Let’s talk about puzzles:
What is it about puzzles that make them so interesting to us? Maybe it’s the process of uncovering an answer which we know is hiding right beneath the surface. There’s an answer, it’s just waiting for us do to do the right things before it can reveal itself.
So then, what is it which separates the great puzzles from the mediocre ones? It’s not just complexity, because it’s easy to craft a complex puzzle. Just add more variables. The best puzzles, then, are the ones which have a method to them, a set of rules that you find out along the way as you’re trying to uncover the answer. They aren’t solvable simply by moving everything around until something sticks. The best puzzles require you to actually solve the fabric beneath the problem they put in front of us. In its shining moments, Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars gives you these kinds of puzzles. It makes you create incredibly intricate and innovative solutions to solve the problem. Unfortunately, the game waits too long to reach these heights.
What You Need to Know:
The game it’ll probably remind you the most of is Lemmings. In this game, you have to guide a set of what can only be called dolls of various characters in the Mario universe through six different worlds consisting of eight levels each. In your way stand various obstacles, both mechanical and otherwise. As the name suggests, you’ll have to go up against Donkey Kongs, Shy Guys, fire breathing plants and several spike traps. To get across the levels, you have the ability to craft your own path through the level. You’ll also have some nifty gadgetry at your disposal. On your way to the finish line, you have to collect as many coins and tokens as you can. You can click on jump pads, lifts, paths and other objects in the environment to craft your escape route. Sounds simple? Well, it’s not.
The most major obstacle in almost any given level is the fact that each of the characters you have to complete the stage with have to exit the stage within moments of each other. Now if that sounds complicated, that’s because it is. Characters only move in one direction, and they all turn around once they hit a wall. So yeah, they’re basically wind-up dolls. When you come across stages which have characters spread out across different parts of it, getting them to the same place at the same time while still managing to collect coins and resources, things can get tough.
The Game Play:
You’re introduced to a new gameplay mechanic in each of the six worlds. In the first, you’re shown how you can drag beams around to create walls and pathways for you to get across. These levels are extremely easy. As you progress through the different worlds, the game requires you to remember each of the fundamental gameplay mechanics and learn how to use them in conjunction with each other. Due to this dynamic, puzzles don’t really get challenging until much later in the game, around World 5. Which is understandable if Nintendo intended this game to be played by younger gamers. Tipping Stars is certainly a good game to give to your children just to see how they manage to figure things out. But if you’re looking for a good challenge for yourself, there are much better options out there.
As mentioned before, World 5 is where things start getting really interesting. From here till the end of the game, the quality of puzzles will offer you a nice challenge. If you’re an experienced puzzle gamer, you will probably finish the entire campaign in around four hours. Once you’re done with the main campaign, you can try your hand at the 24 bonus levels available in the game. These levels are where Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars truly shines. A lot of these levels continue to add new mechanics in addition to the ones you’ve already learnt. If you’re still interested by the time you reach these stages, you will have a blast. The game also features a level editor for those of you who would like to test your puzzle creation skill. Whether this feature amounts to anything really depends on the enthusiasm of the community.
As it stands, Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars is too short, and starts becoming fun very late in its run. The first half of the game is mostly a glorified tutorial. If you own the 3DS and the Wii U, you can enjoy the game on both consoles, although it’s tough to imagine a situation where you’ll need to use the Wii U for it. If the developers had tried to create additional levels within each world, this could have been a great game. In its current form, it’s merely average.