After the massive change in gameplay brought about by Nintendo 3DS outing Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move, the series returns to its roots in cross-buy successor Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars.
Back as a 2D platform-puzzler where you have to guide toys – known as Minis – to the end of a stage unharmed, it has now moved to the Wii U but with the added bonus of also seeing a 3DS release. And, to top it off, you get a code for the other console version at purchase, so you needn’t worry about which is necessarily better as they are the exact same game.
There is an issue with having both games, however. While you can share stages created between the two versions, the game’s progress and the amount of stars you get for your creations is not shared. This means that if you have a high earning custom stage made on the Wii U version, you won’t get any of the stars for it on your 3DS. This is an inevitable shame, as the game could have worked as one where you could start on the home console and continue while you’re out, but needless to say, it doesn’t really impact the game too much.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars delivers a number of stages to ponder your way through, with each world bringing a new gimmick – springs, magnets, and lifts – to help you get your Mini-Mario and friends through each. Dotted around the stage, you will often find enemies that need vanquishing and paths that need altering on the fly by using the touch screen of the device played on. Collectibles can be gathered before getting to the end too, as when you finish a stage you are rated based on time and collectibles secured.
There’s specific score markers you have to meet in each stage, and you will get a star for each one that you achieve. There are over 70 levels to complete, including Bonus levels, so there’s plenty of content for you to best. The only issue is that the mechanics aren’t really new and Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars doesn’t really add anything to the established formula, with much of it just being a continuation of mechanics introduced in its predecessors. This is a bit of a shame, as new content is always welcome, but it’s still fun nonetheless.
The stages work well with the dual screen aspect of each console, where the touchscreen on the Wii U GamePad or 3DS displaying a zoomed-in version of an area with the rest being scrollable using the sticks of the device. You can see the full version on the TV on the Wii U or top screen on the 3DS respectively. This makes the gameplay a bit easier with the 3DS as you can quickly glance up to see the situation, whereas the Wii U requires more head movement and for you to stop focusing on the actual gameplay you’re controlling. This can feel jarring, but the game is fully playable on the Wii U GamePad alone. Some stages are the same between the Wii U and 3DS versions, but there are some minor differences to how some are set up in being altered to fit on the screen.
Now the main draw of Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars isn’t the single player, but rather the workshop and community. This allows you to create your own levels using mechanics encountered in the game, to then share them across the Internet. The gimmick here is that there are various items that you can purchase for your stages such as mainstays like Mini-Toad & Mini-Luigi that require stars to purchase. While you can get stars from the single player, the idea is for you to create levels, put them online and then people will rate your stages, in turn, rewarding you with stars. This is definitely required to get every item, as some require thousands of stars to purchase. This mode clearly benefits from the large area on the Wii U GamePad, more than on 3DS. To top it off though, stages can be shared between versions with ease, so you don’t have to worry about your hard work being confined to either Wii U or 3DS.
In the Community part of the game, you can then play stages that other players have put onto Miiverse, some sent through SpotPass and, on the 3DS version, ones received through the StreetPass feature. This is where you’ll see some of the most ingenious stages that can be created in the game. Once played, you can rate these stages and give the creator stars for them to use in future creations. As you tip more people, you will also unlock various stamps to use in your Miiverse posts. This will undoubtedly have players who enjoy the game coming back repeatedly.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars is absolutely solid visually, with the sprites looking phenomenally good on both the TV and the Wii U GamePad. This is easily the best that Mario vs. Donkey Kong has ever looked, but unfortunately, on 3DS there’s a general fuzziness look to the sprites. They are not as crisp as you would hope, and while backgrounds are varied they aren’t overly spectacular.
Nintendo’s efforts in the audio department continue to be solid. There are remixes of the classic Donkey Kong tracks, as well as new music that can be serene, catchy and help set the scene. The classic sounds from the Minis also carry over, but as with the graphics, there’s nothing that will ignite your senses here.
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars is a remarkably consistent puzzler and will appeal to those that have enjoyed the previous games. It’s held back by a lack of new mechanics, as it does feel like it could do more. That said, Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars will have you coming back for more, and I know that it will be the lure of the online community, testing stages and creating my own that will promise a ridiculous amount of replayability. As for which version to make your main game? That’s entirely up to you, but I would recommend Nintendo 3DS to those that just wish to play through the stages, but Wii U for those looking to exploit their own creative flair.
The Wii U version was primarily played for review purposes, with the Nintendo 3DS version provided by Nintendo UK to draw comparisons.