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Dr. Mario: What Did Critics Say Back in 1990?
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on July 23, 2014   |   Episode 72 (Show Archive)  

   

Dr. Mario (Game Boy)
Ever wonder what Electronic Gaming Monthly, GamePro and other popular magazines thought of your favorite 8-, 16- and 32-bit games? Now you can find out, thanks to Review Crew! This is the only show on the internet that is willing to go back in time to find out what old school critics thought of retro games at the time. Did they pan your favorite game? Did they love something terrible? Find out every week as Defunct Games presents Review Crew!

After seeing the surprise success of Tetris, Nintendo was quick to capitalize on the puzzler's appeal. Their first stab at the Tetris-clone genre was Dr. Mario, which saw everybody's favorite plumber battling viruses with vitamins. Were critics thrilled to have another puzzler on the go, or did they reject Dr. Mario's medicine? We dig through old issues of Electronic Gaming Monthly, Raze, Nintendo Power and Nintendo Magazine System for the answers.

(NOTE: Although we occasionally cut for length, no other edits are made to the review. Defunct Games does not change any of the wording, grammar or punctuation use. Also keep in mind that our score is the average of all critics at the time, not just the sample that is reprinted on this page. If you still have more questions, I recommend you check out the Review Crew FAQ, where we address the review guidelines, converting scores, magazine covers and more.)

Dr. Mario
[ Company: Nintendo | Console: Game Boy ]

NINTENDO MAGAZINE SYSTEM #1
87% out of 100%

"Mario's back in a Tetris-inspired puzzle game which sees him chucking different proteins into a beaker in order to make all the nasty viruses disappear. This is quite easy to begin with, the action gets meaner as you progress making for a truly exciting test of your reflexes and brain power. Highly recommended to puzzle fans."

NINTENDO POWER (Nov/Dec 1990)
4.1 out of 5

"Medical alert! Microscopic monsters have come out in force to take over the lab of the famous plumber turned practitioner, Dr. Mario. You've got to set things straight by manipulating Dr. Mario's special vitamin capsules and making matches to obliterate the menace. It's Tetris-style strategic fun for one or two players!"

RAZE #2
81% out of 100%

"Don't say it! I know what it looks like. The Tetris-like screen represents the human throat leading to the body infected with a virus. Dr. Mario (father of the Mario Bros) throws capsules made up of two halves into the throat. There are 20 levels of virus infection at three speeds with two types of music (fever and chill)."

ELECTRONIC GAMING MONTHLY #16
6 out of 10

"Dr. Mario is Nintendo's attempt to clone Columns for the GameBoy (and soon the NES). Not only do you have to twirl "pills" into position a la Tetris, but you must also place them in rows to successfully eliminate the viruses. It's complicated in higher levels, but it is different." -Martin

ELECTRONIC GAMING MONTHLY #16
4 out of 10

"Dr. Mario is an annoyingly over-involved version of Tetris meets Columns that takes a different approach and comes up way short. Sure, Nintendo has done the same old thing in a refreshing new way, but where's the fun?" -Ed
REVIEW CREW AVERAGE: 66% - Based on what I hear from people these days, Dr. Mario is as much a classic as Tetris. However, that wasn't the case in 1990. Electronic Gaming Monthly's Ed Semrad called the game "an annoyingly over-involved version of Tetris." Ouch. Martin liked the game a little more, leaving us with this baffling statement: "It's complicated in higher levels, but is different." Thanks for clearing that up.

Not a single editor at Electronic Gaming Monthly liked Dr. Mario. Some critics were indifferent, but none were willing to recommend it to their readers. Other magazines disagreed, calling Dr. Mario "a truly exciting test of your reflexes and brain power." Nintendo Magazine System says that Dr. Mario is "highly recommended to puzzle fans."

Raze also enjoyed it, but made a few comments that left me scratching my head. At one point they suggested Dr. Mario is actually Mario's father. What's more, they seem to think the scree "represents the human throat," and not a beaker. Did they not look at the cover art?

Dubious facts aside, Dr. Mario didn't score particularly well. Nintendo hoped it would be another Tetris, but the 66% average suggests otherwise.

SUPER MARIO ARCHIVE: Want to see how this Super Mario game stacks up against the rest? Below you will find every Mario game currently in the Review Crew archive. Read the original reviews and see if you agree with the old school critics.

Super Mario World
What Did Critics Say Back in 1992?
Nintendo Super NES 92%
Super Mario Kart
What Did Critics Say Back in 1993?
Nintendo Super NES 89%
Super Mario All-Stars
What Did Critics Say Back in 1993?
Nintendo Super NES 88%
Super Mario Land
What Did Critics Say Back in 1989?
Nintendo Game Boy 82%
Mario Paint
What Did Critics Say Back in 1993?
Nintendo Super NES 74%
Dr. Mario
What Did Critics Say Back in 1990?
Nintendo Game Boy 66%

ON WEDNESDAY'S EPISODE: Get your motor runnin' and head out on the highway, because if you're looking for adventure in whatever comes your way, you'll want to check out the next episode of Review Crew. On Friday, Electronic Gaming Monthly, GamePro and a whole host of classic magazines will take a look at Rock 'N Roll Racing, the futuristic racer from the makers of World of WarCraft. Make sure and check out the Review Crew archive for more old school reviews, and don't forget to tweet me @DefunctGames to let me know what games you want to see next!

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