Nintendo’s medical puzzler embraces microtransaction model

Price: Free (IAP)
Version: 1.0.3
194.2 MB
Platform: iPhone / iPad
Developer: Nintendo

Dr Mario World

Dr Mario is one of those Nintendo franchises that you wouldn’t necessarily expect to receive a resurgence via a new iOS game, but on the other hand it makes total sense.

Dr Mario’s blend of match 3, Tetris-style puzzling – first seen in the 1980s – inspired many of the games that are awash in the App Store such as Candy Crush, and in many ways, those inspir-ees have become the inspirers.

Because in Dr Mario for iOS, micro-transactions abound. And it’s been quite divisive.

At its heart the game is a straight forward match 3 puzzler

The loose premise of the game sees the famous Italian plumber his familiar friends needing to destroy a whole bunch of viruses. You do this by applying colored tablets to a board and allowing them to float to the top. If they match with 3 or more of the same colored virus, it goes away. Clear the board and win the game. Simple, right?

It’s quite the jump from the original title and steadily adds various power-ups and mechanics

Yes, and also no. Users that have picked up the free game have been on one hand bowled over by the nostalgia and the sheer scope of the game – which includes an online versus mode, various power-ups and a whole range of different modes – and on the other hand, wholly disappointed by what they deem to be a money grabbing approach by Nintendo.

There’s even a semblance of narrative

And to be fair, they have a point. Dr Mario essentially lets you work through the levels until you screw up and lose too many lives. Then you have to wait to play, or pay. It’s a familiar model but for the brand that decided to charge £10 for its first Mario-based mobile game – Super Mario Run – with the promise of no micro transactions, many are finding this, like the tablets it flaunts, hard to swallow (pun intended, and almost aggressively pointed out within these parenthesis).

You can also unlock different characters as doctors, each of which have different approaches to ‘medicine’.

But for us, it wasn’t so much the micro transactions or time limits that bothered us – we’re used to a range of ‘toilet’ games coming through our doors. What really irked us was Dr Mario’s relentless reliance on a strong internet connection to perform. Even then, there’d be dropouts, needlessly long load times and an overall poor performance with plenty of crashes.

Now that’s where we’d expect more from a massive brand like Nintendo. While the design will be hugely familiar to plays of Super Mario Run, and the game itself full of fun and a steadily raising difficulty level, we found ourselves frequently opting for something else to fill our time rather than wasting a couple minutes to see if the game would even work.

The main game invites you to be strategic to make best use of the tablets and not block yourself in

Which is an incredible shame, because the game actually caters to a variety of players. The main ‘world’ game allows you to take your time and strategize as you only have a finite number of capsules. We found that generally you could steadily make your way through the levels without microtransactions – as long as you weren’t planning on sitting down for a long hour of gameplay.

Then elsewhere, the versus mode allowed you to play against the clock and clear the board as fast as possible. However, it’s the getting there that is wholly off-putting. Why bother going into what, really, the game is designed for, which is a short burst of fun, if by the time it loads and you’re into the action, it’s become a full burst of arms-in-the-air frustration.

Nintendo, you really should know better by now.

Review: Dr Mario - Nintendo's classic franchise arrives on iOS
Incredibly buggy and difficult to fully engage with.
  • Familiar and fun design
  • Gameplay is challenging
  • Quite aggressive microtransactions
  • Reliance on strong internet connection is frustrating
2.5Overall Score