Six Colors
Six Colors

by Jason Snell & Dan Moren

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By Dan Moren

We like: Dr. Mario World

Dr. Mario World
Dr. Mario World

Puzzles are kind of my jam: crossword puzzles, mind puzzles, brain teasers, that kind of thing—I’ve even been known to dabble in video games from time to time. But though there are plenty of puzzle-based mobile games that I’ve enjoyed, the “match three items” sub-genre popularized by CandyCrush has never really been my thing.

Until Dr. Mario World.

I’m not quite sure what it is about Nintendo’s latest mobile game that has absorbed so much of my attention. It could be as simple as the use of the company’s trademark characters on iOS, which began with Super Mario Run a few years ago, and will continue in the upcoming Mario Kart Tour later this year. Or it might be that the interface and gameplay of the mobile version has just charmed me.

Historically, I haven’t been a huge fan of the Dr. Mario franchise, which I always felt was like an inferior Tetris, minus the awesome 8-bit Tchaikovsky renditions. But I’ve found myself playing Dr. Mario World pretty consistently since its release and enjoying the heck out of it.

Unlike the classic Dr. Mario and Tetris, the mobile version of Dr. Mario World doesn’t use the same “falling block” style of gameplay. Instead, you manually drag a capsule into the playing field, where it floats upward, letting you rotate it with a tap or drag it to your desired location. The one restriction is that you can’t drag the capsule back down once it’s passed a row.

As with the classic game, the goal is still to line up multicolored capsules with viruses of the same color. Match three in a row and the virus and any matching capsule halves vanish—any remaining capsule halves float to the top of the screen, but you can drag them, just like original capsules, filling in those hard to reach spots. As you make matches, you’ll fill up a power bar that will let you use your character’s special skill as well as also earn “wild card” capsules that will match any color.

What I particularly like about the changes is that most of the levels in Dr. Mario World aren’t timed and don’t bombard you with constantly falling capsules. Instead, you have a finite number of capsules with which to beat any level, making it more of a challenge of resource deployment than a quick-reaction game. (The fewer capsules you can beat the level in, the better your score.) As you progress through the game, there are more complicated obstacles, including bricks that need to be blown up, cages in which viruses are locked, and viruses embedded in bubbles that float to the top.

I’ve completed seventy-some levels of Dr. Mario World, and I’m still going strong. I’ve so far managed to avoid the siren song of in-app purchases; there are various power-ups that you can buy with real currency, as well as the ability to unlock additional characters and assistants via coins earned in-game. Your progress gets tracked along a map of various “worlds” à la the classic Super Mario Bros. 3, adding a little bit of flavor to the game. There’s also a head-to-head multiplayer mode that I have yet to try, but I suspect I may need to hone my skills a bit more before I venture there.

The only downside I’ve discovered so far is that the game—somewhat perplexingly—requires an always-on network connection, meaning it won’t be too useful during my upcoming travels. But I’m hopeful that Nintendo might decide to change that at some point.

Dr. Mario World is a free download for iPhones and iPads, though it has the previously mentioned in-app purchase options. Just be careful, or you may find yourself unable to put it down.

[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Twitter at @dmoren or reach him by email at The latest novel in his Galactic Cold War series of sci-fi space adventures, The Nova Incident, is available now.]

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