Capsule Review: Mini Mario & Friends: Amiibo Challenge

A puzzle game in which your mini character automatically moves forward until hitting an interactable part of the environment, such as bouncing high on a springboard or entering a warp pipe. You have partial ability to manipulate the level - some pieces can be removed and replaced elsewhere, such as girders that can create floors, ramps, or walls. Most available characters have one additional power, such as Yoshi’s ability to eat enemies and Mario’s ability to wall-jump. Your goal is to set things up such that your character avoids obstacles and hazards, nabs all collectibles, and finally makes it to the exit door - then it’s on to the next level.

The levels have plenty of interesting things to play with, so if you enjoy this sort of indirect puzzle gameplay where you plan a path and manipulate the level the right way at the right time in order to enable that path, you’ll probably like this well enough. I find it a bit dull how much time is spent waiting for the character to get to the next place and a bit frustrating to have to start over when something goes wrong and thus go through the waiting again along with the increasingly-rote actions along the way. In short, there’s too much distance between figuring out the solution and actually putting it in place, and while the first part is more enjoyable you spend much more time in the second. A rewind feature would make it much less punishing.

What’s more interesting is that the game is a unique experiment with the Amiibo platform. The game itself is a free download, but you can only play if you have an Amiibo. Tapping one that matches one of the ten available Mario-universe mini characters allows you to play with that character; tapping a different one gives you a generic character with no special abilities. Any character can get through the main progression of levels but each of the non-generic characters also has a handful of levels that only they can access and which make use of their special ability.

This is a good way to add value to existing Amiibo and allow them to cross-promote each other. If you already have a Mario Amiibo, maybe you’ll try the game out and then decide to pick up a Luigi so you can play his levels too. This specific game is a bit short to imagine justifying an Amiibo purchase on its own, but if Nintendo had continued down this road and created an ecosystem of games of various genres that you could enter just by buying an Amiibo, it would have become a much more appealing prospect.

Instead, Nintendo seems to have largely abandoned the idea of Amiibo as a platform and today they instead serve as a hybrid of collectible figurines and physical DLC. This game thus stands alone as a glimpse into what might have been.

I Stopped Playing When: Several levels in, my mini was killed by a fireball that I could not possibly have anticipated. The idea that trial-and-error adjustments to when my character reached certain parts of the stage was going to be part of the gameplay, increasing the time spent iterating on the implementation of the solution much more than it increased how interesting it was to figure out the solution, was enough for me to put the game down.

Docprof's Rating:

One Star: Not for me. While there might be someone out there who'd enjoy this game, I was actively repulsed by it or just found nothing to latch on to.

You can get it or learn more here.