Mario vs Donkey Kong is back and for the first time it's not exclusively for handheld. Tipping Stars features the gameplay of its predecessor Mini-Land Mayhem combined with a level editor and rewarding community mechanics. Should you let your minis march yet again or is it not worth winding up the little fellows this time around?
For the uninitiated, Tipping Stars is played by guiding wind-up toy versions of classic Mario characters in order to reach the exit. Along the way, you'll encounter many hazards and enemies so it won't be a simple walk in the park. As the toys ceaselessly march, it's your job to materialize bridges, springs, elevators, and other similar objects to ensure that they all reach their goal without being harmed. For perfectionists, simply reaching the goal won't be enough. Thankfully, they'll be rewarded by clearing levels as efficiently as possible while collecting all of the goodies scattered throughout. The campaign does a fantastic job of gradually teaching you new features as they're introduced. This gentle learning curve is not only a great tool to learn how to play the game, but also helps you think creatively when you get into creating your own levels. As levels get trickier, mastering them becomes increasingly satisfying. By the end of the campaign, you'll feel a considerable sense of accomplishment as you reflect on all of your gold trophies.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars won't blow you away with its graphics, but they are sharp and colourful. Characters and objects stand out well over the subdued backgrounds as to never confuse or obstruct gameplay. The toys are animated smoothly and march adorably enough to make you want to own them. Levels take place in plenty of different environments and each one does a sufficient job of setting itself apart from the rest. You'll notice many familiar Mario tunes as you play which come alive as soon as you awake the first toy at the beginning of each level. It's a delightful effect that livens up the gameplay and when you combine that with the toys' celebratory vocalisations, it creates an encouraging soundscape that pushes you to soldier on until you master every level.
The main feature of Tipping Stars is the community of user-created levels. In fact, that's where the title comes from since you give tips to creators in the form of stars if you enjoy their level. It's a unique system that can be quite rewarding for gamers who create innovative and challenging works of art. The level editor itself is incredibly simple to use, but it may take a long time to create something cohesive enough to be engaging, so ensure that you have patience before diving in. As you create, share, and play, you'll receive stamps as perks for your efforts. You're also able to use stars to purchase more toys and objects that you can use in your next endeavor. Overall, it's a system that continues to reward and inspire so if you love creating then Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars is a must-buy title.
Although the creative aspect of Tipping Stars is awesome, gamers who don't care for such things may be disappointed by the lack of content. The main campaign contains 48 levels that can be completed in a couple of play sessions. After you're done with that, you unlock 16 more challenging levels as well as up to 24 bonus levels according to how many gold trophies you've managed to obtain. These trophies are unlocked upon acquiring high scores which brings me to my next point; how come the only replay incentive is to get high scores? Levels feature different collectables but all they end up doing is increasing your score. In order to get gold trophies, you need to play levels almost perfectly. Considering there are no other objectives, why not make all collectables the same? Finally, even though there are many different puzzle mechanics, the gameplay still doesn't feel diverse enough. It would've been cool to play some mini-games or battle in epic boss fights like previous Mario vs. Donkey Kong titles, but instead you're only given a series of levels.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars is a worthy entry to the series that'll appeal to existing fans and creative souls alike. However, not caring much for creating and sharing may be a tipping point for you to pass up on this toy-land puzzler.
- + Easy to use level editor and strong community mechanics make creating and sharing fun
- + Puzzles are incredibly satisfying to master
- + Campaign has a well-executed learning curve
- - Besides creating and sharing levels, there simply isn't that much content
- - Gameplay lacks variety
- - Replay value strictly relies on high scores