Microtransactions Continue to Be the Real Virus at the Heart of Dr. Mario World

When I was in the forth grade I got my first ever girlfriend, Nikki. I was ten and smitten, my heart was rushing with a combination of Mt. Dew and love sickness. When I got home and “the boys” all got together we were shocked to realize that almost all of us had also gotten girlfriends on that same day. Not only that but we were each asked to by “boyfriend/girlfriend” by the girl! Amazing! The day was February 10th, by February 20th we were all single.

With that, welcome to my review of Dr. Mario World.

I had extremely high hopes for this game. Much higher than Super Mario Run. I felt like Nintendo had reached a point where they wouldn’t let their most valuable property be marred by another very weak mobile game. I was wrong. Dr. Mario World is a template example of all the worst parts of mobile Free To Play gaming.

It turns out the girls in my forth grade class had all decided together that they all wanted really nice Valentine’s Day gifts. Their plan was hatched, and each of them asked out one of the boys in class. Looking back I’m seriously impressed at this mission and their execution, but back then I was only appalled.

Take 2 Pills of “Skip this game” and call me in the morning.

I knew that like most FTP games, Dr. Mario World would probably reach a point where all the fun and progression stops unless you spend some cheddar. That’s normal for all FTP games and I was ready for it. What I wasn’t ready for was the fact that the microtransactions kick in faster and much harder than many other FTP puzzle games out there. After the twenty level tutorial, you’re left to use “heart energy” to play levels. Once these hearts expire you’re left to, you guessed it, buy more. Some quick math reveals that it costs about $3.00 per hour for continuous play of this game. The bundles in the shop go up to $69.99.

So ten year old me had been duped. Lured into a relationship that got more out of me than it gave. My giant teddy bear and heart card were now forever in the hands of the best con-artist I’d ever known.

I decided to turn to the live versus mode of the game. The microtransactions are mostly free from this mode and the game loop is pretty enjoyable. The idea of multiple Mario characters being Doctors was really appealing. Toad and Princess Peach in lab coats? That sounds amazing. Perhaps this game has a saving grace. I logged in and hated it after around fifteen minutes. I was either crushing my opponent or getting demolished. I know it’s hard to find a decent range of competition when the game is live. But I shouldn’t feel like I’m a playground bully one second and the second realize I’m standing in the ring with Bruce Lee in his prime.

For Dr. Mario World, the Best Medicine is Abstinence

Free to play games are just tough, I get it. If you support your game via ads your audience hates it. If you support your game via payment methods your audience hates it. I think for me personally if I can spend more than a AAA title in a couple hours of playtime it’s a dangerous and even lecherous pay method. That’s a cancer that not even Dr. Mario can heal.

After my own personal Valentine’s Day Massacre I decided to never again step into something where I’d sacrifice a lot and get nothing back. Unfortunately the Nikki’s are still out there, and one of them is named Dr. Mario World.

Nathan Collier is a co-host for the Splash Damage Bros. Podcast and lives with his PS4 and Nintendo Switch in ATL. He can be found at @thenatejc and @splashdamagebro

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