By: Shane Sacobie
Over the years, Nintendo's two hottest commodities have been Mario and Tetris.
Why did the NES, Super NES, and N64 sell so well? Mario. And why did the
GameBoy sell so well? Tetris. Both of these titles are known throughout the
video gaming world. Dr. Mario is an ingenious product that can only be created
by combining these two hits into one unique game. In Dr. Mario, the world
famous plumber hangs up his wrench and plunger and takes on the role of a
doctor trying to destroy the viruses that would otherwise cause harm.
Dr. Mario's graphics are nothing much, and in fact, are very basic,
but that's common in the puzzle gaming scene (not to mention the GameBoy scene). The main graphics are composed
of the pills that Mario tries to defeat the viruses with, as well as the viruses
themselves. Tetris' simplicity returns, as there are only three shades
of colors that are used throughout the majority of the game. Your job is
to match up the colors so that the same ones are lined up in rows vertically
or horizontally. While this seems simple at first, it can sometimes get
complicated by the fact that in certain lighting, it may get difficult to distinguish between one shade and another (where's my backlighting?).
Other than that, there is very little substance to the graphics, though Nintendo
does manage to spice it up here and there. For example, in the bottom corner,
the viruses that you've yet to kill constantly make faces at you until
the right alignment of pills leads to their demise.
While the tunes were okay, I found it best to just set the music to off, which
many Tetris gamers often do when playing that game. In addition to the two
musical options, there were a few other sound effects, though not many. Every
time you moved the pills a certain way, like the blocks in Tetris, you'd
hear a sound. One thing that I liked were the sounds that told you how well
you did. For example, there were different sounds when you killed one virus
as opposed to two, and the sounds changed with each increase of virus killed.
One cool effect was when you killed four or more viruses. While this is very
rare and will not happen often, anyone who manages to do so will get treated
to the Super Mario Bros. invincibility music (you've heard it a million times, but it's always nice).
When it comes to puzzle games, the most important thing is definitely gameplay. Like Tetris, this Dr. Mario was simple, yet addictive. The basic object
was to line the pills up in the proper order so you can destroy all the viruses
and move onto the next level. While this may not sound very exciting, it
can become quite fun after a while. Differing only in color, the pills were all the same length. Anyone who has played Tetris would immediately get the hang
of these controls, which couldn't be more simple. Press left or right
on the D-Pad to move the pill and press A to rotate it one way and B to rotate
it the other way. The learning curve is very short, which is why this game
can be enjoyed by almost anyone.
This is definitely one of the most unique games you'll come across. Whoever
decided to put Mario into a Tetris type environment is truly creative.
Dr. Mario is fun to play, perhaps because it can be played by anyone at any
skill level. Younger gamers will enjoy seeing Mario and trying to kill the
viruses that are antagonizing them on the lower levels, while older gamers
might prefer to skip to the higher levels or the higher speeds after getting
used to the controls.
Due to the fact that it never ends, Dr. Mario has a ton of replay value.
While beating the game on level 20 on low speed or on level 5 on high speed
might produce an amusing ending where the viruses are sleeping with the fishes,
the game continues even after what you may consider the end, basically until
the viruses get to an amount that is so high that it is impossible. Pressing
on to higher levels is always possible as you develop your skills.
Overall, Dr. Mario is a good game. While it doesn't have any flashy graphics
or sounds, it still manages to captivate the gamer with its addictive gameplay
and the combination of Mario and Tetris in one package.