(This review has been adapted to fit CCGR\'s review standards from its original form as seen on Revolve21.)
As perhaps one of the most widely known games of all time (and certainly one of the most well known puzzle games of all time), Tetris\' simple gameplay concept of positioning falling objects in a way that they combine to clear themselves, resulting in a score increment, has addicted gamers for over two decades now.
In spite of all of the comparisons, Dr. Mario is not Tetris. For the unfamiliar, or those needing a brief refresher course, Dr. Mario is a potentially intense puzzle game that requires gamers to drop colored capsules into a color-coded virus infested bottle in effort to purge the little vermin. Because the game takes place on a grid, when four or more grid cells of the same color to are in a row (or column), that grouping of cells disappears (adding to the player\'s score). Simple as it sounds, the game quickly becomes frantic and demands players to not only respond quickly to the new capsules as they fall, but plan ahead for the capsules that are next in line to appear.
At its most base level, Dr. Mario really is a simple game based on a simple concept. It has been a simple concept since the first game in the series was released in 1990 on the NES. In fact, the core formula has changed very little in the last 18 years. Then again, this may be Dr. Mario Online Rx\'s greatest selling point. The fundamental game experience is so well developed and finely tuned, that messing with it too much could do a lot more harm than good.
As with all good puzzle games, this one demands that players pay close attention to every action they make in order to succeed. Too many wrong moves will result in filling up the game bottle with capsules, resulting in a game over. On the easier levels and speeds, the game is rather forgiving; there is enough space in the bottle to correct mistakes. This is nice for newcomers, and it allows for a learning curve that matches the player\'s abilities. Then again, the higher difficulty levels, and faster dropping speeds of the capsules, really ramp up the challenge to such a degree that frustration will quickly kick in. And just as quick as the frustration hits, the drive to try again and succeed will follow; Nintendo has truly crafted one of the most addicting games around.
Indeed, even in today\'s market of cutting edge games, the original release of Dr. Mario could still hold its own amongst fans of puzzle games. Without doubt, Nintendo could have simply slapped some basic graphic updates on the NES classic and sold it for $15 in the Wii Shop without any trouble. Thankfully, Nintendo didn\'t go that route. Instead, we get a package complete with the original game intact, a variant of the original game designed for competition, a new twist on the game called Virus Buster, local multiplayer support for all of these modes, and, as sweet icing on the cake, online multiplayer and the ability to use Miis in the game.
The new gameplay modes, Flash and Virus Buster, still follow the falling capsule mechanics. However, the changes are by no means insignificant. Flash mode is practically identical to the main mode in every way but the objective. Flash mode can be played offline (with another person or a computer opponent) or online. Unlike the main mode of Dr. Mario, Flash mode selects a few of the viruses to glow and flash. Instead of clearing the entire bottle of viruses, only the flashing ones need to be exterminated to win. This does a lot to change the approach players take in their strategy, and causes the competition factor to run even higher than before.
Virus Buster is actually quite different from the main and Flash modes in the way that it is played. Unlike the other game modes that can only be controlled by conventional means (directional pads and buttons), Virus Buster takes a much more direct approach. Using the Wiimote as a pointer, players grab capsules as they fall and drag them to wherever the players want them to go. At first read, this doesn\'t sound like a big deal, but, in practice, the difference is actually significant. For one thing, it is possible for multiple capsules to be falling at the same time, and the click and drag control makes it more intuitive to stack capsules quickly. Because capsules are constantly falling (unlike the main mode, where a new capsule only shows up once every piece has fallen), a new possibility is for players to insert a capsule between falling pieces and where they are going to land for an extended combo (resulting in an even higher score). Once multiple capsules begin falling at once, Virus Buster begins to feel like a completely different game. Then again, that is probably why Virus Buster is treated as a game distinct from Dr. Mario in the main menu. Beyond these differences, the playing field is actually much smaller than that of the main game. It is as if the camera is zoomed in on the base of the bottle. In effect, the margin for error is reduced even further in Virus Buster.
