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The doctor is in, and he brought in some monetization efforts to find the cure.
Dr. Mario is one of my favorite puzzle game franchises of all time, which even extends to the modern games made by Arika. I sank an enormous amount of time into the 3DS eShop version Miracle Cure. I totally get that it wasn’t for everyone, but the sheer amount of stuff you could do was incredible. With the arrival of Dr. Mario World, I was hoping that the series would find a permanent spot on my mobile device. Now that I’ve played some hours of World, I can’t say that I’m overly impressed, even though it isn’t bad in the grand scheme of things.
Dr. Mario World is somewhat similar to the regular formula, though it takes some liberties to make it work on a mobile device. While initially I imagined something more in line of the Germ Buster mode, the developers went in quite a different direction. Imagine your Dr. Mario screen being flipped upside down. While it remains your goal to connect viruses to Megavitamins, three at minimum this time, you will drag the vitamins all across the screen. The vitamin is rotated by tapping. You have more freedom to make moves in an attempt to clear the fixed viruses in every stage. To make every stage feel unique, there are different obstacles and sometimes completely different goals to deal with. Although the variety of objectives is fun at first, I found later that I was wondering if I had seen everything.
The game offers five worlds with the typical Super Mario environments, ranging from grassy plains to a sky world. The backgrounds are just static JPEGs, and I quickly grew bored of seeing the same background as it overused the grass in particular. That is, the biggest problem with Dr. Mario World: it doesn’t really inspire any confidence when the music or the area you play in barely changes. What doesn’t really help matters is that the character models aren’t as clean as other Nintendo products. The game clearly created original assets to make it more appealing, but the models just look a teensy bit strange. Not sure what to make of it.
Despite the appearance issues, the gimmicks introduced in Dr. Mario World are solid. The game offers a bunch of different doctors to play as, each coming with a special ability to aid you. Dr. Bowser will wipe two rows at random, while Dr. Ludwig Koopa will remove ice properties from ten viruses. Those ice properties are one of the different ways in which Dr. Mario World attempts to keep everything fresh. Bubbled viruses will float to the top, while iced viruses are locked into place. In either case, both varieties require two strikes before they will be destroyed. In other levels, you will have to destroy blocks to access viruses or collect coins. It will force you to approach the screen differently and be diligent in checking the entire field.
Another element is the introduction of power-ups. There are bombs that immediately clear the surrounding viruses and break open the playing field. Koopa Shells are my favorites as they will go back and forth, clearing everything on a row. While you receive new Megavitamins, there is a random chance of a rainbow pill appearing. This acts as a wildcard and can be used to make faster clears. In typical mobile fashion, there are also paid power-ups, which will help out in a pinch. You can replenish your special attack, remove all placed capsules on the board or remove one block or virus altogether. These powers make the game even easier, though I didn’t feel the need to use them as most of the levels aren’t timed anyway. The player gets the freedom to plan his/her moves ahead of time, which makes power-ups a bit of an afterthought.
In addition to the regular single-player mode, Dr. Mario World also offers a Versus Mode. In all sincerity, this is where I had more fun with the game. Players will duke it out one-on-one in a virus clearing competition. As you clear the screen, a meter will build up in your corner. Do this quicker than your foe, and you will devastate them by filling their screen with garbage. Your goal in Versus Mode is to push your opponent’s lines closer and closer to the top. Along the way, you can use the special abilities of the Doctors and their assistants that are specific to this mode. Versus is frantic and very satisfying to play. As the patterns are random and every player reacts differently, it is easily the most exciting part of the package. You also get a bunch of rewards if you manage to achieve a certain amount of wins, which makes focusing on multiplayer much more rewarding. The best part is that you can play with friends or complete strangers as you see fit.
As we are talking about a free-to-play mobile game, this is a good point as any to talk about monetization. Dr. Mario World offers two currencies. There are the traditional coins that you get from completing single-player stages, completing achievements or defeating foes in the Versus Mode. You can purchase a random power-up for 200 coins, or try to nab a character for 4000 coins. The single-player campaign has a star system (three for each level), with each star paying 50 coins. As you can imagine, it will be a bit before you hit up the big RNG lottery machine. Coins are a much slower burn, and Dr. Mario World knows exactly what it is doing.
This is where the Diamonds come into play. It starts at 20 Diamonds for $1.99/€2.29 with the system going all the way to a whooping $69.99/€74.99 for 1050 Diamonds. The premium currency shows its face in a variety of ways. For example, you can wait or ask your friends on LINE or Facebook to replenish your hearts (stamina), but if you want to play endless for an hour that will be 30 Diamonds please. Remember how I told you that you can get new characters? Well, those are 40 pieces of premium currency. And characters are obtained by a gacha system, with roughly equal odds for a doctor or assistant appearing. As my version disabled purchasing diamonds with real money, 2000 diamonds were used in the test period. At the end I had half of the assistants and five doctors as the same ones kept showing up doing my rolls. Their power levels will increase, but if you want all the possible abilities, you might want to think twice.
Dr. Mario World is the most mobile game that Nintendo has been involved with. It does the typical tropes for a game of this caliber. There is a heavy focus on monetization with diamonds giving you more options or removing some challenge. While the game’s look is quite basic, I can’t deny that I quite liked the gameplay aspects. There is something nice about clearing levels or battling your foes in Versus Mode. That being said, World requires a lot of focus to play well. It takes everything a bit slower and lures you into a false sense of security. With a limited amount of resources, every capsule matters.