Every good, recent Mario vs. Donkey Kong samples from a certain formula. Make it simple, challenging, cute, and precise. Offer a means of allowing people to craft their own levels along the way. Give people the tools and means of sharing so Nintendo can put off developing another real installment until probably the next console or handheld generation. You know, the basics.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars has every one of those bases covered. The premise is nearly identical to each installment since Mario vs. Donkey Kong 2: March of the Minis. Donkey Kong abducts Pauline. Mario gives chase, using Mini Marios, Luigis, Peaches, Paulines, Toads, and Donkey Kongs to set things right. It’s the typical impetus to propel Mario through 14 worlds and their 114 levels.
The gameplay is indistinguishable from other installments as well. The goal in each area is to guide the toys to the door within a reasonable amount of time, be it the one with the giant M or individual ones catering to each variety. This proves to be quite a test. Once the toys are in motion, they never stop, and it’s impossible to complete a puzzle one Mini at a time. The doors have counters that start once one goes through, for one, and the puzzle is failed if that timer runs down before all Minis exit. Another is the simple notion that most puzzles need more than one character in motion to be properly completed.
This means critical and logical thinking is required to overcome some of Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars‘s trials. However, take note that I said “some” and not “all.” An equal number have very visible solutions, but instead rely on people being quick with their styluses. While Minis march endlessly in a straightforward fashion, it falls to a player to direct them by laying girders as platforms and ramps, placing springs, triggering electrical or conveyor belt switches, or putting down pink blocks. Getting characters in the right places at the right time or order, especially if it means grabbing some hammers to bust enemies, is crucial.
It’s a formula that might frustrate some, as it means someone can’t rely on brain-power to thrive. Reflexes are key too, in Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars. Especially with the addition of Cursed Mini Marios. In the eighth stage of each world, Donkey Kong curses one of the Mini Marios in the stage, temporarily transforming it into an opponent. The only way to win is to bring the Mini back to its senses with a swift hit from the hammer, so it can join its ilk for a speedy exit.
The result is one of those situations where if you liked X version 2.0, you’ll enjoy X version 5.0. The mechanics and gameplay remain unchanged. The only variation are inclusions of a few new elements and set of 114 levels.
Really, though, the Workshop and Community sections provide an opportunity for an untold reservoir of future content—especially with the inclusion of cross-play, cross-buy, and the tipping mechanic. The Workshop is filled with materials that can be used to create custom levels with an included editor. Various elements cost stars to unlock. Stars can be earned via playing the 114 levels, but are best acquired from passing Community levels. The idea is to reward ones you like there by, that’s right, tipping stars. Everything is there to offer years worth of material, provided people care enough to keep contributing.
I believe they will, too. Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars is a comfort game. It isn’t revolutionary. There’s nothing earth-shattering here. I’m not sure I’d even call it a must-buy. However, it is a staple and certainly a title people who appreciate puzzles will consider. Especially since it should hopefully offer an active community for at least the year to come!
Food for Thought:
So long as Nintendo doesn’t exploit it, it wouldn’t be too terrible for the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series to remain in this rut. Perhaps one installment every generation with a Workshop feature and Community repository at the ready?