Mario Monday - Dr. Mario

Monday, June 01, 2009

Before Nintendo had officially moved on to the next generation of gaming he left the 8-bit universe with one last golden nugget. Nintendo used Mario to put together the most successful Tetris clone known to the gaming world, Dr. Mario.

Dr. Mario took the addictive game play of Tetris and threw in their own twists. Rather than pile up bricks in straight lines the object was for the plumber-turned-doctor to rid the jar of various viruses. Gone were the Koopas and Goombas and in were three different colored viruses; Fever, Chill and Weird. To defeat these viruses Mario had to stack three same colored vitamins on top of the virus.

Sounds easy, right? Of course it starts out easy, with only three or four viruses posing a threat. Naturally as the levels increase, so does the threat of a breakout of the virus. Not only do the viruses continue to populate in the jars but the speed at which the vitamins thrown by Dr. Mario also increases, similar to Tetris.

The thought of Mario in a puzzle game came off strange at first but once anyone took their try at the addictive puzzler, they were hooked. But it is not just the quality puzzles that make this game what it is. The multi-player modes also play a factor.

Multi-player modes on the NES were great because each player could set their own difficulty levels, which made it great for first time players and seasoned video game doctor-plumber wannabes alike. An experienced player could choose faster speeds and more viruses to defeat while a rookie could select a much easier goal.

The NES provided just 2-player play though, which of course was normal for those days despite the four player adapters that were available. I however prefer to the 2-player mode on the Game Boy, probably because I have played that version more than any other.

In the days of the Game Boy there was no Wi-fi connectivity options and both players had to have a copy of the game, as well as a link cable. I spent many long car trips beating my sister in Dr. Mario (and Tetris), although she can handily beat me on the NES version today.

In Tetris when one player cleared multiple lines the excess would pile would raise your opponent's stack, causing panic at the most inopportune times. In Dr. Mario rather than raise the viruses and already placed pills, random pill halves would fall from the bottom before the player's next pill was used. Would a different colored pill half cover up what your opponent was building up? Hopefully.

But what is the best part of Dr. Mario? Definitely the music. Who will ever get this theme out of their heads?

As great as the Fever theme may be, I have always been somewhat partial to the Chill theme...

Dr. Mario still lives on today. The character of Dr. Mario has appeared in the Super Smash Brothers series and the game is still thriving today in the form of remakes. You can find it on the Nintendo Wii under the WiiWare titles for example.

If I had to choose between Tetris and Dr. Mario I would find it near impossible to pass up the classic Russian puzzler, but my favorite plumber would definitely suffice as a replacement.

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