So let me tell you a little bit about how I spend my daily commute to and from work. Generally I split the time between reading something or other, and playing video games on my 3DS. I have been on a pretty intense H.P. Lovecraft kick lately, and on March 5th I spent my bus ride to work rereading The Rats in the Walls. On the way home, I played the new Mario vs. Donkey Kong game. I think it was this unlikely combination which led to me having one of the most horrific nightmares of my life later that night.
In the dream, I was in the living room of a huge old manor house which, in this hideous dreamscape, I somehow knew to be my house. It was a stormy night, and when I looked out the window, I saw a hoard of Mini-Marios slowly advancing up the path to the front door. For those who don’t know, these are tiny mechanical Marios from the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, as seen below:
Hundreds of these – maybe thousands – slowly clanking their way towards my doorstep. And I knew, the way you just know things in dreams, that they were coming to fucking kill me. I slammed the front door and tried to lock it, but the latch wouldn’t work. I fumbled with it for what seemed like a really long time, but to no avail. Then, as if this level of terror was somehow insufficient, I began to hear scuffling noises from inside the house. I went to investigate, and discovered that more Mini-Marios were advancing down the stairs from the second floor and up the basement stairs, my ears ringing with the horrible mechanical sound of the keys on their backs winding. The hoards were coming from three different directions now, and although they were moving at a glacial pace, I knew it was inevitable that they would eventually overtake me.
Terrified, I did what anyone would do in that situation. I went to my laptop and googled “HOW TO STOP MINI MARIOS”. Then started scrolling through the results, annoyed at how many of them were referring to the stupid video games instead of the VERY REAL THREAT OF BEING MURDERED BY MINI MARIOS. At some point while google searching, I woke up to find that I had my iPad next to me, and had actually typed that search request into its browser in real life. It took me a half hour, two cigarettes and a cup of coffee to calm the fuck down.
So yeah, that was a bizarre start to this particular video game experience. As for the game itself, well, it’s pretty much exactly the same as every other Mario vs. Donkey Kong game. Those eldritch horrors known as Mini-Marios blindly shuffle through a level, and it’s the player’s job to manipulate the environment such that they can safely reach a goal. Think Lemmings with Mario characters.
Of all the games I’ve written about so far, this is the one I feel the weirdest about claiming to have “beaten.” It seems like at a certain point about two-thirds of the way through the game, the developers arbitrarily decide that the levels you’ve finished so far consist of the “main game” and that the ones still to come are all “bonus material” even though it’s just more of the same thing. So the game abruptly congratulates you on beating it, rolls the credits, and then encourages you to continue playing.
I still don’t truly feel like I’ve “beaten” this game, but whatever – I don’t make the rules! And besides, I don’t mind leaving a bunch of levels unfinished, because this is the perfect game to pick up and just play a level or two of whenever you’re bored. So I know that eventually I will work my way through the rest of the levels.
The subtitle Tipping Stars comes from a mechanic within the game’s level-creation tool. Players are able to make their own levels and then share them with others via the internet. If you play and enjoy a user-submitted level, you can then “tip” its creator with the stars you’ve earned playing the main game. Those stars then become currency for the creators, with which they are able to buy new tools and components for their levels. It’s a pretty cool little system. Unfortunately, I’ve never had the type of creativity necessary to make my own levels in games like this, but I always enjoy seeing what other people come up with. So as a player, it’s cool to be able to reward their efforts with something tangible, instead of just a positive rating or whatever.
I like this game a lot, but honestly it makes less sense to recommend Tipping Stars specifically than it does to recommend the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series as a whole. I enjoy these games quite a bit, but they are all pretty interchangeable. One thing this entry has going for it is that if you own both a 3DS and a Wii U, you can pay one price ($20) to get the game on both systems (although to be honest, I haven’t even touched my Wii U version yet). But there are plenty of other options to check out in this franchise, and they’re all basically the same, so just go with whatever is cheapest or the most convenient to play. And, above all, lock your doors to keep the hideous Mini-Marios at bay, and remember: