Dr Mario is a action puzzle game developed by Nintendo R&D1 and publishing by Nintendo initially for the Game Boy and NES in 1990, but the version that I will be covering is the re-release version for the SNES released in 1994. Dr Mario is a game that has been re-released and republished quite a few times by Nintendo throughout the years and for the SNES version was packaged as a double cartridge alongside the game that was the initial inspiration for the game Tetris.
Dr Mario was developed by Gunpei Yokoi who was the person who was at the forefront of the development of the Game Boy console, as well as the producer of the original Metroid and Kid Icarus games. His final creation before he passed away in 1997 was to develop alongside Bandai the Wonderswan, which was intended to be a market competitor to the Game Boy Advance, however the console couldn’t match up to much more powerful and more well supported Nintendo console. It however sold about 4 million units in Japan, where it was an exclusive console that was not sold in the West.
Even though Dr Mario is a puzzle game, there are a few elements of the game which kind of offer the player some sort of story. Mario is now working at a virus research lab in the Mushroom Kingdom, where he is trying to find the cure to multiple viruses that have been making the inhabitants ill. The way he does this is by using tablets supplied to him and by matching the cure to the virus, hence eliminating each type of virus from the test tube. As he completes more and more test tubes, the viruses in later test tubes are more widespread and will require Dr Mario to be more persistent until the viruses are wiped out completely.
The story of Dr Mario is actually quite intriguing because what this means is that Mario has been a plumber, a person who has rescued kidnapped princesses and now is a scientist looking for the cure to viruses. The funny thing is that in no other games within the Mario franchise does Mario have any other roles, then again the story is secondary in relation to offering a reason to why Mario was employed to be a scientist in the first place.
The gameplay of Dr Mario is quite simple in the fact that to complete each stage, the player has to match 4 of the same colour to eradicate one of the viruses within the test tube. On level 0 the player has to eradicate 4 viruses and then every level after adds 4 virus, so level 20 is 84 viruses. Even though it might sound like the game is easy, the game has quite the unique aspect of requiring the player to not just wipe out viruses and move on to the next stage because there is an element of strategy to the game because after a virus is wipe out, the other colours that didn’t match fall. This means that if the player uses the tablets that Dr Mario throws effectively, then the player can wipe out multiple viruses with one drop, which really adds another level of gameplay.
The graphics of the game are actually quite good and the colour contrast makes the individual virus colours stand out well enough for the player to be able to distinguish each colour. Dr Mario’s sprite, whilst quite small in relation to the rest of the game is quite detailed with the lab coat having some quite nice details. Mario also moves his hand when a tablet is thrown onto the field of play and the small details on the hand movement look really good. The play of field is actually quite small in comparison to the rest of the screen, which makes a large section of the game screen not used at all, but instead used for a nice beige looking background with some nice detailing. I definitely think that the size of everything is nicely in proportion, but the playing field could definitely have been wider and would have meant that there could have been more levels to play.
The difficulty of the game is really fair because the game starts off quite easy, but increases steadily which allows the player to get used to the feel of the game as well as how the pieces behave. Definitely from level 10 where the game steps up in difficulty because it gets tougher to clear all the viruses due to how tightly packed the viruses get. Also, the longer the player takes on the level, the quicker the pieces fall, which can make some of the earlier levels tougher if the player can’t clear the level quick enough.
The virus placement is completely random and means that sometimes the viruses can be placed in awkward places and can make some of the early stages feel annoying and can make the later stages borderline impossible. This however offers quite a replayability because it means that even though the player is playing through the same levels time and time again, the experience feels fresh due to the fact that the configuration of the level is entirely different. This also for speedrunning potential because even though it is entirely random, succeeding would then rely on the quality of the player’s skill in the game to succeed.
The music in Dr Mario is a straight up remaster of the original NES and Game Boy music, but the remasters do feel like there is something missing. The NES music is extremely well known and so is the Game Boy version and I feel like the SNES version does a good job of recreating the themes, but the music feels like it would fit better in another game because of the instrumentation. The themes in the game would sound more at home in an RPG like Earthbound because it has some really nice styling and small details that make it feel out of place. I am not saying the music is bad at all, because it is quite good, but it feels like it would suit another style of game rather than a puzzler.
Overall, Dr Mario has aged relatively well for when it was released and it still holds up graphically even today. The mechanics and the difficulty curves are extremely fair on the player and means that the game can be played by anyone of any age, which means even a 5 year old can play the game now and understand what they have to do. The music does feel out of place but is still quite well composed, with lots of little details added to make it sound fresh. I do think that this game is worth playing for fans of puzzle games and just fans of Mario in general.
Copyright ©2016 Liam Piper. All Images Used Under Fair Use