Review: Dr. Mario Online Rx (Nintendo Wii)

Dr. Mario Online Rx
Genre: Puzzle
Developer: Arika
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: 05/26/2008


These days, when you look at the Nintendo section at a video game store, you’ll likely see many games featuring Mario. Mario is a character that wears many hats; both literally and in the sense that he has many different jobs. He’s a kart racer, a baseball player, a soccer player, a dancer, a fighter and even a piece of paper. Back in the NES days, however, he was one thing: a platforming superhero. Sure, he moonlighted as a boxing referee and gorilla kidnapper now and again, but games in which he was the main character revolved around either saving Princess Toadstool from the evil Bowser or force-feeding a giant imaginary frog vegetables of various sizes (God I HATE that game).

drmario_1.jpgThis was the status quo until 1990, when Mario revealed that he had gotten his Ph.D. at some point and put it to good use by battling viruses in Dr. Mario. It was a puzzle game somewhat like Tetris, except instead of just making lines of blocks disappear until you lose, there are many viruses in each level that must be thwarted by stacking vitamins of the same color as the virus on top of them.

Despite not being much of a fan of puzzle games, this was one of my favorite games back in the day, and I’ve been waiting for it to be released on the Virtual Console since the service began. I was very excited to hear about Dr. Mario Online Rx being released through WiiWare, trying to ignore my own reservations towards remakes that made me a little uneasy about it. Those reservations didn’t stop me from downloading it mere seconds after it was released though. I knew I was getting the classic Dr. Mario gameplay I liked as a kid, but the 1.5 million dollar question is: why couldn’t this game just have been released on the VC? Put another way, what about Dr. Mario Online Rx makes the WiiWare game worth twice as much as it would be on the VC? Let’s find out.

large.jpgDr. Mario Online Rx features two games: a revamped version of the classic Dr. Mario and “Virus Buster”, a Wii-ized version of the Germ Buster mini game found in Brain Age 2 for the DS. Dr. Mario mode is what it sounds like; the classic game. You have a few different ways to play it. In the single player mode, you can play a classic puzzle game, a game versus the computer in which you try to finish a level before it, or a “Flash” game, in which you have to destroy the viruses that are flashing in order to advance. You can also play Flash against the computer. You can also compete against another person in 2-player mode or through the Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection, so there’s no shortage of ways to play this game.

The game is played by holding the Wii remote sideways, like a NES controller. The object is to stack vitamins on top of the virus of the corresponding color; blue, yellow or red. The vitamins consist of two blocks, either all the same color or any combination of the two. Wiping out all the viruses in a level moves you on to the next one, or wins the game if you’re playing against someone. You can set the game up to any difficulty, and change the speed at which vitamins fall. The graphics are revamped, with Mario and the viruses rendered in 3D, and the game is bright and colorful on my brand new, obscenely expensive HD TV. The music is also remixed, but it’s nothing special. In fact I find it pretty bad at certain points, but the game isn’t about music, so it’s easy to look past that. The game is still very balanced, and gets tougher as you move on.

large2.jpgThe other mode, Virus Buster, makes use of the Wii’s motion sensing capabilities. It is the very same Dr. Mario game, but you have to drag a vitamin with the Wii remote over to where you want it. It can be played by up to four players. Unlike the classic mode, you can’t choose how fast the vitamins move down, which brings me to what I don’t like about Virus Buster: it’s pretty darn slow. The vitamins descend down the screen with a decided lack of urgency. You can drag them all the way down, but they don’t lock into place until you let go of them, so if you’re impatient (like me) and want to drag them all the way down to speed the game up a bit, you’re liable to miss your mark and possibly kill the whole puzzle. It’s not a big problem, but I wasn’t much impressed by Virus Buster, and the slowness contributed to that.

Online play works great. I was able to get online easily and there doesn’t seem to be any lag. Even the friend codes seem easier to input. Your Mii throws vitamins in online mode, instead of Dr. Mario, which is a good touch. Your win/loss record is kept in an online leaderboard, and you are given or deducted points depending on whether you win or lose a game. There are also a lot of little things about the game that I like. Like how Virus Buster includes an appearance by the Mii’s on your system, dressed as doctors, shown trying to keep the viruses at bay while you control the vitamins, and they talk to you if you click on them. You can also send a demo of the game to someone who doesn’t have it if they want to try it out, which is cool as well.

However, the game seems to be missing something. Basically the only things separating Dr. Mario Online Rx from Dr. Mario are online play, new graphics and Wii remote support. I don’t even care about online play, and I’ll probably never use it, so, ignoring that part of the gameplay, now there’s even less differentiating it from the original. Do new graphics and Wii remote support really add up to the cost of an entire NES game? I don’t understand why they couldn’t just release the game on the VC if they weren’t going to do much with it. How about adding achievements? Or maybe unlockable bonuses, like the original Dr. Mario game? Don’t get me wrong, the game is by no means bad. The classic gameplay is just as good as it always has been, but it’s essentially the same game as it’s always been. And personally, I’m not even upset about this. I hate when companies mess with classic games when remaking them. However, I realize some people might want a little tweaking in their remade games, so if you’re expecting more for your 1000 points, you’ll likely be at least a little disappointed.

The Scores

Story/Modes: Good
Graphics: Good
Sound: Decent
Control and Gameplay: Good
Replayability: Great
Balance: Very Good
Originality: Poor
Addictiveness: Great
Appeal Factor: Good
Miscellaneous: Bad
Final Score: Good Game

Short Attention Span Summary

If you’re expecting more bang for your $10, you might be a little disappointed, but it’s still the same classic game as it’s always been. Fans of the game should get this immediately. Non-fans; it’s up to you.

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