In a marketplace long since cluttered with match-3 games, Nintendo is trying to carve a space for itself with Dr. Mario World. Nintendo’s prior mobile offerings have done well, so can Dr. Mario World expect similar results?
The doctor is in
Each of Dr. Mario World‘s five worlds contains 40 levels and three challenge levels. Each star you earn on a stage gives you a one-time 50-coin bonus, and your first completion of a stage earns you a heart. The normal stages play much like in the original. Viruses litter the playing field and it’s up to you to connect them with similarly-colored capsules. Lining up a combination of three or more viruses and capsule halves clears those pieces from the board. Unlike in the original, any parts that would fall as a result of removing one of these lines can be moved to other lanes, creating the opportunity to clear other lines.
Careful capsule movement is critical to your success in Dr. Mario World. The board flows from bottom to top. If you’re not interested in waiting for your capsule to float into place, you can drag it upward to speed things up. You can’t lower floating capsules, however, so if you overshoot your target, you’ll have to find another way to deal with it.
Generally, this wasn’t too much of a problem, as time is not a factor in the primary stages. Instead, each stage gives you a set number of capsules with which to complete it. You thus can take a step back and think strategically. If you’re going for three stars on each level, you’ll want to make efficient use of your capsules, since you get bonus points for each unused one.
Time for your checkup
The movement mechanics start becoming an obstacle during the time-based challenge stages. No longer can you afford to sit there and plan your next move. Success on these levels requires quick thinking and staying two or three steps ahead. More than once, I let the pressure of time get to me and moved a piece in a way I shouldn’t have, an often fatal error.
Getting three stars on every stage in a world unlocks a special stage. If you thought the challenge stages were hard, the special stage is much worse. It reverts to the capsule limit of the regular levels, but the layout makes each capsule you place even more vital than before. I wish I could tell you what you get from completing it, but I’m still struggling with it, despite using all my power-ups.
One unique mechanic of Dr. Mario World is that you “control” a team comprising one doctor and up to two assistants. Initially, you’ll have a choice of Mario, Bowser, or Peach as your doctor, with the others then locked away. Each one has a unique active ability that can be used after clearing enough of the board. Assistants are more minor characters within the Mario-verse and give you passive bonuses. You can unlock new doctors and assistants through a gacha system, and getting duplicate characters levels them up.
Doctor vs. doctor
If you get bored with the stage mode or run out of hearts, Dr. Mario World also features real-time multiplayer. This mode is incredibly fun and may be the best part of the game. Matches can get fairly intense, so prepare yourself accordingly. The more you clear viruses, the quicker you fill up your attack meter. Upon filling your meter, you send garbage to your opponent’s field, where they have a small chance of blocking your attack. This admittedly makes matches somewhat luck-based, often too much so.
Of course, Dr. Mario World is a mobile game, which means that in-app purchases are littered all over the place. Using real money, you can purchase diamonds (in packages that cost as much as $69.99), which you can then use for any number of in-game items, such as extra hearts, boost items, and new characters. If you’re patient enough to wait on your hearts to refill (at a rate of one per 30 minutes) or to gather the coins necessary to buy new characters, then it’s certainly possible to progress without spending any money. It can just be a little on the slow side.
Dr. Mario World is another solid entry in Nintendo’s mobile lineup. I was concerned that Dr. Mario World wouldn’t do enough to differentiate itself from the plethora of match-3 games on the market. However, its blend of classic Dr. Mario gameplay and new mechanics keeps things feeling fresh. I’ll certainly be playing this for a while to come. Maybe I’ll run into you on the battlefield!