i was in the mood for a mindless puzzle game, so i dusted off a copy of the original dr. mario for NES. the game is the only one of the mario puzzle games from the NES era that has seen any longevity, although the appeal of its fairly shallow gameplay has mystified me. i’d played it before but had never been a fan of the game, but i thought i would give it a more in-depth look to see if my opinion would change at all.
although i’m still not much of a fan of the game, i did come to enjoy the game a bit more than i had originally. the game has a basic combo system which tetris lacks, in the form of its gravity mechanics whereby blocks that aren’t attached to anything fall to the bottom of the bottle, i.e. screen. the combos aren’t interesting enough to give the game much depth, and the controls felt noticeably stiff to me, making the game feel even slower than it already is. the two songs are classic and memorable, though, and the mario veneer is appealing, if minimal.
after i had played the game for a while the game element that struck me most is the emphasis on sliding and rotating to fit blocks into open spaces as opposed to just stacking at the top. in tetris you’re generally working from the top or one side and only occasionally will you have to maneuver one of your pieces into a tight spot in order to recover from a previous mistake. but in dr. mario working from the top becomes unfeasible at higher levels b/c you pretty much have to make use of every piece you’re given. this does call for more strategizing, but this type of maneuvering is my least favorite part about tetris and feels more fussy than fun in this game. also, at the highest levels i found myself having to build towers of pills to try to finish off some stray viruses near the sides at the middle and top, which was also quite tedious. according to this FAQ at gamefaqs the speed increases every 10 capsules or so, which seems like a questionable design choice to me as it prevents you from establishing much of a rhythm.
it seems like there are those who prefer this to tetris, but my allegiance definitely lies with the latter. i certainly don’t hate this game, though, and no doubt i’ll be giving its various sequels a spin at some point. i’m also looking forward to trying out some of the other NES tetris-esque games in the future.
a full prescription of dr. mario links!
– entry at wikipedia
– here’s a video of all of the endings. if anyone’s wondering, the endings are as follows: medium speed: level 5 book, 10 chicken, 15 can of spray paint?, 20 baby dinosaur; high speed: level 5 turtle, 10 pig, 15 witch, 20 UFO.
– here’s an interesting overview of the series
– and if anyone’s interested, the nintendo power coverage is as follows: v. 16 listed in pak watch list, v. 18 cover feature, and v. 21 classified info, how to reset (select + start + AB)