

The Mario Kart Tour beta had similar problems. I got through each level rather quickly, and when there were no more tracks to unlock I didn't have a desire to continue. The success of Dr. Mario World could hinge up on how fast Nintendo is able to add new levels a to the game.

COULD BE A GRIND

Most mobile games have some grinding aspects, and Dr. Mario World is no different.

The gimmick of this game is that you choose a character - or doctor - to play as. Each doctor has their own special abilities to help clear the board faster. However, outside of the one you get when you first boot up the game, you'll need to unlock them using diamonds and gold coins, the in-game currency.

Diamonds are purchased with real-world money, while coins are earned for completing levels and random drops in the game's overworld. Daily objectives called "orders" will gift coins and other items if you complete them. "Clinic Events" will also offer special objectives to earn rewards.

dr mario world overworld
Nintendo

There are plenty of doctors to play as and recruit in Dr. Mario World. Then there are the assistants, secondary characters (like Goomba) to give you extra boosts during levels. Some increase your final score by one percent, others can help you increase your special meter faster.

These characters - which are more numerous than the doctors - will also cost currency to unlock. Each character and assistant needs 4000 gold coins to unlock, and you only receive 100 by completing a stage. That's a lot of grinding if you don't plan on using real money.

VERSUS - PAY TO WIN?

A neat feature in Dr. Mario World is the online versus function, which lets you take on friends you've added or strangers online. Unfortunately, it wasn't available to try out in the demo, but I did learn some things about it.

Each doctor character has their own Attack, Defense and Speed stats to differentiate them in versus. Defense, for example, determines how well that character eliminates viruses and obstacles your opponent drops on you. (If you're familiar with Puyo Puyo Tetris and its multiplayer, this is similar.) You'll need to rows of viruses to start dropping things on your opponent to make things harder for them.

You bring one doctor and up to two assistants into battle, each with their own special skills. You can also level up these skills by staffing that character more than once. Unfortunately, this is where the "gacha" mechanic comes in.

The chance of a character or assist appearing when you staff is random, so if you have unlocked Dr. Bowser and you want to get its skill to level 3, you'd have to staff it two more times. This requires more currency and it seems likely you'd need to buy diamonds in bulk to have a beefed-up doctor.

Without playing through the versus mode or using the staff feature it's hard to say, but it seems you'll need to be lucky or have a lot of money to get the characters and resources you need, which could discourage people from sticking with the game.

Dr. Mario World is out for iOS and Android July 10.

'Dr. Mario World' Delivers Classic NES Puzzle Action, But May Be Too Much of a Grind for FTP Players | Gaming