Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars
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Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars is an action puzzle game for the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS. It is the sixth Mario vs. Donkey Kong game overall and the first game in the series to be released on a home console. The game shares many elements with most of the series, where the principal goal is to navigate a number of Minis to their exits, and also allows players to build their own levels in a mode called the Workshop. Players could share custom stages through Miiverse, although this is now no longer possible since November 7, 2017, as Miiverse was shut down. The focus of the game are the stars, which form a reward earned in accordance to how the player performs in levels. They are used to tip other players for their shared stages or unlock parts and new Minis for custom levels in the Workshop Store. The game is digital-only except in Japan. Game cases with download codes are sold in Europe. The Wii U version requires 0.93 GB of memory to be installed, and the Nintendo 3DS version requires 3200 blocks.
The game supports a form of cross-platform play, where if one version of the game is bought off the Nintendo eShop, the buyer receives a free download code of the other version. Levels can be shared between the Nintendo 3DS and Wii U versions of the game.
As in previous Mario vs. Donkey Kong games, Pauline is once again the victim of Donkey Kong's kidnapping antics at the start of the game, although this time, no motivation is given. Mario quickly gives chase with his Mini Mario toys in hopes of rescuing Pauline from Donkey Kong.
After traversing six puzzle-filled worlds, while freeing cursed Mini Mario toys along the way, Mario catches up to Donkey Kong and Pauline in a darkened room. The lights are switched on quickly, revealing Pauline, Donkey Kong, and two Toads standing in front of a "SURPRISE!" banner.
The ruse revealed, Mario can then continue through more worlds and bonus levels knowing Pauline is safe.
As in the game's predecessors, the main goal of every stage is to simply lead all Mini toys to the end of the level, which is done by manipulating certain parts of the environment. Using the console's touchscreen, players are able to drag objects such as red girders, springs, conveyor belts, pipes, and lifts to guide the characters. Notably, the gameplay of this title is largely simplified in comparison to the predecessors, barring elements such as boss battles and the ability to change direction of the Minis.
The most common level type in the game is the Single-Door level, in which a lone door represents the objective. In order to clear a course, each Mini must be brought to the exit door, immediately followed by another. The first Mini toy to reach the exit commences a short timer which shuts the door after a few moments, locking away any other Mini toy if they do not reach the door in time and resulting in a Game Over. Multi-Door levels, a feature introduced in Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Mini-Land Mayhem!, are also found in Tipping Stars, where different Minis have to be rescued from Capsules and led through separate doors, each assigned to one of the Minis. In Multi-Door levels, there is no time limit between entering different doors.
Each world contains eight levels and follows a specific formula:
A level must be finished within its time limit, always set to 300 seconds. Otherwise, the result will be a Game Over. Other causes of a Game Over include falling on spikes, falling from a height of ten blocks or more, failing to enter the goal door before it closes, and coming into contact with an enemy such as a Shy Guy or a Pokey. The only possibility to combat these enemies is by using Hammers, which are acquired for a short time and function similarly to the hammer from the Donkey Kong arcade game.
When there are only 30 seconds left in the timer, a frantic melody starts playing, prompting the player to hurry and finish the level.
Scoring system and stars
Each level has a trophy ranking based on a score, which is determined by the following:
Three high scores signifying three different rankings are established for each level and are linked to a bronze, silver, and gold trophy, in order from lowest to highest. Acquiring one trophy rewards the player with one star; in this respect, achieving the gold trophy in a level signifies a three star rating for that level. Stars form a collectable entity, and a total of 267 stars can be earned in the main game. Before Miiverse was shut down, additional ones could also be obtained as tips from other players for uploaded levels.
The Workshop mode allows players to design, store and share custom levels. A total of 50 custom levels can be stored, but only up to 20 could be shared online. Levels can be transferred between both the Nintendo 3DS and the Wii U versions of the game. The Workshop Store is a section in the Workshop where collected/received stars can be used to unlock objects and other elements for use in the level editor.
The player can either edit and finish one of the three built-in templates, or start building from scratch. In the latter case, building starts out with a Mini Mario, an M Coin, and a Goal Door lined above a plain ground floor, elements without which a level cannot be created. As with most other parts of the game, the touchscreen must be used to perform any action within the editor, while the top screen is reserved to show the entirety of the level, with a frame highlighting the part of the level that is currently shown on the bottom screen. The editing space is navigated using the direction pad or the analog stick. It is grid-based and its size can be increased by dragging a cursor located in the top-right corner.
There is a toolbar at the top of the editor which contains, in the following order:
The game presented online functions, which were paired with Miiverse. However, as of November 7, 2017, when the service was shut down, they are no longer available. Before the discontinuation, levels made and shared by other players could be accessed in Community mode. People could play and 'Yeah' these levels. Stars earned in the main game or by playing user-created levels could be tipped to level creators, which unlocked Miiverse stamps for the tippers in exchange. Levels could be sorted by "Popular", "Latest", "Saved" (there was a download feature), "Friends & Followed", "Official Levels", and "Street Pass".
Both the Workshop mode and the Community mode are based on a user profile that was activated when users first entered either of them. Players without a profile have currently no access to the Community, but those who had opened a profile prior to the dicontinuation of Miiverse can still enter it, although it is devoid of levels. Players can click their Mii icon to access their own user profile, which displays some information linked to the service: the number of 'Yeah's received on their levels, comments posted, and stars tipped to other players, as well as the number of shared levels. Likewise, the SpotPass funcionality can be toggled there. The profiles of other players could be accessed in Community mode via comments they had posted on other levels. Their region could be determined by the color behind their Mii on the profile picture, which was red for Japan, yellow for Europe and Oceania, and blue for the Americas.
