My love affair with puzzle games was born when, as a child, I finally scraped together enough money to afford a Game Boy. Tetris was my addiction for so long, but no title confounded me like Dr. Mario. Its grueling difficulty was offset by the most infectious of tunes that, to this day, unexpectedly pops into my head like a drug induced flashback.
Nintendo’s capstone for the Year of Luigi reskins and updates big brother’s classic puzzler with new graphics and new tunes, but the same intense challenge. If all you’re looking for is a new way to play Dr. Mario, you’re in luck. All of the classic gameplay and music is included. The attraction though, is the new Operation L mode, which mutates virus-killing capsules into a cocktail of L-shaped pills.
Drop games often rely on carefully rotating and wedging pieces at the right time, as anyone ever confounded by an S-block or Z-block in Tetris will tell you. The randomly placed viruses make it even more challenging to work pills into gaps, which ultimately diminished my enjoyment of the new format.
In Dr. Mario (and Dr. Luigi), setting up combos is absolutely crucial. The pill pairings in Operation L provide for some deeper strategies, as gravity can affect one capsule and not the other once the bundle comes to a rest. Still, I felt it far too easy to get painted into a corner and found myself returning to the classic game type rather than bother with the new gimmick.
I do enjoy the new touchscreen option called Virus Buster. This isn’t simply a direct translation of the classic game, instead offering slightly slower play with increasing numbers of capsules dropping simultaneously. Managing three pills at once is tricky, but since the rules are otherwise identical to classic Dr. Mario, it’s a smart change-up that offers up its own intensity. Of the new options, this is the one I like the most.
Single-player, head-to-head local, and online play with friends and random opponents are all included for each of the modes, and while connection for matches over the Nintendo Network isn’t instantaneous, I had no problems playing through complete games once paired up with an adversary.
When Nintendo first announced Dr. Luigi during the most recent Nintendo Direct, Operation L mode took center stage. While this turns out to be the least enjoyable part of this farewell to the Year of Luigi, Dr. Luigi does offer other competent updates to the classic gameplay. I can’t get the classic tune out of my head or the smile off my face.
Nintendo performs an unnecessary procedure that nips, tucks, and lifts an already competent game.