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Picks and pans: 'Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem' and 'Bejeweled 3'

Justin Hoeger
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

MARIO VS. DONKEY KONG: MINI-LAND MAYHEM

3 1/2 stars

Following up on the downloadable "Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Minis March Again!," "Mini-Land Mayhem" offers more puzzling levels to solve by manipulating obstacles and objects into directing wind-up Mario toys to their exit.

The game replaces the blocks of previous titles with girders that players can extend between certain points, creating platforms, ramps and barriers as needed.

Other objects, such as springboards, can give Minis a boost, and the little Marios can also travel through pipes, climb ladders and grab hammers to defeat enemies. The challenge is not just to get the Minis out, but to collect all of each level's items in the shortest time possible for a greater score, an addictive endeavor.

The levels start out simple but get tricky soon — some have two colors of Minis, each with its own door to reach; others start the Minis moving after a short delay rather than letting the player activate them at will.

Nintendo DS; $29.99

Age rating: Everyone

———

BEJEWELED 3

3 1/2 stars

The "Bejeweled" series is more than a decade old now, and many similar puzzle games have been released in that time, but PopCap keeps finding ways to keep the old match-three formula interesting.

"Bejeweled 3" includes several new modes and a few other new tricks. The basic game play — matching lines of three or more like-colored gems on a grid — remains the same, and certain combinations produce special gems that have special effects when cleared — one clears every gem of one color from the grid, another blasts apart a block of gems, and so on.

The game can be played in Classic style, with a game over when no more moves can be made, or in the endless Zen mode. Lightning is a 60-second time trial with bonus seconds awarded for matching blocks, and Quest mode has players performing a variety of specific assignments.

Progress in these four modes unlocks secret modes — Butterflies, where some gems sprout wings and must be saved before they're caught by a ravenous spider; Diamond Mine, where treasure is hidden in the dirt at the bottom of the grid; Poker, where players earn points by making certain hands of gem combinations; and Ice Storm, where blocks of ice threaten to freeze the grid over if not shattered in time.

PC, also for Mac OS; $19.95

Age rating: Everyone

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