The Nintendo eShop is overflowing with affordable, top quality releases, especially on the 3DS. The Wii U equivalent has some catching up to do but it is getting there with a steady stream of Virtual Console titles coming out each Thursday. However, my first entry in this new semi regular series is a a portable one...
Mario is back yet again in this latest entry in his puzzle game series. Unlike the previous Mario vs Donkey Kong games though, Minis on the Move does not use platforming as its foundation as is instead similar to the classic Pipemania (or Pipe Dreams). At least on the surface - in fact, Nintendo brings quite a few new elements to the template.
The main game is made up of four different modes, each with their own rulesets. First up is Mario's main event, where your task is to take the little wind up Mario figure to the exit whilst collecting 3 coins on the way. In this mode, the track that you lay out to guide Mario is random, and should the green pipe fill up with puzzle pieces or Mario fall off along the way it's game over. In theory the 3 coins are optional goals, but you will really want to get them on every level because only then will you earn a star, which unlocks more mini games and options as you go along.
The second game mode is Puzzle Palace, and for me at least this is the easiest and mode laid back of the four. This time the track pieces are pre defined, and the time limit is much more relaxed. As long as you don't lay down a track piece next to your mini Mario (or one of the unlockable characters), then they won't start advancing towards the goal, so it is a good idea to work backwards from the goal.
Third up is Many Mini Mayhem, where like the title implies, you have multiple mini characters to manage at once. The track is all placed on the board already this time, and it's up to you to slide it around so that the minis don't fall off. As their paths criss cross regularly, this is easier said than done, and this mode quickly gets quite challenging!
The difficulty of Many Mini Mayhem is nothing compared to the challenged offered by the final main mode though: Giant Jungle. These are huge puzzle boards, and each one is home to 10 stars to collect on the way to the goal. Your main enemy in this mode will be the time limit though, and you will constantly have to collect clocks to top it up along the way. I don't advise trying to pick up all 10 stars in one go - just aim for a few on each run. You have to reach the goal before these stars are banked anyway.
There are over 160 levels in total over these modes, but the game is bolstered even further by a selection of unlockable mini games. These are fun diversions but nothing particularly advanced. It is nice to have something to do when the puzzle modes have you stumped though. Finally there is Create & Share mode, where you can create your own puzzles and download those thought up by other people on the Nintendo Network.
If you're a fan of puzzlers then this is an easy recommendation. For a small price you get a lot of game play - in fact this sort of title could quite easily have been a full priced retail release in the past. I have no hesitation in saying that you should definitely pay the £8.99 asking price for this one.
Here's a great video overview of the game from one of the many YouTube channels I subscribe to, GameXplain: