Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars

This is the sixth Mario vs. Donkey Kong game and the fifth to focus its gameplay around the Mini characters. I feel that when this game came out, a lot of people were getting tired of the series and weren’t really that interested anymore. This is a real shame, because in my opinion, this just might be the best one.

The story this time? Donkey Kong grabs Pauline and Mario chases after them, with a few Minis in tow. This might sound a bit basic, but it has a really good ending, it made me laugh out loud, so I can’t really fault it on this front. But it’s the game’s other features which I enjoyed the most.

First of all, there’s the presentation. Look at that title screen – has Donkey Kong ever looked so beautiful before or afterwards? I don’t think so and I look at a lot of pictures of Donkey Kong. The whole game simply looks a lot smoother and more polished than any of those which came before. Of course, graphics are only a small factor in the grand scheme of things, but I also loved the game’s soundtrack. I’ve always thought that Donkey Kong games tend to have some really amazing, calming, ambient music – unfortunately, this was not the case for the rest of the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, which had fairly mediocre music, but in this game, its phenomenal. The game’s “Golden Palace Theme” is one of the best pieces of game music I know.

In terms of gameplay, it’s fairly similar to what went before, but this was already a winning formula – creating paths for the Minis to take so that they could get to the level’s exit and pick up as many collectables as possible while avoiding enemies on the way. Each level is a fun little puzzle and towards the end, they can start to get quite complicated. Finishing a level while collecting everything in it is very satisfactory.

One new addition to the game are Cursed Mini-Marios. These are Mini-Marios who have an evil little monkey Mini sitting on their head and making them behave as if they were enemies. They move around the level just like other Minis, but they’ll destroy any Mini they come into contact with (thus losing you the level). What you need to do is get another Mini to hit them with a hammer to destroy the little monkey, but it can often be hard to do this. You can’t win a level without liberating the Cursed Mini-Marios and making sure that you free them from their ‘curse’ adds an interesting new dynamic to levels.

What really makes Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars interesting, though, is the fact that it’s a sort of prototype Super Mario Maker. Other games in the series had given you the opportunity to create your own levels, but this one does something really interesting with it. From the beginning, you have the capacity to make some fairly basic levels. Playing through the game’s single player mode then gives you stars which you can use to unlock more items for level customisation. You could then share your levels online and if people enjoyed them they could leave you a tip – and the tip would be in stars (hence the title) allowing you to make more creations. It was a really lovely community and there were some lovely levels… unfortunately, with the ending of the Miiverse, this online level sharing service was discontinued and it’s a real shame. I loved it and played right up to the moment of its discontinuation.

The only real negative I have about this game is that there are no Donkey Kong boss battles. I always enjoyed these and it’s a shame that Donkey Kong’s role in the game has been somewhat diminished. Besides this, I think this game is great… or at least, it was. With the loss of its online features, I’d say it could no longer be described as the best Mario vs. Donkey Kong game, but for a while, it sat proudly on that throne.

Rating: 9.1/10

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