It's been over a year since Luigi got his PhD, so now is a good time for Mario to team up with him for more virus-busting action. However, does the simple puzzle formula still hold up after 25 years since Dr. Mario's debut? Let's take a trip to the lab and find out.
Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure is basically an amalgam of previously introduced modes and features combined with some interesting new twists. For the uninitiated, you play Dr. Mario by dropping pills on viruses to wipe them out. Once four of the same colour match in a row, all of the included viruses and pill segments disappear. It's puzzle gameplay in its most elementary form and it's still as fun now as it was back in the day. The most significant addition to be found in this iteration is power-ups. As you play, you slowly fill a meter and once it's full, you automatically unleash a helpful Miracle Cure such as a bomb that destroys anything in its radius, blocks that clear all of a certain colour virus, and a variety of cures that sabotage your opponent. This may not sound particularly substantial, but this mechanic does a fantastic job of livening up the decades-old formula.
If you've played Dr. Luigi then you already know what to expect when it comes to visuals since Miracle Cure does little to distinguish itself from it. Everything looks as colourful and sharp as you would anticipate which makes gameplay easy to understand and enjoy. Mario and Luigi's character models and animations add some needed personality as they introduce each gameplay session and react appropriately to every victory and defeat. Without these charming moments, the game would feel flat. The most disappointing aspect of the graphics is that there is very little 3D for a 3DS game. As far as I can tell, the only part that's in 3D is the main menu. Anyway, the audio consists of familiar effects and music from previous games. The soundtrack is a combination of toe-tapping classic tunes, songs that were introduced in Luigi's game, and some relaxing melodies that play in Virus Buster mode. Overall, everything looks and sounds predictable enough that you can imagine it clearly before you even turn the game on.
Although the simple gameplay doesn't deviate much from previous games in the series, both newcomers and veterans alike will find plenty of content to enjoy. On top of the already mentioned Miracle Cure power-ups, you can challenge 50 single player stages, learn some strategies in training mode, and customise your own single player and multiplayer games. The addition of single player challenges is a great way for Dr. Mario enthusiasts to test their abilities and feel a well-earned sense of accomplishment upon completion. If you prefer to make your own fun then you can play with Dr. Mario or Dr. Luigi rules in either endless mode that incorporates Miracle Cures, classic mode without cures, or against a CPU opponent with Miracle Cures being optional. Of course, you can also set the level and speed to see how good you really are. Virus Buster mode returns and in this version you hold your 3DS on its side and drag pills to their desired positions with the touch screen. It's just as boring as it was in Dr. Luigi and isn't really a worthy inclusion.
If you prefer to challenge some actual fellow humans, then you can do so either against strangers online or friends locally. These competitive puzzle battles can be quite thrilling. Thankfully, the second player doesn't need another copy of the game when playing locally since Download Play is implemented as well as Local Play. It's great to see so many available options. You can even play Virus Buster cooperatively which is hilarious since you can't help but fight over certain pills. Whether you want to play by yourself or with others, Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure offers plenty of options to keep you thoroughly entertained.
Even though there's enough content to keep you busy, some staples of the series are missing entirely. In earlier games, a mode where you strategically take out a shining virus known as Flash mode was a ton of fun; especially when playing against someone. Also, the fact that you can't select the music before starting a game is absent as well. These exclusions are definitely missed opportunities that would have made Miracle Cure the ultimate Dr. Mario experience. Hopefully, the next game includes everything that fans want to see.
Dr. Mario: Miracle Cure is the most complete installment of the series but with a handful of overlooked features, it's a notch below the game that fans would hope it to be. In the end, I'm happy Mario still hasn't hung up his lab coat.
- + New power-up system revitalizes the classic Dr. Mario gameplay formula
- + Single player challenges are fun to beat
- + Plenty of multiplayer options
- - Some features such as music select and Flash mode are sadly missing
- - It's a 3DS game that lacks 3D