Game Review: Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars

Mario vs Donkey Kong - Tipping Stars Box Art Eu WiiUDeveloped by: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo

Release: March 20th 2015

MSRP: €19.99

Bought @ Media Markt Wilrijk for €16,99

Sometimes you buy a game on Saturday and finish it by Sunday… and that’s okay. This is what happened to me with Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars. I bought it Saturday afternoon, played a few levels, put it down, thought it was fun enough, picked it up again Sunday morning, couldn’t put it down anymore and finished the main world levels by midday, tried to create my own level afterwards, failed at it miserably, turned off my console and went out on a social call.

By M.C.J.F.


It’s a puzzle time, woohoo!

I have really enjoyed my time with Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars so far. It’s a puzzle game. It’s not a hard game. Not by a longshot. But it’s short levels do (mostly) require you to think ahead and be quick on the draw while playing. Just like in previous Mario vs. Donkey Kong games (not counting the first one, which was a breed of its own, and much more like 1994’s Donkey Kong for the original Nintendo Game Boy) you have to safely guide mini-Mario toys, as well as mini-Toad, mini-Pauline and mini-Peach toys, from point A to point Door by influencing their surrounding environment with the stylus.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong Tipping Stars (1)

The challenge? Once one of your toy figurines starts moving (because you tapped on it with the stylus, or because it was touched by another toy) it never stops. At least, it doesn’t stop until it has reached its goal, is brutally ripped apart by a Shy Guy or blazing fire ball, or, just like a lemming, has plunged itself into whatever abyss you weren’t able to bridge in a timely fashion – purposely or unpurposely, depending on how psychotic you are.

The last level of each world spices things up a little. In these levels one of your mini-Mario toys becomes cursed by a monkey and starts moving on its own accord, looking to create havoc. When it touches one of your other mini-toys it’s Game Over. So you will want one of your mini-toys to whack it with a hammer before that happens, lifting the curse in the process – aaah, if only real life was as simple as that.

Monkey curse

 

It’s a MORE puzzle time, woohoo!

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars  is the kind of game of which you think beforehand that you’re going to play a few levels of when you have half an hour to kill and end up playing for several hours in a row, saying: ‘oooh just one more level… but now I’m at the final stage of this world… and now I want to know what the next world looks like… but that first new level was so easy.’

You and I will be able to play a few levels of it whenever we want to kill some time though, and that is because the game doesn’t really start before you finish it. Indeed, there are a lot more levels to enjoy than the initial 48 which comprise the story mode – which isn’t more than a gif before level 1-1 and a gif after level 6-8 to be honest. After you beat level 6-8, you unlock the first of two extra worlds, comprising another 8 levels each. There are also 24 bonus levels which you unlock by perfecting the main, extra and already unlocked bonus levels. And then there’s the option to create and share your own levels with the outside world.

Community

Now, before you say that you aren’t interested in user generated content, because… well… oftentimes it isn’t all that good (here’s looking at you Infamous 2!), know that you will not only find user generated content behind that scary “Community” button, but also  official Nintendo content shared by the director of the game. Yes, Nintendo has promised to release two new levels every week for the next 50 weeks. That’s a lot of extra content, and at the time of writing, three days after release, already six official extra levels were available.

 

It’s a… creating time, woohoo?!

Creating your own levels is a puzzle game in its own right. The creator mode is intuitive enough. You start with a level template and select different traps to bridge, what you would want to bridge them with e.g. springs and conveyor belts, enemies to whack or avoid, coins to collect (it is a Mario-game after all), mini-toys to safeguard (including mini-Luigi and mini-Donkey Kong toys not seen throughout the main campaign!) from a list and add them to the template with simple stylus taps and drags. Before you get to finish your level and share it with the outside world, it has to work though (here’s looking at you once more Infamous 2!), and that means you will have to be able to clear the level yourself, grabbing all the coins to get a perfect a score… which is trickier than you think.

At least for me it is.

Creator mode

I can’t see myself creating that many levels, let alone sharing them with the community, but those who do can get even more out of Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars. When people play and like your levels, they get a chance to tip you with stars (hence the name of the game). With these stars you can buy more tools and skins to make your levels even more intricate and interesting. You also get stars for playing and perfecting (community) levels, but when you aren’t really planning on creating your own levels, you only get to use these stars for tipping… which is less of an incentive than actually getting something in return (Miiverse stamps don’t really count, do they?). Though one could argue that you indirectly get fun new levels by tipping and encouraging the right people.

It’s a cross-buy, woohoo!

The game offers a lot of content, but only for those who are willing to spend more time with it after the credits role. Depending on what type of gamer you are then €19,99 might seem a somewhat high price of admission. You can get the game for €10 though, because when you buy a download-code for WiiU or 3DS (it’s on both systems) you also get a download-code for the other system. Because it’s an extra code, and not limited to use on the same account, you can easily share the game with a friend who owns the other system. I played on the WiiU and gave the 3DS-code to my wife.

Cross buy

Are there advantages for playing the game on one system or the other? The game is exactly the same on both systems; also meaning that the game doesn’t make use of the WiiU’s added raw power. The graphics are fine. The music as well. But it is clear that not too much attention was given to these aspects during development. The visuals and music very much resemble what was already achieved on the Nintendo DS in 2006.

For those who thought they would get to enjoy the series in HD on WiiU for the first time, think again. What you get on your television screen is a small square box surrounded by a frame filled with stars, clouds or whatever icon comes with the level theme. The larger levels might just fill up the screen, but that just creates another problem. Because you aren’t as zoomed in on the action as on the gamepad, it can sometimes become difficult to spot what your mini-toys are actually up to – even on a 50 inch television screen. Clearly, the game is meant to be played on the gamepad or the Nintendo 3DS. So while I had my television switched on during my first play session, I didn’t bother to turn it on during my second session.

Clouds

Whom should play this game?

Woohoo! No. No. No more woohoo’s! If you really can’t get enough of the woohoo’s, however (like me), this game is definitely for you. Also if you like puzzle games like Lemmings and previous Mario vs. Donkey Kong games, you should probably pick this one up as well. It might not be the best you’ve ever played, but it is really enjoyable none the less. When you’re a creative spirit who has always wanted to make his own Mario vs. Donkey game and share it with the world, now’s your chance… again. Though the level editor has been around in the series since 2006, the sharing options, tipping mechanic and Miiverse integration make for it being the best editor the series has offered to date.

7 out of 10

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