Nintendo's Mario vs. Donkey Kong games have managed to carve out a little niche in the plumber's long-running video game spectrum, providing a unique puzzle approach to an otherwise familiar brand. That's not to say that we would select one of those games over a romp of Super Mario 3D World, mind you, but they're nice to have on hand when you want something distinctive to play.

The latest game in the series, Tipping Stars, follows the usual status quo, as you guide Mario-esque toys through a number of stages, collecting coins, avoiding obstacles and getting every member of your group through an exit door within a certain time frame. You'll use the touch-screen on your 3DS or Wii U to guide them, setting up temporary paths and eventually getting everything you need to complete on each level.

Terms Of Puzzlement

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When it comes to finishing up stages in Tipping Stars, it isn't rocket science. The early stages of the game will help introduce you to the mechanics, and the requirements needed when it comes to building bridges to get to new areas (essentially a balance, such as removing girders from one part of the stage so you can construct in another). As you proceed, you'll be introduced to new toys, each of which play their own part in the game. For instance, Toy Donkey Kong can launch characters into the air, and so on.

If it sounds like not much has changed with this entry in the Mario vs. Donkey Kong series, you're probably right. Tipping Stars plays it safe on the gameplay front, sticking with the routine mechanics we've seen in previous efforts. That's not to say it doesn't work, because it does, and the later stages provide some interesting thinking opportunities when it comes to getting every single coin on a stage and still meeting the criteria of everyone reaching the exit in a timely manner.

Still, considering it's a release for a new generation, it would've been agreeable to see the developer take a few new chances with bigger worlds and even the incorporation of online play to some extent, where players could work together to finish a stage. Maybe that's something it's saving for the next go-around but for now you can't help but think more could've been done. That said…

Share And Share Alike

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Where Tipping Stars earns some credit in the face of a lack of creativity is with its sharing features. The game is compatible with the Cross-Buy program, so if you buy it on the Wii U, you'll get the 3DS version for free, or vice versa. Hopefully this is a program that Nintendo invests more into, because it's really great to see the option available.

What's more, the Community features are outstanding. Here, you can build your own customMario vs. Donkey Kong levels and share them with the community, both on the Wii U and 3DS. You aren't limited to platforms either, as the game shares across both systems, so more people will see your stages. The more they're liked, the more stars you earn, and the more you can unlock as you go along.

This probably won't be the title that "makes" the Nintendo Network, mind you, but it's tremendous that Nintendo is making such a move to make Tipping Stars so accessible to so many fans. Here's hoping other games follow suit as well.

A Familiar, But Welcome, Presentation

WiiU_MvDKTippingStars_011415_Scrn08Tipping Stars won't be the game that makes you rush out and buy a new 3DS or Wii U. But it is adorable, to a certain extent, to see Mario and company recreated as cute little wind-up toys, working their way through worlds that are thoughtfully inspired by the Mario series.

Sure, they're limited, as we've said above, but the level design is still quite savvy, as some require you to really think things through in order to pick up everything you want. Plus, being able to try out others – still placed within the Mario universe – is quite cool.

And there's something to be said about the music. It too is inspired by the Mario games of old, but with a modern twist of sorts, so that it doesn't sound like it was merely recycled. The sound effects aren't bad either, with plenty of minor voice samples and wind-up noises that keep things from going too quiet. Again, not award winning, but certainly right up the alley of Mario fans.

My View

These are the criteria I consider most important for reviewing Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars.

Graphics: 7/10

Not bad, but you can't help but think more elaborate worlds could've been introduced in the game.

Sound: 7.5/10

Great use of traditional Mario themes, and personable sound effects help even the game out.

Gameplay: 7.5/10

Doesn't take too many new chances, but the old traditions still hold up well, particularly in the later stages.

Replay Value: 8/10

The ability to Cross-Buy both versions at once and share (and try) hundreds of community-based levels extends Tipping Stars' replay value.

Overall: 7.5/10

Mario vs. Donkey Kong: Tipping Stars is hardly a game-changer, as it plays it too safe instead of establishing a truly remarkable entry in the series. Still, thanks to some solid community-based support and a reasonable Cross-Buy program, it's a moderate enough value to build upon, especially if you're a fan of the series.