I spent months embedded in Candy Crush Saga years ago, and it might still be the most addicted I’ve been to a mobile puzzle game. After playing Nintendo’s upcoming free-to-play game for a little while, it gave me very similar vibes. The game arrives on iOS and Android on July 10, but I got an advance taste before release.
First of all, it’s not Dr. Mario in any traditional sense. The classic NES-and-onward series of puzzle games usually involve a Tetris-like cascade of pills, and certain blocks you need to clear. Dr. Mario World’s puzzle levels, of the few I played from the 200 or so that will be available, aren’t time-based at all. Pieces float up instead of falling down, and pieces on the board need to be cleared in a minimum number of moves. You can now see why I’m making the Candy Crush analogy.
Once pieces start floating up, you do need to guide them into place reasonably quickly, but you can also take as long as you like between pieces, which my commute will appreciate. So far, unlike Candy Crush levels I remember, level design seems to reward thinking rather than luck. New puzzle twists emerge, and the game starts to evolve. By my sixth or seventh puzzle stage, I started to sink into it.
Nintendo promises that Dr. Mario World’s free-to-play structure will allow anyone to play without purchases, but you may only get a certain number of tries before having to wait a while to play again. The game will also continue expanding, with new stages and challenges that will keep being added. The map where stages are laid out looks very Candy Crush-like, but the game’s animation and overall graphic feel is very similar to, Nintendo’s flat-fee mobile platforming game that came out in 2017. Unfortunately, like Super Mario Run, Dr. Mario World can’t be played offline. I asked Nintendo whether an offline mode would be considered, but prospects don’t seem good.
Dr. Mario World may not be Nintendo’s most anticipated mobile game this year (that will be), but it surprised me how much I ended up liking it, even if its free-to-play puzzle structure is all too familiar for mobile games.
I didn’t get to try Versus Mode, which looks fun: Live battles play out more like the classic Dr. Mario games I remember. But will the free-to-play structure, which requires “hearts” to play that can be gifted to friends, be acceptable or annoying? We’ll know more when Dr. Mario arrives on Wednesday. Hey, it’s free, so go for it.