Mini Mario and Friends: Amiibo Challenge Review

Amiibo Title

Title: Mini Mario and Friends – Amiibo Challenge
Developer: Nintendo
Platform: Nintendo 3DS
Game Type: 3DS
NA Availability: 
Digital

EU Availability: Digital
Block Usage:  2,336

Amiibos from Nintendo are often looked at and compared with the kind of character figures that are sent out for games like Disney Infinity and Lego Dimensions.  The same principle is in effect there.  Disney Infinity character figures unlock content for Disney Infinity while Amiibos help to unlock features of various Nintendo games.  It’s not exactly the same, as not having Amiibos doesn’t keep you from having story content, but having them adds something extra.

With this in mind, you can’t help but wonder if Nintendo will go that route and make a game that has content locked without specific Amiibos.  A lot of people likely think that they won’t ever do this, but I’ve learned this week that they have.  It is a free-to-play game, in fact, that has content locked unless you have certain kinds of Amiibos to play the game with.

Straight from the free-to-play section of the eShop, here is my review of Mini Mario and Friends: Amiibo Challenge!

Story

Due to this game not having any story, this section shall remain blank.

Gameplay

Amiibo World Map
The World Map is very colorful and character-oriented

Amiibo Challenge is what I would call a strategy platformer-puzzler.  Basically, the base game is a platformer but your character moves automatically.  Strategy is thrown in as you have to create platforms to lead them down the correct path and that also gives it a big puzzle feel.  So, as I said, strategy platformer-puzzler.  I know it sounds weird.  Just go with it.

The main progression mirrors normal Mario games.  You have various worlds, each littered with stages.  Beat all of the stages in one world and you unlock the next.  The bigger unique aspect is that there are character-specific worlds with stages geared towards specific Mario characters from Mario and Luigi to Peach and Rosalina.

When you first start the game, you have to scan an Amiibo.  Although the game encourages you to use characters from the Mario series, any Amiibo can be scanned.  If you scan someone not from the Mario series, though, you play as a default character instead of someone specific.  I spent most of my time with the game playing as Princess Zelda.

Amiibo Peripheral
That NFC Reader I just reviewed is required if you don’t have a “New” 3DS

In each stage, your character will be moving on their own, climbing platforms and encountering anything directly in front of them.  It is your job to collect resources around the map and create a path for them to follow that will result in them reaching the door that leads to the next stage.

Resources can vary, from Warp Pipes to teleport characters across the stage, bridges for them to cross or slide down, and even pads that will launch them into the air.  You will be using a combination of all of these to traverse each stage and each element will be introduced a good amount of time before the next to help you learn the system.

The biggest trick here is timing.  You may only have a split second before your character goes through a pipe and across the ledge before you have to create another ledge and pipe for them to go through to avoid falling to a spike pit.  The nice thing is that your character stands still at the start of the stage, so you can mentally look around the map and create your plan before tapping them to have them start moving.

The biggest two aspects are character-specific doors and worlds.  Along with the normal doors used to exit stages, you will see doors with character icons on them.  Only certain characters can enter these doors, as they lead to their own specific world that no one else can visit.  In order to enter the Rosalina doors, you must be playing as Rosalina since only her special ability allows you to move up there.

Amiibo Pipes
This is a pretty simple puzzle when compared to others

Here’s where things get restrictive.  Obviously, you can only play in the Mario World with a Mario Amiibo, so if you don’t own one, you can’t go in.  If you don’t own any Mario-based Amiibo figures, you can’t go into any of those worlds.  This poses a problem as at first, I would just think that I’ll just pass on those worlds and go through the main path of worlds instead.

The game puts an end to that logic quick and fast.  The 2nd “main” world is called Star World, and every stage in Star World requires Amiibo Tokens to unlock.  These are only available from character-specific worlds.  There’s no other way to get them, so unless you have or go out and buy some Mario-based Amiibos, you can’t access even the 2nd stage of World 2.  And if you want to play all of this game, you’ll be expected to have Amiibos for all major Mario characters from Mario, Luigi, Toad, Bowser Jr, Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong, Rosalina, Toad, and others.

This is a different method for in-game purchases.  Instead of charging DLC money to unlock content, it’s locked behind Amiibo figures, in a similar manner to the business model of Disney Infinity and Skylanders.  Buy Mario-based Amiibos or you can’t play through most of the game.  In fact, if you don’t have any, you can only play about 15 minutes’ worth of the game.

Past this is the fact that each character world is only a few stages long.  That’s barely long enough to introduce each world’s focus on a character gimmick.  Once you learn how someone works, you’re done with them and onto the next.

Speaking of length, let’s assume you have all Mario Amiibo figures.  You can unlock every world in the game.  There are a little over 60 stages total, and each stage takes an average of 1-2 minutes.  Regardless, the best you’re getting out of this is around 1-2 hours.  That’s for collectors.  The rest of us would be lucky to get 30 minutes out of it.  It’s short.

Controls

Most of the controls deal with the touch screen.  All puzzle elements require you to tap areas on the screen to remove elements or add them in.  This works surprisingly well and, while the game isn’t without physical controls, touch takes the lead here.

During stages, you can use the D-Pad to move the camera around to look at the stage.  You can also use the Circle Pad and face buttons for this.  To be honest, that’s all there is to the physical controls.  There are three different ways to move the camera and that’s all there is to it.  On the Map screen, though, you can use the D-Pad to move from stage to stage and the A and B buttons to select and cancel out of options.

Presentation

Amiibo Rosa
Rosalina’s Lunar Jump is her specialty that only she can perform

Visually, it looks cute.  All of the characters that have been reincarnated as small wind-up toys look adorable and there’s just enough detail to make them look colorful and alive.  I saw no blemishes or particularly-strong pixilation being done while playing the game.

Performance is the same.  Load times are short.  Frame drops never happen.  It’s optimized well enough, and the Amiibo figures will register and scan without a hitch.

Summary

Mini Mario and Friends: Amiibo Challenge can offer some pretty engaging puzzles to burn your time away.  Despite the adorable visuals and gameplay geared towards puzzle fans, the fact that there’s no story, the game is short, and most of the game is locked behind an Amiibo-focused paywall really hurts both the longevity and encouragement to play more of it.  It feels more like a demo than a full game. 

6/10

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