Super Mario Maker – Review
OverviewPlatform: Wii U
Does Nintendo deliver on the potential of a fully-fledged Mario level creator?
Have you ever sketched out your own video game levels? Have you ever wanted to be a game designer? Are you a fan of Mario’s 2D platformers? Do you have an inkling of creativity within you?
If your answer is ‘yes’ to any of the above, you should really be playing Super Mario Maker.
The game does exactly what it says on the tin, enabling you to create your very own 2D sidescrolling Super Mario Bros. levels. You use the Gamepad and stylus to place blocks, enemies and objects and upload your completed stages for people to enjoy. To summarise it so simply diminishes just how intuitive, fun and seemingly never-ending this game is, and yet it’s so brilliantly made that I hardly need to say any more. Super Mario Maker is basically all you could ever hope for from a Super Mario Bros. level creator and more. True, you can’t quite remake the old games down to a tee, as a few properties have been subtly tweaked and there’s no way to string multipe levels together. However, the breadth of creation options really is incredible, enabling you to build and play in ways that are even beyond the scope of the original games.
Here are some cold hard facts to give you the basic idea of what’s on offer; there are 60 placeable objects, many of which have differing alternate versions, and 28 sound and special effects that can be made to trigger at parts of your stages. I haven’t counted the maximum width and height a stage can be, but given that every one is capable of having an ‘underground’ sub-level that can run in equal length, only the most ambitious projects are going to run out of room.
You can choose between New Super Mario Bros, Super Mario World, Super Mario Bros. 3 and the original Super Mario Bros. graphics sets, each with their own distinct rules and physics (mostly) preserved from their original incarnations. Within these, you can choose the type of stages from the default ‘Ground’, underground, underwater, ghost house, airship and castle, each of which comes with their own distinct tile set and background music. The four games and the six level types can be switched between at will, which is not only really impressive but also prevents you from having to rebuild everything over again should you decide to change your graphics and game play.
Robust online sharing tools are an absolute must in a game like this as no-one wants their masterpieces to go unplayed. Despite its shaky history with online functionality in its games, Nintendo thankfully did a really good job in this area with Super Mario Maker.
There are three main ways to go about playing other people’s uploaded levels. There are several ways of searching for them, with two sub-menus that default to starting with the highest user-rated creators and individual stages. Unfortunately, the list of filters is pretty limited at the time of writing (there’s no way to separate out each flavour of Super Mario Bros. game or stage type, for example) and locating the people on your existing Wii U friends list is also a needless hassle (more on that in a bit).
The second method is the 100 Mario mode, which presents you with gauntlets of 10 to 20 of other peoples’ creations and gives you 100 lives to conquer them with. Here, you’ll be exposed to a lot of stages in quick, consecutive succession, which gives you a much better idea of the breadth of quality of other peoples’ creations. Lastly, if you’ve already been made aware of specific levels, finding them is as easy as inputting the 16-digit, social media-friendly code that each one comes with.
The way you’re able to review your uploaded creations is also really good. In an almost analytics-style manner, you can see how many people have attempted, completed, commented on and ‘starred’ (the equivalent of ‘likes’) your stages. The game even presents you with a small heat map that lets you see exactly where players have died and sends notifications you when there’s been any activity on your works. I don’t think it’s been stated enough in other reviews how important this feedback is, not only for gauging the perceived challenge level of your creations but also to give you that positive feeling of having made something that people are enjoying. Even if I haven’t got any ideas for stage on the go, this constant potential for feedback makes me want to be permanently playing the game just so I can be notified the moment someone tries out one of my creations.
Besides some incremental gripes with filters, I have only a couple of minor complaints with the game as it stands now. Firstly, your top-level Wii U friends list doesn’t carry over into the game for some reason, so you’ll have to find your Mario Making friends and add them to the in-game ‘Follow’ list. Further annoyance is added to this due to the fact that there’s no way to search by user name, so the only feasible method I’ve found to add a buddy is for them to upload a stage, input its code and then find their user details attached to that. When the likes of Nintendo’s own Super Smash Bros and Mario Kart 8 on the same console have smoother sharing functionality between friends, I can’t think of any reason why Super Mario Maker handles this like it does.
One thing many players have been asking for is the ability to have full worlds made up of multiple levels, maybe even linked together by a Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World-style map. This would open up a lot more design possibilities, paving the way for secret routes, warp pipes and long-form strategies. I could see something like this being added in a in a future update, though I’d be happy enough with some extra enemies and stage types. I’d also pay good money to have the Game Boy-based Super Mario Land titles as full graphics sets in the game. Go on Nintendo, you know you want to.
I could elaborate in even greater detail about about how supremely deep, elegantly designed and surprisingly addictive Super Mario Maker is, but it’s simply one of those games that you simply can’t quite comprehend the beauty of until you’ve tried it yourself. Don’t let any minor and seemingly fixable problems deter you. If making your own levels (Mario-based or otherwise) is appealing to you, then Super Mario Maker is a must-play.