As soon as I booted up Dr. Mario World, I knew I wasn’t going to have fun with it. Nintendo’s record on phones thus far has been pretty spotty, with things trending downward as of late.
Lo and behold, a few hours later with the game and the only enjoyment I’ve gotten out of it is seeing Bowser in doctor cosplay. Otherwise, the game’s single-player offerings feel like Candy Crush Saga with less satisfying puzzle mechanics and the multiplayer is... a competitive version of that.
It feels like it shouldn’t be so hard to bring a quality version of Dr. Mario to mobile. It’s a falling block puzzler like Tetris or Lumines, and there are solid-to-great versions of those on the App Store already. Instead of just translating Dr. Mario’s mechanics to the small screen though, Dr. Mario World is a slower, clunkier, and less intuitive puzzler than its predecessor.
All of these changes seem to be in service of one thing: maximum monetization. Dr. Mario World’s core gameplay seems custom-built to broaden its appeal by eliminating the need for quick reflexes, and the constant need for a data connection and gacha mechanics exist to tempt you into spending money.
To be fair, this isn’t a bad business move. Aiming for a really wide audience and dangling virtual rewards in front of them is a tried-and-true way of making money on the App Store. Nintendo is also no stranger to this strategy, as almost all of their mobile releases and collaborations have featured a similar model.
What’s so disappointing about this though is that Nintendo could have done things differently. This is probably the most revered video game company in the world we’re talking about, and their idea for making a mobile Dr. Mario game is “what if we had a Mario version of Toon Blast?” I just don’t get it.
With each new big name developer that comes to mobile, they have an opportunity. They can make unique and creative experiences to establish themselves as premier mobile developers while attracting any and all players that happen to have phones. As far as I know, the only big developer that tried this was Square Enix with Hitman GO. Over time, enthusiasm has waned over Square Enix’s releases, mostly because they ran their one good idea into the ground, but it’s not hard to see a world where Nintendo decided to make all of their phone releases premium experiences. Wouldn’t that be something?
Where we’re at now, Nintendo seems totally cool with just riding the wave of cash that comes from shoving their franchises into clones of predatory free-to-play games, though. I guess this strategy is working, but with every new mobile release, Nintendo feels like they’re willingly tarnishing their reputation. Maybe that’s worth it for them, and here’s to hoping it might indirectly benefit Nintendo fans, somehow. Like, maybe profits from Dr. Mario World help make Breath of the Wild 2 run at a smooth frame rate or something. One can hope.