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Reincarnating Dr. Mario

By Chad Serrant

Staff Writer

Graphics 4.5 Sound 2.0 Game play 7.5 Replay Value 7.0

Overall 5.5

Tetris. Anyone who knew video games in the early 90s knew about the most popular electronic puzzle game of all time. Naturally, many puzzle game derivatives were spawned, and one of those games was Dr. Mario.

Dr. Mario is now on the Nintendo 64. It feels like the Super Nintendo Entertainment System version was dragged over to the N64, with few improvements. If you’ve played any previous version, you have played this game.

The premise is pretty simple. You have to collect red, blue, and green pills and horizontally or vertically line them up. If four or more of the same color match, they disappear. The gimmick is that there are viruses on your playing field, and you have to use the pills to eliminate them. Of course, the game will never start that simple (it is a puzzle game, after all). To become an expert, you have to use gravity and luck and slip pills in at the last moment to quickly and efficiently destroy viruses. If you’re not good enough, you’ll never keep up with the speed of the pills dropping in. The game has various modes of play, but they are pretty much the same. There is the classic mode, where you have to take out levels that contain more and more viruses. Versus mode pits you against another player. You can dump trash on your opponent if you clear multiple viruses. In Flash mode, you have to clear three special, flashing viruses to win. This is the closest thing to a new mode, but it’s too simple. Score attack asks you to score as many points as possible in a limited amount of time, but it’s difficult to score more. Story mode is simply ten “vs” matches against computer-controlled opponents, with a boring story attached that sums up to “chase the thief down.” At least you get to fight Vampire Mario and Metal Mario. But the story mode’s only purpose is to fulfill the “requirement” that puzzle games have a story mode.

For two humans, you can play a standard versus mode, flash mode, or score attack, which is just the one player version with a human instead of a computer-controlled opponent. As usual, it’s a lot more fun to play with a human than a computer. But for real fun (and innovation) you have to play the four-player version. As with most self-respecting N64 games, Dr. Mario 64 needed a four player game. It’s really fun to join a couple of friends and enter a good old free-for-all. The four player version is a great addition to Dr. Mario.

The graphics are pretty bland. This game doesn’t use any polygons, and has few animations. I understand that this is a puzzle game, so it doesn’t need good graphics, but more could have been done. The Super NES could have handled these graphics.

The sounds are pretty bad, too. The N64 version remixes the older Fever and Chill themes, but badly. It felt like MIDI, it sounded like MIDI, and it pretty much was MIDI. No really ... MIDI. Your 1990-486-8 MB RAM-200 MB hard drive-Tandy 2100 computer could have done this. Dr. Mario 64 adds Cube and Que Que, but with the Sound Blaster 16 MIDI processor playing them, you will find the songs annoying. The most popular music choice is “Off”. You will use it quite frequently while playing this game, I assure you.

Dr. Mario has its strengths, but it’s not Tetris. When you get good enough at it, you will notice that you can’t set up too many clears at once, and the pills can fall only so fast. In the long run, Dr. Mario is easier, and there isn’t as much variation as Tetris.

I really had mixed feelings about this game. I’ve mastered this game since the Super NES version, and I’ve detected little change in the N64 version. They simply took the SNES version, added some characters, and “improved” the music. This game is being sold for $30, which is one of its better points. If you really wanted to play Dr. Mario, but never had a chance before, you might want to get this. If you’ve mastered Dr. Mario, there is no reason to purchase this.