Over the years I have played a LOT of Dr. Mario. I remember sitting around in the bowling alley arcade as a youngster playing Dr. Mario (or Ghouls & Ghosts) while my parents were bowling. I played it on the NES. I played it on Wii. I played it on Game Boy. What I’ve learned in all those years is that I’m not very good at Dr. Mario, but I still absolutely love playing it. There comes a point where the pills just come too fast for me to be able to keep up. It’s also not really changed that much over its various iterations, but Nintendo has been experimenting with the last couple of games trying to change that formula to keep it fresh. (Man there were some nice pharmaceutical references in that last sentence and I wasn’t really trying.)
Last year’s (okay, technically 2013’s, but it released on the last day of the year) Dr. Luigi game made a small change to the way that you played Dr. Mario by adding a second pill that made all your medicine look like “L” shapes. It was a small change, but it completely changed the way you had to think about playing the game. This year the new mechanic, and the subtitle to the game, is Miracle Cures. These new power ups add another element to the game that makes you rethink the way you put pieces into the playfield.
The basic idea of the game is still the same. You drop pills into the playfield to remove all the viruses by matching three like colored pill sections to each virus. Clear the playfield and move on to the next level. The Miracle Cures come in one of three varieties. You have one that when activated will clear every pill of the corresponding color. Another one will remove all of the pills of a specific color and the last one will clear everything in a single row, column, or both depending on its shape. Chances are if you’ve played a lot of match three games then you’ve seen these types of power ups before. They’re new to the Dr. Mario series and they add a nice touch of strategy while keeping the gameplay familiar.
You’ve got a few ways to play this time around as the game brings back virtually every version of Dr. Mario we’ve seen recently. You have standard modes where you played short levels to clear them out and move on to the next, slightly harder level and continue that pattern until you lose. You have an endless Miracle Cure mode that just goes on forever counting up how many viruses you remove as well as keeping track of an overall point tally rather than resetting the points after every level. Dr. Luigi has both a regular and endless mode if you like the challenge of the L shaped pills. Virus Buster is back as well. This is a more laid back mode that is a little slower and allows you to use the touch screen to move pills around the playfield as much as you want. You can even control the broken pills as they drop.
Online play makes its return in this edition of the game. It plays very similarly to any of the multi-players modes in past games. It’s easy to get in and out of. Your miracle cure in this version of the game is designed to mess with your opponent’s playfield as well as give you bonuses to help clear out viruses faster. It’s incredibly insane, intense and downright hectic fun. I’ve always enjoyed Dr. Mario against another player, even if I lose more than I win.
Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure is the most fully featured version of Dr. Mario to date. It makes a small change to the overall formula that makes it a very nice update. You can still play the way you’ve always played in the past and you can play online against other people. If you’re in the market for a new Dr. Mario game there’s no better time than now to get in and play. If you’ve thought the game play was beginning to get stale this might be just the update you need. I had a lot of fun playing it and I’m pretty sure you will too.