When amiibo initially released many people, myself included, thought Nintendo was going about the interactive toys to life market backwards. Every other product in this category, including Skylanders, Disney Infinity, and Lego Dimensions created a game that then utilized the special figures for special powers and to unlock new levels and items. Nintendo’s amiibos didn’t have a specific game to go alongside them, instead enhancing games like Super Smash Bros. and a wide variety of other titles that have released since then. Slowly but surely amiibo infiltrated more and more games, some to a greater extent than others. Mario Party 10 was the first to really lock an entire extra section of the game behind amiibos, and Animal Crossing amiibo Festival required the use of specific figures to play.
Now Nintendo has released a free to play game with Mini Mario & Friends amiibo Challenge for the Wii U and the 3DS. Since at least one amiibo is required to play the title, you can get early access to the eShop download by purchasing an amiibo at select retailers between now and April 27 to get a code to download the game immediately. Everyone else has to wait until April 28 to access the free game.
If you’ve played any titles in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, you’ll be right at home with the puzzle mechanics presented here. The object of the game is to guide your Mini to the course exit without dying from the many hazards cleverly placed throughout the areas and within the level’s time limit. You get bonus points for collecting the coins scattered about, and there are amiibo coins for you to collect that will unlock challenge levels in the Star Course.
The game makes use of the Wii U GamePad’s touch screen to manipulate the objects around your always-marching Mini. This will include things like girder beams that can be stretched across to create new pathways and trampoline bumpers that will send your Mini soaring high. There is a bit of resource management at play here, as you can only have so many items of a certain type on the course at any given moment. So, for example, you may have to delete a prior path to create a new one, and because your Mini is always on the move, it can become rather stressful in the more difficult levels to keep your character from harm’s way. As you progress further into the game, the stages can become rather large and won’t entirely fit on the Game Pad screen. You can move the camera around with the analog sticks, but one nice feature is that the TV has the full level showing at all times, so it’s easy to just glance up to see what lies just outside the viewing area. I found this very helpful as the game ratcheted up in difficulty, and actually had a fun time having someone else on the couch next to me giving tips.
Now, as mentioned above you must have an amiibo to play this game. You can use any amiibo you like, but specific ones will be needed to access all of the levels. If you want to play as Mario, Luigi, Rosalina, Yoshi, Bowser, Bowser Jr., Donkey Kong, Diddy Kong, Toad, or Peach you will need the amiibo that matches the character. In some instances, like Mario and Yoshi, there are several variants of the amiibos released for that character and you will be able to use any of them to unlock and play those levels. If you have none of those amiibo, you’ll play as a small square robot named Mini Spek and will only have access to the main set of courses. It should be noted that the majority of the game does require special amiibo to unlock. For each of the characters I listed above, there are four more levels unlocked. That’s 40 levels out of the game’s 60-something locked behind specific amiibo characters. So, obviously you’ll get way more enjoyment out of this game if you own several, if not all, of the above amiibo.
While, it may suck for those of us that don’t own all of the amiibo required to unlock the extra courses, I did really enjoy playing those special levels. That’s mainly due to each of the characters having his or her own special abilities. For example, Mario can execute his famous wall jump, reaching areas other characters cannot. This allowed the developers to really differentiate each character’s set of levels, making them more exciting and innovative than the majority of the normal ones. In addition to different course mechanics, each character-centric stage has special music, sound effects, and graphic designs ripped from the games the characters are known for. So, when you’re playing Luigi’s levels you can expect them to look and sound like you’re trapped in Luigi’s Mansion, whereas Donkey Kong’s will take place in a jungle, complete with blast barrels. The map music will also change depending on which amiibo you’ve tapped to the GamePad – an attention to detail that we’ve come to expect from Nintendo.
For a free game, there’s a lot of content to play through here, assuming you already own the required amiibo to unlock the stages. I think this game is a fantastic bonus for those that have already invested in the toys, such as myself. I already owned all of the amiibo necessary to play, so I feel like Nintendo has delivered a full and complete experience for free, when they could have probably charged some money for the game. If, however, you own only a couple of the amiibo needed to play, or worse yet, none of them, then this game probably won’t be worth the cost needed to purchase the amiibo. I wouldn’t suggest anyone go out and spend a bunch of money on the amiibo just to play this game, as it’s probably only a $15 experience with slightly over 60 courses to enjoy. Keep in mind, for each amiibo you don’t own that’s required you can subtract another 4 levels from the game. Still, Mini Mario & Friends amiibo Challenge is very fun to play and for someone that does own the majority of the amiibo supported by it this free game is a nice “Thank You” from Nintendo for purchasing them. The 3DS version of this game is supposed to be identical, but I chose to play the Wii U version because of the bigger touchscreen.