Back in the early 1990s, after the world had gone mad for Tetris, Nintendo put out its own variant of the puzzle game that, unlike most clones of the day, actually brought some new life to the original idea. Now the classic Nintendo game, with some improvements of its own, is reintroduced for the Nintendo 64. Rather than just twisting shapes to fill vacant spaces, Dr. Mario 64 will have you matching capsule-shaped pills to fight like-colored viruses. Players earn point bonuses when stringing combos together. Dr. Mario 64 comes with the original one- and two-player modes, and introduces a simultaneous four-player mode.
Since his graduation from the Nintendo Medical School in 1990, part-time plumber and full-time hero Mario has fought the good fight against germs and flu bugs on the Game Boy and the Super NES; now he's here to disinfect your Nintendo 64! While we don't expect this update to change the genre in new and brilliant ways, numerous small additions and a very attractive price tag make this game just the thing we'd prescribe for the puzzler blues.
For those two or three of you unfamiliar with the game's premise, the challenge is for players and Mario to combat a swarming, relentless mass of viral bugs and the like. How? By blasting them back to germ-heaven with a good dose of drugs and antibodies -- in the form of multi-colored (they're halved) pills. Viruses are dispatched by matching each offending microbe with a minimum of four pills of the appropriate color. Of course, if the screen gets clogged with the germies, the patient's written off as a lost cause, and it's game over. It's simple, Tetris-like fun, and about as addictive, too -- addictive as a drug, one might say.
There are aspects that'll make this game worth a good look, however, and a four-player mode -- a first for the series -- is by no means chump change, either. We all know that puzzle games (especially the twitchy, geometric sort) are best played with a friend or two, and, of course, that's just as true of germs. As with previous versions, successfully clearing large combinations of viruses scores the big points, but gives players an advantage, too, by raining remnants of pills down onto the screens of their foes.
Other noticeable additions to this 64-bit update include the addition of Wario (no big deal in itself, but noteworthy), a timer and a larger gameplay area. This last addition is a welcome one, and should serve to make things both easier and more hectic, depending on how (and how well) the game is played. Visual updates are sure to be included, but don't get your hopes up for an aesthetic masterpiece: One look at these screens will clue just about anybody in that the game's not going to win any awards for boundary pushing. Still, if it's anywhere near as compelling as the first few games, that'll probably be fine with most gamers.
Few details about additional or innovative game modes have been included, so we'll wait and see if Nintendo releases the game with the proper amount of perfection and polish, or simply expects the four-player goodness to sell a copy. We're hoping for the former -- and if there's one thing to be sure about when it comes to Nintendo, there's usually a trick or two stashed carefully away.
It's about time that Nintendo decided to bring the game's tried and true formula to the N64, and it's a perfect time for those of you who haven't already succumbed to the game's inherently heady goodness to get in on the action. The game goes on sale April 9, and -- at a price of $29.95 -- could well be one of the last good games available for the system. -- DailyRadar Review