You may recall that in the March 2016 Nintendo Direct, they announced Mini Mario & Friends: amiibo Challenge for the Wii U and 3DS. Anyone who bought an amiibo at participating retailers between March 25 and April 27 got free codes for the Wii U and 3DS versions. I went to one of those and bought some amiibo, and got codes.
If you want more details about that, stay tuned for the conclusion of the “How Team Koopa Escaped Rio” series here on KoopaTV. Whenever that is finished, it'll be linked to at the bottom of this review. I want to focus on this game, Mini Mario & Friends: amiibo Challenge.
Now, the reason that it comes with an amiibo? You need at least one amiibo to actually play. Could be any amiibo. But only a select few amiibo give you special things in the game. I'll talk more about that in the review, but that's just something important to get out of the way.
I don't particularly feel like making particular sections for each part (gameplay, graphics, whatever) of the game like I've done in some previous reviews. I'm feeling holistic right now. All screenshots for this review are from the Wii U version.
- Publisher — Nintendo. Developed by Nintendo Software Technology.
- System — 3DS and Wii U. The game is identical for each. For 3DS, you need a separate accessory (Nintendo 3DS NFC Reader/Writer) or the New 3DS.
- Genre — Indirect-control puzzle-platformer.
- Price and Memory — Free, but requires at least one amiibo, which MSRP at $12.99. On Wii U, it's over 322 MB, and on 3DS it's over 2,400 blocks.
- ESRB — Unrated, but would be E.
The premise of Mini Mario & Friends: amiibo Challenge isn't any sort of story. There are ten toys/particularly compatible amiibo, and each have four levels locked to that amiibo. Otherwise, there is a main/basic path you can go through, which is only a handful of levels.
|The title screen on the GamePad. Here are the ten amiibo.|
So if you're really interested to see all of the compatible amiibo, look here on Nintendo's site. Interestingly, the Skylanders amiibo of Bowser and Donkey Kong are not compatible.
Of Bowser Jr., Bowser, Yoshi, Peach, Mario, Donkey Kong, Toad, Luigi, Rosalina, and Diddy Kong, I only have Bowser and Yoshi. Bowser from the Super Smash Bros. series, and Yoshi from... owning all three colours of the Yoshi's Woolly World set. I'm a loser. (No MEGA YARN YOSHI for me, though.) Anyway, that means I only can access about a fourth game, taking into account the handful of basic levels.
|If you don't have any of those characters, you can play as Mini Spek.|
What is Mini Spek? No idea. It implies there is a regular-sized character named Spek, but no such character exists. Maybe it's the child of Spekkio from Chrono Trigger. We don't know Spekkio's real form, and don't really need to for that head-canon to work out.
The point is that Mini Spek has no special abilities, while the other toys do. You don't need special abilities to go through the normal levels or Star World, but they can make the game easier. Meanwhile, the special levels accessible only by going through specially-designated “amiibo Doors” require you to use the amiibo needed to open that door, and you need that amiibo's special ability to even access it.
|Egg Launch Land is accessible only by the Yoshi-marked amiibo Door.|
Each of these special areas has its own gimmick and short loops of a theme associated with the character. King Bowser's theme is a silly loop of his theme from Super Mario 64, while Yoshi calls back to Yoshi's Island. Special gimmicks include giant fire geysers and egg launchers that are rip-offs of barrel cannons that ARE publicly available.
The music isn't that interesting. I don't expect it to be, but I didn't play enough to the point where I wanted it muted. The sound effects can be sort of endearing, when you get past that the characters sound and look deformed to the point where they don't sound as they normally would in other games.
|For whatever reason, King Dad's area has his castle but Bowser Jr.'s has his airship.|
Does Bowser really not like Team Plane?
Just to be clear: The game's mechanics works as follows. You have your toy, and you have a main goal, coins, tokens, and possibly an amiibo Door. Coins are used for score, along with time limit. Having a high enough score nets you a gold trophy, which don't seem to do anything besides show up in the overworld selection as being marked that you have it for that level.
|Fem Yoshi is the pink Yarn Yoshi amiibo.|
Each level gives you the opportunity for a gold trophy if your score is high enough.
You can't directly control the toy (besides poking it to make it have a very brief speed boost) but you can control its path. You can take girders out from other places and use them to build bridges. You can similarly do this with springs and warp pipes, and other levels have other interactable objects as well. When you remove one and drag it, the game freezes time. That's the only way you can get through some really fast-paced levels later on with barrel cannons, because you'll need to put girders in the right spot to prevent you from, say, colliding straight into some spikes.
The game actually has some interesting ideas. I don't know how original they are, since this genre has been done to death ever since Lemmings released 25 years ago. The difference between this and Lemmings is that Lemmings has multiple characters on-screen at once, and Mini Mario & Friends: amiibo Challenge locks content.
Star World (the special world on a totally different screen) has padlocks on the level spaces. You need amiibo tokens to progress. Each level has two amiibo tokens, only obtainable by certain amiibo. The basic levels have normal amiibo tokens from different characters, while the special levels have four levels with a normal and gold amiibo token for the given character. Gold amiibo tokens are worth five normal ones, meaning each special section (like Egg Launch Land) has 24 amiibo tokens. But each special level unlocks per, from what I've experienced, every 20. (So 20, 40, 60.)
|I could unlock forty tokens with two amiibo, but I'd need three amiibo for the next level.|
The conclusion is simply this: If you don't already have a lot of plumber series amiibo, then you're not going to get much out of this game. All of the creative, thinking levels are locked in those and the token-locked areas. If you do already have those amiibo, might as well give this game a try. It's free, and if you like puzzle games, then yeah, go ahead.
If you're on the fence between “Should I buy Diddy Kong or Fox McCloud?” amiibos and can't buy both, this game shouldn't really factor into your decision to purchase one amiibo over another. Mini Mario & Friends: amiibo Challenge is value-added, but it's not something you should go out of your way to think about. And you might get angry at the game's tendency to lock away 80% of the content from you because you don't own a certain amiibo.
Where do you even find a Rosalina amiibo? How many people in the world will play those levels?
You can try to improve the scores for the levels you already have, but once you beat a level the first time it should become pretty obvious the most optimal method. Then you just do it.
So... Go ahead and give Mini Mario & Friends: amiibo Challenge a try. And when you run out of levels with your current set of amiibo, try playing Toy Box Escape on Neopets for free, with a full set of features. Play Lemmings recreated on the Internet for free. You can even play the Pokémon-themed Pokémon Tick-Tock Walk. There's lots of versions of this kind of game that doesn't have content locked because you don't want to buy a whole set of toys if you're really into the gameplay.
It's unclear if Nintendo Software Technology can be put to better use than making games like this, though. They're not the first-party developer that comes to mind when you think of top quality games. Maybe they should do amiibo integration like this for amiibo that aren't already widely popular and used? Maybe focus on neglected series instead of a series that already gets multiple games every YEAR? Like, Little Mac isn't used at all for anything special...
Honestly, my favourite part of the game is watching the credits, which is a sequence viewable at any point in the game and features the mini toys dancing while you wonder why there were so many members of the localisation team for a game without much text.
Ludwig usually likes to finish games 100% both for his enjoyment and for accurate reviews. 100%-ing Mini Mario & Friends: amiibo Challenge wasn't possible for this review, due to him not wanting to spend hundreds of dollars on finding specific amiibo. What did YOU think about this game? If you haven't gotten it early, will you get it?
Here is the final part of the How Team Koopa Escaped Rio series!