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WiiWare: Dr. Mario Online Rx Box Art

WiiWare: Dr. Mario Online Rx

It's a horrible title. They thankfully included "Dr. Mario" in the name, but Online Rx? Well, it is better than X-Men: The Official Game, which screams mediocrity but did separate it from all those non-official X-Men games we heard so much about. Sorry, one little tangent, there, but sometimes you have to find something to complain about. Luckily, once that cumbersome name is out of the way, Rx is -- wait for it -- just what the doctor ordered?

Yeah, that's right. I totally went there.


In any puzzler, the main goal is to present an understandable game. The Next Tetris was nearly ruined on N64 by a couple of levels whose pretty backgrounds only got in the way. Rx doesn't try to fancy us up, instead keeping it clean. That Wii menu feel is there in blue colors and rounded corners; but it's easy to maneuver and simple to play. Those Viruses are still oddly cute and everything is bright and colorful. Even Mario and the Miis have some fun little animations, swaying back and forth with a little more vigor as you near victory.


We're not ones to name drop in reviews, but with Metroid, Mother and Fire Emblem under his belt, the original Dr. Mario themes may be some of Hirokazu Tanaka's most underrated work. It may not be some orchestral marvel, but Fever and Chill have likely stayed in your head since the original Dr. Mario. Those themes return to Rx -- slightly updated, of course -- but true enough to the original to bring a smile to your face. The same goes for the familiar menu and action tunes. The two other songs, the aptly named Sneeze and Cough, are carryovers from the N64 version and round out the options. You're best to stick with the classics, turn up the volume and soak the nostalgia.


Dr. Mario takes place on an 8 x 16 playfield, populated with red, blue and yellow viruses. Mario (or a Mii) throws bi-colored pills to the top of the board that players combine with the viruses to create horizontal or vertical rows of four like-colored pieces. Doing so makes them disappear, with the goal being to destroy all the viruses. When half a pill is used to clear a line, the other half succumbs to gravity until it hits another piece. This allows chains of lines to be cleared at once.

It's not complicated, which is why the game is so successful. Easy to pick up, hard to put down. Simple to learn, difficult to master. Unlike some of the mindless puzzlers that crop up from time to time, Dr. Mario keeps the brain sharp, recognizing and arranging colors on the fly while preparing your next move. Old-time players returning after a long hiatus will still be challenged by level 20.

Flash mode returns from N64, where players must drill through the game board to clear specific flashing viruses before a computer opponent. Also included is Virus Buster. Here, players use the pointer on the Wii remote to drag falling pills into place. The rules are the same as the main game, except the game board is smaller, up to three pills drop at once, and players can grab falling half-pills to move them side-to-side, adding in a dynamic. Played alone, it's not as entertaining as the main game, but fun nonetheless.


Dr. Mario was always a great multiplayer game, and two players can match up either side-by-side or online in Rx. Players start with identical boards and receive, at least at first, identical pieces. Creating a chain of up to four lines at once sends up four half-pills to your opponent, usually hindering the game board and creating a crippling time-delay, waiting for the pieces to drop. Online plays as smooth as local, and each of the 50 or so matches we've played went to completion without any quitters. Quitting, incidentally, punishes the offending player with a loss.

Online is outstanding fun, but still somewhat bare. Local Virus Buster lets up to four players work together on the same game board, but the mode is absent online. The game gives you a ranking that works similarly to Mario Kart Wii and Tetris DS and an easy to view online leaderboard, but no option to play a similarly ranked opponent. Aside from choosing a friend-coded friend, you get what you get.

One excellent option allows owners to send a limited demo of Rx to a friend, allowing online multiplayer with only one game purchase -- the WiiWare equivalent of single card DS play. Sweet.


There are plenty of reasons to hit the Wii Shop channel and plunk down the 1,000 points for Dr. Mario Online Rx. Virus Buster is an adequate addition to what is a classic Nintendo puzzler, and the overall presentation would be considered rock solid even if it came in a plastic case and required a gas-guzzling trip to GameStop. But let's get real: It's Dr. Mario, it's online, and it's only . That's reason enough.

dojo doubletake

Here's a second opinion: Dave is absolutely right. Dr. Mario Online Rx is one of the best ways you can possibly spend 1,000 hard-earned Wii Points.

From the perspective of a casual puzzle gamer, Dr. Mario is a blast. It doesn't matter if you're firing it up to play by yourself for a few minutes or testing your skills against hardcore pill droppers online; it's addictive any way you play it.

Despite the lack of online play, four-player Virus Buster cannot be recommended enough. With all four players sharing the same field of play, it's one of the most frantic multiplayer experiences outside of Super Smash Bros Brawl. Expect plentiful shouting matches and power struggles for falling pills despite the fact that everyone is working towards a common goal.

If you have even the slightest inclination towards puzzle games, Dr. Mario has the cure for summer boredom.

That's right. I totally went there too. 8.0/10

-- Shawn Warren

final score 8.5/10

Staff Avatar Dave Magliano
Staff Profile | Email
"Tiger uppercut!!"

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