Monday, 28 September 2015

Super Mario Maker

Have you ever played a Mario game and thought to yourself “Yes, this has exquisite level design and timeless gameplay, but what this stage really needs is an enormous cock and balls fashioned from coins”?

Welcome to Super Mario Maker.

Developed by Nintendo and out now on the Wii U comes Super Mario Maker. The truth is of course that such a level wouldn't survive long at all with Nintendo's censors doing the rounds, and perhaps it would even get you a temporary or permanent level sharing ban; so don't try this at home, kids. You could certainly do something like that for your own amusement if you have a mental age of ten, though. Placing objects in each level is as easy as tapping the screen with the relevant object/enemy selected. If you want to 'draw' or 'write' with bricks or coins, you can try dragging the stylus across the screen to place multiple items in a row; but for accuracy, you'll need to place 'em one by one using the faint but visible on-screen grid.

There's been a bit of hoo-ha about how the level creation content is unlocked. There are in effect a collection of level creation 'packs' that contain various things such as themes (make it look like one of the earlier Marios, or New Super Mario Bros U), enemies, objects, hazards, tools, and more. Initially, Nintendo announced that one of these packs would be unlocked on each day of play – no more, no less. This kicked off so much nerd rage however, you'll notice that there's a patch to download which changes this. Now, a new pack is unlocked whenever you've spent a certain amount of active time in Create.

Games with a heavy creation element tend to have prolonged, tedious tutorial stages where all the good stuff is blocked off. Even Minecraft is guilty of this to an extent. Here however, you're given surprisingly little direction; most of what you learn, you learn by testing things out and playing around. It's all been perfectly balanced too, so that you'll be putting a workable level together within 15 minutes of first playing, with all the background heavy lifting done for you so that it's all mechanically sound. As for the unlocking of content I found that, after the first few packs, new stuff was arriving before I'd even finished playing around with what I already had.

But are there levels to actually play? Of course! There are 30 stages on the disc unlocked as you progress, but these are mostly there for the purposes of showing what's possible with the level packs, and aren't exactly Miyamoto-beaters. There's also the aforementioned level sharing, which is done better than LittleBigPlanet in some respects. Not all examples are great of course, with a few where Little Johnny has essentially farted a brief and directionless level into existence. There should be no fundamentally broken levels however, as you must play your level from start to finish before being allowed to upload it. Also, each user is limited to just ten uploaded levels at a time – unless other users reward their efforts by favouriting them.

There are some inspiring examples of what's possible too, with (for instance) several popular levels that play themselves; Mario goes from start to finish without you touching the controls at all, whizzing through a stage that must have taken an unhealthy amount of time to make. On a related note, Nintendo aren't precious about their franchise here. You can make 'straight' Mario levels; but do you want ten Bowsers underwater? A giant turtle in a retro stage? A squid on an airship? A Link costume in a question mark block? Go for it. It's the most user friendly level creator I personally have ever known, which is just as fun to use as to play. If you are even slightly interested in Mario games, buy the hell out of this.

Maker no mistake, Super Mario Maker is awesome. 5/5.


Luke Kemp

Super Mario Maker at CeX

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