If putting down the controller is hard in the single-player game, putting down the controller when playing with a friend or family member is practically impossible. In the main Dr. Mario game, two players are pitted against each other; in Virus Buster, up to four players work together. The competitive modes are exceptional. Beyond simply racing against the opponent to clear the bottle of viruses, players are given an ability to mess up the opponent\'s bottle. Every time there is a combo of two or more rows/columns being cleared, a number of half-capsules (single grid cells) equal to the size of the combo are dropped at random places in the opponent\'s bottle. Indeed, the level of strategy is increased when players try to set up for long clearing chains. However, that work can quickly be messed up if the opponent gets a combo first.
It is worth noting here that the game\'s biggest letdown is actually in the multiplayer offering. Make no mistake, what is available is fantastic. However, the lack of four player support in the competitive modes simply doesn\'t make sense. A previous release of Dr. Mario (namely, Dr. Mario 64) had four player support, so it is more than a little puzzling that it is absent from Online Rx.
Nevertheless, online multiplayer works like a dream. It is easy to connect with players anywhere in the world and get in to a quick and (seemingly) lagless game. When online, only the main and Flash modes are available. The experience actually translates well to online play. In fact, Dr. Mario Online Rx is not only one of the better games on the Wii with online play, but also one of the better console games with online play. Friend codes are present in Dr. Mario, but it is just as easy to connect with anyone. There is little to say for chat support. No text or vocal chat is available; instead, players are given a series of phrases and greetings that can be sent to each other while waiting for the next match to start. One very nice thing Nintendo offers in Online Rx is the ability to send a demo version of the game to friends. The demo version is restricted to the online multiplayer, but it is still a nice gesture (and a solid marketing technique).
In just about every way (lack of four player competitive modes notwithstanding), the gameplay aspects of Dr. Mario Online Rx are near puzzle game perfections. However, because of how great the gameplay is, it\'s easy to forget that this is a WiiWare title. Because it is easy to forget about the game\'s WiiWare restrictions, some parts of the presentation can feel like a bit of a letdown.
This is especially true in the graphical department. By no means is the game ugly; it simply fails to impress in its simple interface. The interface is very simple. It is nice to have a clean, functional interface, but Dr. Mario\'s comes off a bit too utilitarian. In-game graphics do nothing special. Again, they\'re not ugly, but they have little wow factor.
The sound department is also a mixed bag. On the one hand, "Fever" and "Chill," are in the game and as ridiculously catchy as they were on the NES. On the other hand, they\'re essentially the same songs that were on the NES. There are other songs in the game, but they don\'t quite pack the same punch. Like the graphics, the sound effects are nothing special.
Then again, this is a WiiWare title at the low price of $10. It would be unfair to expect the pizazz of a top-tier retail title here. Nevertheless, so much of the presentation has hardly changed from the NES. Of course, many long time fans of the game will likely be happy with the game as it is. Newcomers, on the other hand, won\'t feel like they\'re playing the same game they played over 15 years ago. Still, there was room for Nintendo to go that extra mile.
In the end, we\'re still getting much more than what we\'re paying for. Dr. Mario Online Rx is an excellent puzzle game that few others can even dream to compete with. The original version of the game has been considered a classic for a reason. Though Online Rx lacks newness in presentation, the gameplay is still as addicting as ever, and the new game modes give players even more reason to come back. Add online play to the package, and Online Rx would easily be worth twice the cost of admission. Morally, short of a fear that playing Dr. Mario will turn you or your kids into unhealthy users of pharmaceutical drugs, there\'s really very little to complain about here. This is a great package at a great price, and it is one that is very easy to recommend to just about anyone.
-Kenny Yeager (
Sexual Content/Nudity 10/10
Appropriateness Total: 50/50
Game Play 18/20
Game Score Total: 43/50