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Games: Nintendo’s Mario vs Donkey Kong is a remastered dose of classic gorilla warfare on the Switch

A screenshot from Mario vs Donkey Kong
Mario vs Donkey Kong Nintendo's oldest enemies are back for another face-off

IT ALL began with Popeye. After Nintendo created an arcade game based on the spinach-snaffling seafarer in 1980, its licensing deal fell through, forcing young designer Shigeru Miyamoto to retool the muscular mariner as Jumpman and its villain, Bluto, as Donkey Kong.

The result was a worldwide hit, and when Jumpman (a carpenter by trade) was retooled to become Mario, a plucky plumber – I mean, who would believe in a carpenter saviour? – the big ape gave the company a global mascot.

Donkey Kong has come a long way since his barrel-flinging debut, and his latest Switch effort turns back the clock by two decades, revisiting one of the Game Boy Advance’s under-appreciated gems.

Boasting one of the most bonkers plots in the Marioverse, Donkey Kong is enraged when his beloved Mini Mario toys are sold out, prompting the malicious monkey to pilfer them from a factory. As Mario, players step in to rescue the pygmy plumbers from his hairy grasp.

Rather than Mario’s usual brand of platform-hopping, the game offers up gentle puzzle vibes as our moustached hero conquers eight worlds – including two brand Switch exclusives – of toy-rescuing teasers.

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A screenshot from Mario vs Donkey Kong
Mario vs Donkey Kong Nintendo's favourite ape is back to battle Mario's plucky plumber once again

With each level divided into two parts, players must first locate a key before ferrying it to a locked door, behind which they gather the lost Mini Mario toys. Beat a main stage and you’ll open up a Lemmings-style labyrinth, where Mario guides the rescued toys around to gather items, cueing a boss fight against the big fella himself.

Being a Mario game, there are, of course, optional trinkets to be collected in the quest for the game’s ‘true’ ending.

Clearly designed to be enjoyed in bite-sized chunks, the Game Boy Advance’s pick-up-and-play gameplay still holds up, even if it’s all rather easy. Perfect for gamers short on years, seasoned Mario fans will race through its earlier stages, and if the particularly cack-handed find later levels have them over a barrel, the Switch’s new ‘casual mode’ removes any threat of death, with Mario protected by a bubble if he comes into contact with enemies.

A screenshot from Mario vs Donkey Kong
Mario vs Donkey Kong .

A new two-player couch co-op mode even lets a second pair of hands in on the action, playing as the mushroom-bonced Toad.

With its graphics and sound beefed up over the 2004 original, Mario vs Donkey Kong on Switch belies its age, particularly in cutscenes that channel the recent Mario movie.

With the Switch 2 confirmed for release in the first quarter of next year, Mario vs Donkey is part of a farewell tour for icons on Nintendo’s groundbreaking handheld.

If you’re after some brain-tickling gorilla warfare, the pixelated primate hasn’t aged a day.

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