Tiny. That’s the word that best describes Nintendo’s latest eShop release: Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars. The toy-versions of your favorite Mario characters are miniscule, the sizes of the levels often span only the size of the screen, and the time needed to finish the game is relatively short. However, these are not critcisms. I enjoyed my time spent with the game, even though the variety of gameplay I was looking for was much like all of the above: tiny.
“Tipping Stars” contains 6 main game worlds, each including 8 levels. In each level, the goal is the same: lead tiny toy figures of Mario, Toad, Peach, and more to the door at the end of the stage using touchscreen puzzle mechanics such as building bridges, removing barriers, or being thrown in the air by Donkey Kong. Whether using the Wii U gamepad or the bottom screen of the 3DS, the controls work great. The game features cross-buy for the two systems, so you can try either way you want at no additional cost, which is a huge plus.
By going the extra mile to collect all the coins and the ‘M’ medal, players can rank up more points that convert to bronze, silver, or gold trophies at the end of each level. Two additional post-game worlds open up after the last main stage, and even more bonus levels appear as you earn gold trophies from every stage. This adds some much-needed replay value to the relatively short main game mode.
Each world introduces a new tool that must be utilized throughout the 8 levels to successfully navigate to the end. The first three or four worlds fly by rather fast, and in this case, it is for the better. My main problem with the game is once I mastered the tool that each world offered, I would spend the next few levels doing the same exact thing. For a starting price of $19.99, I did not expect a huge game by any means, but I often found myself actually waiting for a chance to get to the next world as the levels became very repetitious.
Recent Mario games have shown me that each and every level in a game can feel fresh. However, in Tipping Stars, many of the puzzles tended to rely on the same mechanics over and over. Far too often did the puzzles in the game revolve around setting up a bridge for the mini characters to cross, and then rushing to remove that bridge in order to set up another. Too many puzzles wanted me to simply beat the clock rather than think about how I would navigate my characters.
The subtitle of the game, “Tipping Stars,” comes from the interesting new addition to the Mario vs. Donkey Kong formula: level creation and an online community. As you finish levels, the game awards you a star for each trophy earned. Enter the community to try levels created by other players and the game gives you the option to “tip” your stars to the designers of your favorite levels.
I appreciated the inclusion of this mode for such a small game, as well as the options to search by popular, new, and official Nintendo created levels. I may pop in every now and then to check out what everyone else has been making.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars did not revolutionize puzzle gameplay in my eyes by any means. If anything, it showed how stale it can become if it’s not kept fresh and interesting for the player. Keeping the game at a low price point in the Nintendo eShop was a smart move for the game, but I have trouble recommending it to others because of how little it attempts to change the genre. Bottom line is if you’re interested in the level creator and community levels, it may be worth the purchase. Perhaps wait for the price to become like the game itself: a little bit tinier.
Score: 3/5 (Decent game, nothing special, nothing awful)