Our beloved Mario is turning 30 this year. It only seemed like yesterday that we we were playing Super Mario Bros on our NES, jumping from left to right to save the Princess at another castle. Nintendo see’s it befitting to celebrate the Italian’s 30th Birthday with a brand new title in Super Mario Maker – a game that empowers the players with the tools and imagination to create their very own Super Mario levels. Super Mario Maker is a unique title that is familiar and yet strangely exotic for long time fans. The question still remains. Is Super Mario Maker the perfect present for our favorite plumber. Read our review to find out!
The biggest draw of Super Mario Maker is the level editor, which, like the name suggest allows players to create their very own Super Mario levels. To be frank, I had my reservations about the level editor on whether it could deliver a tool set that allows players to create levels of depth and complexity. My initial impression of Mario Maker was that it was likely going to turn out to be a simple but limited level editing tool, one that simply involved adding a few blocks here, an enemy there and leave it at that. Now that I had an extensive hands-on on the complete tool set, Super Mario Maker has exceeded all my expectations and then some. Super Mario Maker is the real deal and a wet dream for all hardcore Mario fans.
The level editor is comprehensive with the number of tools and options for players to use. There are quite literally multiple dozens of items and options that can be used to create levels. From the typical breakable bricks and Goomba to the more insane like inserting your very own Bowser into the level. What I love about the level editor and the tools is that it does not constrain you to convention of 2D Mario games. You can create levels in Super Mario Maker that you won’t typically see in a conventional 2D Mario game. Do you want a canon to fire off Cheep Cheeps? In Super Mario Maker you can do this! Would you like to troll players by having a number of Bowser’s scattered across the stage? In Super Mario Mario you can do this! There is enough options and tools to keep you engaged in making levels for weeks and even months. I know it’s a bit cliche to say this, but the possibilities are endless in Super Mario Maker.
Super Mario Maker offers four visual styles to base your levels on: Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario Bros World and New Super Mario Bros. U. From these styles there are additional options to change the backdrop from an underwater setting to a castle theme. I found fitting that Nintendo opted to offer four different visual styles representing different era’s of gaming to celebrate Mario’s 30th anniversary. The game offers something to old and new Mario fans. Older gamer’s can get a hit of nostalgia with the classic visual styles, while the newer generation will find the modern aesthetics of NSMBU more pleasing to the eye. Furthermore, offering a number of styles adds much need variety in aesthetics, without it there is a real possibility that courses will look same’ish.
One issue that I did have with Super Maker is the manner in which tools and options unlock. Despite receiving a patch that foregoes the nine days wait, I still feel that the manner and speed in which tools and options are unlocked is unnecessarily slow. Tools and options gradually become available when you gain experience with the level editor. That is to say not everything is available to you from the start and will unlock in time the longer you play. I found being limited when you first insert the game into the Wii U impeded my enjoyment of the game. I just wanted to dive right into the level editor to attempt to make the most insane and creative level possible. Not having all the tools from the start or even shortly after limited my enjoyment of the title until everything was available. I do understand the logic behind the decision to trickle unlocks, but I believe Super Mario Maker would have benefited by having more items being available from the beginning.
Making levels in Super Maker Mario is made easier with the GamePad. Using the second screen on the Gamepad is intuitive and makes the whole process creating levels much more enjoyable when compared with the traditional thumbstick. Essentially all you have to do is use the touchscreen to drag the respective item from the pallet to the correct position on the grid. It is quick, easy and streamlined for the best user experience foregoing any superfluous actions and inputs. The UI is also streamlined for the best experience possible. You can arrange and customize what items that can be accessed from the short cut. Every important tool and option is accessible with a touch of a button on the Wii U GamePad. You get the impression that Nintendo was incredibly considerate on how they designed the UI putting the players experience first and foremost in their minds.
Once a course is complete, players can upload their saved levels over the internet for other gamer’s to test out their wonderful creation. Uploading and testing levels online requires little to no loading times. I was surprised about how seamless and quick the experience is. Honestly, I was expecting to wait long for stages to be uploaded and downloaded, but the process was done in seconds allowing me to get into the action as soon as possible. The community features are quite brilliant. Players can leave comments and tips on the stages. Often these clues are useful in beating the insanely hard courses. Super Mario Maker has a good vote-up system. Good levels can be up-voted with a star which may result in an increase in exposure. The system encourages players to make creative levels without the vilification of a downvote system.
If making levels isn’t your cup of tea, then there is plenty of content to enjoy in Super Mario Maker. The amount of content is quite literally endless. Super Mario Maker has a number of sample levels including the courses featured at the Nintendo World Championships. These are just appetizers to showcase the games features. The real fun – in my opinion- begins when you dive in to play other individuals own creations. Playing through the 100 Mario Challenge or through the user-generated filter is when you can truly appreciate the brilliance that is Super Mario Maker. While the vast majority of stages that you do come across are somewhat duds (sorry guys), occasionally you will come across a gem that is well designed and/or is incredibly creative. It is when you play these marvelous stages that you begin to appreciate the level editor in Super Mario Maker and the level of depth and complexity that can be achieved. Despite not having a conventional single player campaign there is plenty of content from makers to kill hundred of hours.
Following the recent trend in Nintendo games, Super Mario Maker also supports Amiibo. Many of the existing Amiibo can be used in Super Mario Maker. Your figurines from the Super Smash Bros series, Super Mario series, Yoshi Yarn series, Splatoon Series and the upcoming Animal Crossing series are compatible with Super Mario Maker. Tap an Amiibo onto the gamepad and it will unlock an 8-bit costume of the respective character to be used in the game. Don’t fret if you don’t any amiibo or don’t have specifc figurine, all these costume can be unlocked via normal play without the purchase of expensive toys. Nintendo has a nice balance here; giving purpose to your Amiibo but also not locking anything behind a pay wall.
I think it is safe to say that Super Mario Making is a dream come true for many Mario fans. It is a game that embraces the long history of Super Mario, but also in turn throws in a number of new ideas into the mix. It is a game that empowers the player with the tools and imagination to create their very own Mario courses. It is a game that offers limitless possibilities and endless fun. It is by the very definition the perfect Mario game… well in my opinion. Super Mario Maker is an exceptionally special game and one that is likely to be remembered throughout the ages. Super Mario maker needs to be in your collection!
Disclosure: The review is based on a purchased retail copy of Super Mario Maker. Images from the Official Super Mario Maker website.