Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars Review: Mini Puzzle Quest

Nintendo has released an all-new Mario vs. Donkey Kong title for both the 3DS and Wii U that not only offers more of the same, addictive puzzle gameplay, but new features that will improve its replayability a great deal.


Mario and Donkey Kong have once again rekindled their lifelong rivalry in Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars. As you would expect, the reason for this feud once again stems from Donkey Kong kidnapping Pauline for absolutely no reason aside from giving the game some kind of story. The result is Mini Mario toys and others from the mushroom kingdom, including Mini Peach and Mini Toad toys, work together to complete puzzles across several worlds in order to save Pauline from the grips of Donkey Kong.

Aside from the lackluster attempt at delivering some kind of story to Tipping Stars, Mario vs. Donkey Kong is a competent puzzle game that will have you scratching your noggin more often than not. It also marks the first time Nintendo Wii U owners get a chance at playing their own version of the series.

Complete puzzle. Rinse. Repeat.

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars features a total of 9 worlds to play across, two unlockable worlds, and three bonus worlds. Each of these worlds has eight levels to play through, which means you can expect a total of 112 levels. That’s a pretty good value when you consider the game itself costs just $20 and is cross-buy compatible, meaning if you purchase the game on the Wii U, you’ll get the same game on your 3DS.

Tipping Stars eased me into its puzzle-solving mechanics easily as the first few worlds didn’t pose much of a challenge, but the more I played, the more difficult and intricate the puzzles became. In Tipping Stars, the player is tasked with guiding minis through each level by manipulating the stage in a number of ways. Each world introduces you to a new method of assisting minis, such as a simple step bridge, conveyer belts, and even warp pipes. As you progress through the game, not only will you need to incorporate new mechanics to assist your minis through a level, but you’ll also need to call upon previous mechanics, so you better know exactly how they work or later levels could feel downright brutal.

The main objective for each level is to guide your minis to a large door in order to progress to the next level. There are times where it’ll be a single Mario-labeled door, but from time to time, you’ll be tasked with guiding certain minis to their appropriately-labeled door. These levels require a bit more effort than most as you’ll need to find just the right path for each mini to take in order to complete their own objectives.

Each level has a number of coins littered throughout, which are completely optional to collect, but doing so will raise your overall score. Score high enough in each level, and you’ll earn one of three trophies. Each trophy you’re awarded will give you a star, and these stars are important if you plan on using Tipping Stars’ level editor as they’ll unlock more complex mechanics to use.

If you build it, they will come

One of the more exciting features in Tipping Stars is an included level editor that allows you to create your own levels. A total of three templates are available to help get you started, but if you’re feeling daring, you can create a level from the ground up. You aren’t able to put an unlimited amount of items within a level due to memory constraints, but you can still put quite the variety of obstacles, minis, and power-ups in custom levels.

Once you believe you have something that’s the least bit playable, you can submit your custom level to the Tipping Stars community to try out for themselves. Other users can check out your creation and rate them, and if you’re level is good enough, it can rise up through the ranks and become a Popular level, which will then make it easier to find among the community.

Both the level editor and community features add a lot of replayability, so long as Tipping Stars continues to have a following. Similar to the LittleBigPlanet series, giving the power to create content to a community of fans is a very smart decision, and one I’m hoping future Nintendo games will add something like this for future games.

Mini game, massive potential

Even though Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars isn’t a “full” game in terms of what it offers and its pricing, it still has lots of potential. The end product is a puzzle game that is easy to play, but difficult to master. The addition of a level editor and an online community to enjoy one another's creations is an added bonus and may be worth the price of entry alone, as long as there are some worthwhile creations published in the future.

Senior Editor
  • Difficulty increases steadily
  • Wide variety of solutions to each level
  • Level editor and ability to share with community
  • Cross-buy support
  • Puzzles in later levels get frustratingly hard
  • No cross-save support between Wii U & 3DS
  • Wii U version only uses Gamepad to play
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