Dr. Mario 64: It's The Cheesiest!

Abstract: Decent gameplay, cheesy presentation.

At some time, I have owned every DR. MARIO® Game Pak, including DR. MARIO 64. I have also played PC-based vitamin games such as Dr. Rudy and Germs. I thought DR. MARIO 64 would have the same quality of construction and play, but I was severely disappointed... to a point.

The NES version of DR. MARIO did the music right: simple, crisp, and not muddy. Sadly, the same cannot be said of DR. MARIO 64, whose music doesn't sound any better than that of DR. MARIO 16 (part of TETRIS® & DR. MARIO). I know the N64 console is capable of better music (cf. TETRISPHERE and The New TETRIS). The two new tracks are cheesy; the least annoying track is Off, with Chill a close second. Nintendo would have done well to look to remix.overclocked.org for inspiration. The siren when the screen is almost full gets annoying to players whose style is to take advantage of the whole 8x16 playfield.

The N64 is capable of high-resolution graphics up to 640x448 pixels. DR. MARIO 64 doesn't use them; the graphics look very 16-bit. I know the cartridge is only 4 megabytes, but better graphics have been done on Super NES with that much memory (see Donkey Kong Country).

The control is just as slow as ever. Unlike TETRIS Blast for Game Boy, DR. MARIO 64 has slow autorepeat and jumpy falling animation. The gravity after a clear is still at 4 Hz, originally an artifact of the design of the original NES DR. MARIO refresh daemon (can't a 93 MHz machine run it faster?). And it still isn't compatible with grayscale televisions or color-blind players, as blue and red vitamins look exactly the same. (The GAME BOY version solved this by making the blue pills black.)

The story mode is cheesy, with graphics even cheesier than those of PAPER MARIO. A story layout like that of SUPER PUZZLE FIGHTER II TURBO or any fighting game would have fit just as well. It would have been even better to make an RPG with the good Doctor fighting the viruses inside hospitals around the mushroom kingdom.

The biggest redeeming qualities I could find in DR. MARIO 64 were the multiplayer mode and the new Marathon mode. Multiplayer mode sends garbage to other players' playfields based on what color you clear and (hallelujah) lets you practice alone after you lose, a feature probably inspired by KIRBY'S AVALANCHE. Marathon adds 'rising' action eerily similar to that of Panel de Pon (also known as TETRIS Attack, POKEMON® Puzzle League, or Who Let The Blocks Out). It creates an experience reminiscent of "A-type" in earlier puzzle games, but the scrolling could have been smoother. Too bad there's no multiplayer marathon like in The New TETRIS...

DR. MARIO 64 is only for the hardcore Dr. M fan. Other players should probaly stick with The New TETRIS, POKEMON Puzzle League, or an open-source PC vitamin game such as Pin Eight Vitamins (www.pineight.com/drm.htm).

NINTENDO, DR. MARIO, GAME BOY, NES, POKEMON, and SUPER NES are registered trademarks and KIRBY'S AVALANCHE and PAPER MARIO are trademarks of nintendo. SUPER PUZZLE FIGHTER 2 TURBO is a trademark of capcom. TETRIS is a registered trademark of the tetris company llc.

It seems that the other reviewers agree with me:
  • http://www.game-revolution.com/games/n64/strategy/dr_mario.htm
  • http://www.armchairempire.com/Reviews/N64Reviews/dr_mario.htm
  • http://ign64.ign.com/reviews/15952.html

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