Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars Review0 Comments
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars, Released: March 5, 2015, Reviewed on: Wii U, Also available on: 3DS, Genre(s): Puzzle, Developer: Nintendo Software Technology, Publisher: Nintendo
The Mario vs. Donkey Kong series first brought its distinctive puzzler spin on Mario via the Game Boy Advance in 2004. Since then Nintendo fans have had an on-and-off relationship with them thanks to an infrequent release schedule, seeing only six releases in the span of 11 years. Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars is the first time the series has graced Wii U and second occasion on 3DS (Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move was first). Settling in with the Wii U release was the first I’d played since the inaugural release but the core mechanics still feel familiar.
In Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars players primary focus is controlling each 2D level. After surveying a stage layout, tapping on a Mini brings them to life - but you can’t control them. Instead, players are tasked with ensuring the paths they’ll walk are safe, activating other Minis, collecting coins, and eventually leading everyone to the exit. The puzzling aspect comes in via each stage’s design and allotted equipment for it. Each offers only a limited amount of items such as placeable girders or bounce pads. Because of the tight quantity restrictions you’ll often have to quickly place and delete objects and then set them up for another portion of the level. Even though Minis walk at a slow pace puzzles can easily turn frantic when you throw enemies into the mix.
Not all additional characters on a stage are enemies, though. For example, Donkey Kong sometimes provides a boost so Minis can reach a higher platform. On other occasions he sits vigilantly in front of an exit. Sure, he requires a quick hit with a hammer but he’s hardly aggressive. On the other hand there enemies such as fireball-throwing Piranha Plants and Thwomps just waiting to destroy an unsuspecting Mini. If one Mini goes down it’s game over so don’t ever lose track of one! Despite all the potential distractions, much of Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars' early game is relatively simple - as is the mid-game.
It’s practically only in the last two worlds of eight that get one’s mind gets a workout puzzling through solutions. For me, the vast majority of stages prior were total cakewalks. Figuring out how to reach the goal was quick, and rarely even required a retry. Even completing stages with a full three stars (provided for having a quick time and collecting everything) proved a simple enough task. And this is coming from someone who’s puzzle game-challenged. Those with superior puzzle skills will likely find the entire swath of official stages a breeze. Well, except for one thing…
You would expect that a game focused exclusively on touch controls (either via 3DS’s bottom screen or GamePad) to offer precision play. However, things don’t work out that way with Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars. On multiple occasions I’d be well on my way to executing a successful level only to find the game failed to register my placement. Because many levels require careful timing, one mistake tends to lead to instantaneous Mini death. Then frustration ensues. Issues like these are a big detractor for puzzle titles so it’s a tremendous shame that this one suffers from it.
What can players do after about 4-7 hours of breezing through official levels? There’s a Community area which allows you to play new stages from folks around the world. Each is ranked by popularity, newness, and accumulated stars. Downloading a level for play is a quick, easy process and has the potential to expand the game tremendously for those who enjoy it. Stages created on Wii U can even be played via 3DS and vice versa. If you’d rather create your own stages then the inbuilt Workshop provides a user-friendly interface for doing so. You select items and characters from a drag-and-drop menu and place them as you see fit. Players can either “tip” fun levels with stars, or receive them on their own from other users. This aspect is almost entirely meaningless, however, if you don’t build stages since stars as used to purchase new Workshop parts.
Finally, it’s worth noting that the Wii U release of Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars ultimately feels unnecessary. The entire game is played on the GamePad screen and actual TV gets a view of stages with a heavy border shrinking to about 2/3rd the TVs resolution. Given that each stage is so short, it just works better as a pick up and play portable title. No matter which version you select it has that trademark Mario vs. Donkey Kong cutesy, cartoony graphical appeal. Luckily, Nintendo isn’t asking fans to choose between versions. Whether you buy it on Wii U or 3DS you’ll receive a complimentary download for the other console.
For those who are fans of the previous games, or simply want the best version, 3DS is probably your best bet. The game in no way pushes the Wii U and while a full screen view of the wonderfully colorful world is great, players don't even get that as they're forced to view the lower resolution GamePad screen instead. The only plus may be that Wii U owners can hear the game's soundtrack with greater clarity. As with practically any official Nitnendo product, the tunes are peppy and repetitive - just the kind that are likely to get stuck in your head even when you've put down the controller.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars provides a ton of content for puzzle fans, even if much of it depends on users to generate it themselves. It seems that Nintendo is banking on fans to generate challenging levels rather than providing a more substantial experience themselves. Then there’s the sometimes iffy controls which turn what should be a fun puzzle adventure into a frustrating one. In all, Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars brings some great additions but stumbles over its own design. Although it’s not irrevocably broken, it’s not a superstar either.
The review copy of this title was a digital code provided by the publisher.