The game offers in-game tips for gameplay, editing and online features. However, they are handled differently depending on the version they appear in. In the Wii U version, tips simply appear on the loading screens. In the Nintendo 3DS version, there is a separate "Help Mode" accessible through a button with a question mark in each of the Game, Bonus, Workshop and Community menus.
In the main Game and Bonus menus, tips are related to gameplay. They are the following:
In the Workshop menu, tips are related to building levels and sharing them:
Finally, the Community menu offered tips related to users found online and the interaction with them:
The cast is primarily composed of the Mini toys, which are the focus of the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series. Despite the fact that Mario and Donkey Kong are titular characters, they only fulfill minor roles, appearing only on the title screen and the game's few cutscenes. In addition, Mario can be heard exclaiming "Way to go!" after collecting all coins in a level. Pauline and a few Toads also make appearances in the cutscenes.
The protagonistic Minis do not behave differently from each other. They all simply walk from side to side, interacting with the environment at times. The only Mini that does, however, differentiate from the others is the Cursed Mini Mario, which is a possessed Mini Mario that smashes any other Mini on contact. It can be turned back to a normal Mini Mario if hit with Hammers or if slope slid onto it.
Each of the eight main worlds of the game (six standard, two extra) introduces a new mechanic, and is divided into eight levels; the last one in each world is always centered around a Cursed Mini Mario. Levels in the main game are unlocked in a classic manner, i.e. by completing any level that preceded them.
Apart from the main game, there are 24 additional levels to unlock in a separate, Bonus feature. The player unlocks a bonus level for every 4 gold trophies obtained in the main game, except for Level B-21 onward, when levels are unlocked for each gold trophy earned. In order to unlock all Bonus Levels, the player has to acquire a total of 87 gold trophies. Compared to levels from the main game, Bonus Levels are to be noted for using previous gameplay mechanics in challenging ways, resulting in increased difficulty. Each world from the main game is the setting of two consecutive Bonus Levels.
Between the Nintendo 3DS and the Wii U versions of the game, levels have slight design differences to accommodate to the screen of the console. As a result, puzzles might sometimes require a different solution depending on the version they appear in.
There are four unlockable backgrounds in the Workshop Store—Winding Ravine, Swirling Courtyard, Clattering Cabin and Shimmering Gold Palace—which can be used by players to decorate levels created by them in the editor. Although these areas do not have their own worlds in the main game, they theme some of the Bonus Levels. In the Workshop, there is an additional Editor Land theme, although none of the pre-built levels feature it.
The game's numerous objects can be split into three categories: collectibles, objects that can be obtained only by a Mini toy; resource items, which can be stockpiled and moved or dragged on the screen using the console's stylus; and fixed objects, which cannot usually be modified but can be manipulated to help the Minis advance through a stage.
Enemies in the game can be divided into two categories, based on how they affect the player. Kong-based toys are rather large and indestructible but do not cause damage, and in many situations their capacities appear helpful; however, they can also often impede the player, in which case Hammers are available to stun them temporarily. On the other hand, there are harmful enemies that take miscellaneous forms, and only serve as obstacles that can usually be destroyed with Hammers or other means of attack.
References to other games
Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars is unanimously regarded by various game critics to deliver a challenging and worthwhile gameplay experience, despite the game not bringing many new elements in relation to the other Mario vs. Donkey Kong games.
In reference to its lack of innovation, Brendan Graeber of IGN evoked the disappointment players who have played previous titles from the series would have with the new game. Although he did acknowledge the new Cursed Mini Mario mechanic as "the highlight of Tipping Stars’ meager innovations," he added that it does not contribute much to the gameplay. Conversely, Graeber appreciated the rich content of the game, including the plethora of levels, the substantial level editor, and the "new and improved" community hub where players could share their created levels. He likewise regarded the in-game practice of earning and tipping stars to other players as a "brilliant model," although only in theory. He explained that the community was profuse in short levels that allowed players to obtain stars quickly, considering it disadvantaged the "many smart amateur level designers out there who [had spent] their time crafting challenging and creative levels for us to play."
Alex Olney of Nintendo Life offered a more positive review of the game, in which he praised the game's online service as having "a slick, easy-to-use interface," opposing it to Pushmo World's. He also emphasised on the ease of finding levels in the community, praising Nintendo for the "awful lot of thought" they put into such a modern online experience. Apart from the gameplay which he described as solid, Olney referred to the game's pleasant presentation and graphics. In a separate review of the Nintendo 3DS version, he presented the game's SpotPass and StreetPass advantages, and noted the portability of this version over the Wii U version as well.
Damien McFerran of TrustedReviews stated that Nintendo was "surprisingly forward-thinking" with the utilisation of online features and appreciated how the Miiverse integration creates a "community feel." He considered the single-player mode to be only part of the complete experience, built to keep average players busy for a while before attempting to create and share their own levels. He admonished the graphical aspect of the game, stating that it is rather reminiscent of customary mobile phone games, but noted the soundtrack as "uniformly superb."
The game was developed by the Nintendo Software Technology Corporation, which are likewise credited for previous titles in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series. They were assisted by the Nintendo Software Planning & Development Group No. 3, which had Shigeru Miyamoto and Kensuke Tanabe as supervisors. It is the second title in the series to be developed by Stephen Mortimer, who had previously directed Mario and Donkey Kong: Minis on the Move and worked as a level designer on other games.
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