Dr. Mario World is the latest attempt by Nintendo to break into the smartphone gaming market and the Dr. Mario license seems to be the perfect way to do it. The puzzle nature of Dr. Mario should make for an excellent mobile gaming experience, but Dr. Mario World eschews the elements that made the series so fun and addictive in order to pursue the formula laid down by games like Candy Crush. The final product is a generic match-three puzzle game that is wearing the face of the Dr. Mario franchise.
Dr. Mario World uses the same concept as the other games in the series, as Mario continues to practice medicine without a license and must use his Tetris skills to cure diseases by using pills to blow up viruses. It isn't just Mario who went to the shady Mushroom Kingdom med school this time around, as the player can choose from several different characters to play as, including the likes of Dr. Bowser and Dr. Peach. The game uses a world map that is broken up into numerous individual stages that must be completed in order, except for a few short branches that lead off into different kinds of levels.
Watch Your Moves
The gameplay of Dr. Mario World involves lining up three colors in order to break a line, which means matching capsules to viruses of the same color. The screen is flipped from the usual style of Dr. Mario game, which is to prevent the player from obscuring the screen too much with their hand. The player drags each pill across the screen and can tap on them to flip them. Players can also drag and drop excess pills that are left after a line is destroyed, with the caveat that they cannot be dragged backward. The Dr. Mario games are similar to Tetris in that the player loses when the capsules pass the barrier at the top of the screen. Dr. Mario World is different, in that the player only has a limited number of capsules on each stage and must plan their strategy in order to win within a certain number of moves.
There are different kinds of viruses in Dr. Mario World, such as frozen viruses that need to be defeated twice and bubble viruses that slowly ascend the stage. There are also some stages that require the player to destroy blocks in addition to the viruses. The inclusion of these different viruses and alternate win conditions is to make it harder for the player to plan their moves, which is especially true of the hidden blocks that obscure the colors of the viruses. The intent seems to be to push the player to the edge of victory and offer them a lifeline in the form of money, which brings us neatly on to the microtransactions...
These Are No Pro Bono Doctors
Dr. Mario World is a mobile game, which means that the player is gradually weaned into understanding its microtransactions and the currencies that they need to deal with in order to play the game. The player has infinite lives during the tutorial section of Dr. Mario World, but once that ends they are introduced to the three currencies of the game - Hearts, Coins, and Diamonds.
Hearts are essentially the lives system of Dr. Mario World. The player needs to spend a Heart in order to attempt a level. The player can have a maximum of five Hearts, with a refresh rate of one every half hour. It's impossible to break the five Heart limit, even when spending money. Coins are earned naturally through completing stages and they can be used to purchase minor powerups and an attempt at winning a new character or assistant.
Diamonds are the currency that requires players to spend money, and they can be used for numerous functions. Diamonds can refill the player's Hearts straight away, they can give the player an hour of unlimited play, they can give the player an extra few turns if they fail a stage, be used to purchase characters and assistants, as well as purchase power-ups to make a stage easier.
Dr. Mario World allows the player to choose their main character from a small starting roster, but they can earn more by either paying Coins, Diamonds, or waiting for the occasional free ticket. There are also assistant characters that grant passive buffs that the player can equip two of at any time. There is a roughly 2% chance of winning a new character or assistant by paying money or using in-game resources and it’s possible to draw the same character twice, which increases their level. Once a character’s level has been maxed out, they are removed from the pool and the chances of receiving other characters are increased. It would likely take a very long time to unlock every character and assistant without paying real money unless the player happens to be incredibly lucky.
It’s entirely possible to play and enjoy Dr. Mario World without ever needing to spend money, as the rate in which Hearts refresh is generous enough that the player can usually afford to wait a little while before attempting a stage again. Where the game fails is in its attempts to try and convince the player to spend more cash, with many stages seemingly designed to be near-misses that encourage the player to use Diamonds to earn a few more turns, so that they can finish a troublesome stage.
Not Malpractice, But It's Close
Dr. Mario World is about as predictable an effort as one could expect from a mobile game developed from a first-party Nintendo license. Dr. Mario World may as well be any other match-three puzzle game, except that it bears Mario’s face. The game is only tangentially connected to the other Dr. Mario games and the whole project comes off as just another puzzle game on mobile phones that the player can enjoy for brief bursts of time while commuting or stuck in work. Dr. Mario World should perhaps be applauded for not being as bad as other games in regards to its microtransactions, but that’s hardly high praise in this age of battle passes and loot boxes. Dr. Mario World is average in every regard and well deserves its rating for being so generic and meaningless in comparison to the other games in the series that bears its name.
2.5 Out Of 5 Stars
Dr. Mario World is available now for Android and iOS devices.