Super Mario Maker is the latest in Mario’s 2D adventures. Only this time with a twist. Rather than Nintendo creating the levels themselves, they’ve just about handed you the keys to the creation box. Super Mario Maker is exactly what the title says, or as it should say: “Make the damn levels yourself!”.
Now, as a creatively barren being, any mention of a creation tool leaves me instantly anxious and depressive. I would love more than anything to be able to create wonderful scrolling levels with inventive gameplay mechanics, using things in ways they were never intended to be used.
I’ve tried creation tools before, I really have. I spent many long hours in RPG Maker during college, trying to make something resembling my ideal RPG. Naturally, the only think I could come up with was the most boring bunk-standard clichéd RPGs imaginable. To put it bluntly I’m a creative brick and should, in all probability, be less enthusiastic to play Super Mario Maker than to spend a weekend at the in-laws.
But it appears Nintendo’s charm and magic can work its way into even creation tools. The instant you pick up the stylus and begin to work, you will feel right at home. I was making decent, fun levels without even really thinking about it. Before I knew it I had 5 or 6 levels I was happy with, and that was during the first time I turned the game on.
At the beginning it doesn’t overwhelm you with assets to play with. You only have the very basic items and enemies. Question blocks, goombas, Koopas; items you would generally find in World 1-1. As you use items and over time, new items, environments and other cool features will be unlocked. I like this idea in principle, but at the very start, with such basic assets, it can be difficult to do exactly what you want, especially if you have a good idea. I would have preferred if item deliveries gave more and happened more frequently.
One time I began creating a level revolving around changing blocks to coins in order to advance to another area. Only half way through creating it did I realise I didn’t even have the P-switch unlocked to make it viable.
Considering how painless the process to unlock everything is, it’s not too much of a detriment to the whole experience and I can see why they thought this would be a good idea. A better solution could have been to be given the option to have everything unlocked at the start or have timed unlocks for those not wanting to be overwhelmed.
So what does Super Mario Maker allow you to make? Well practically anything you can think of and more. In fact it’s possible to create monstrosities that Nintendo would never dare let you face. Want to create a giant wiggler with a cannon that fires chain chomps? Knock yourself out, go crazy.
Mario Maker has a vast wealth of assets for you to choose from that you can mix and match with them as much as you please. The interface they have developed is highly proficient and brilliantly streamlined. Instead of crowding everything together they’ve stacked them in a rather creative way. For example, instead of having green and red Koopas in separate slots, you only have a green one in the menu. Want a red one? Just take the green one and give it a quick shake and hey, presto, you have red one. Want to have the much more trickier homing Bullet Bills? Just shake the standard canon and there you have it. It’s quick, painless and so efficient you won’t even notice it.
You begin with just two skins from Mario’s history: The original Super Mario Bros. and the “New” Super Mario Bros. style. There are two more skins to unlock after a short time: Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros. 3.
Each skin offers different physics and abilities that are unique to that game, or at least things that have evolved in the series over time. For example, Super Mario Bros. has the same physics and abilities as it always did. If you want to be able to pick up shells then you’re going to want Super Mario Bros. 3 for that. Super Mario World adds the twirl jump; New Super Mario Bros. gives you the ground pound and wall jump. You can choose which skin you want based on your needs rather than personal preference.
One great thing about switching between skins is that it allows enemies or items that were not originally in some of the skins, to be retroactively put in. For example, Chain Chomps were not in the original Super Mario Bros., but now they can be. Even Yoshi is in all of them and it’s great to see how they scaled everything down, or in some cases, scaled them up.
I’m pretty sure it will now make going back to the original Super Mario Bros. a little difficult. Even though the level design is pretty legendary, I think it will now feel a little barren.
Saying that, not everything from Mario’s history is here. Probably most disappointing is the lack of all the enemies. I appreciate that this would have been a massive undertaking to include every enemy into every skin available, but I would have liked more, especially from those originating in Super Mario World. There are times when nothing will quite fit the role you want them too.
I think only Nintendo can make gamers clamour for DLC. New items, enemies and a new skin would be a magnificent move to keep the community going on this. I’m probably in the minority but I would really want a Super Mario Land skin. I think items are almost a certainty, but skins I’m not so sure. That would be a massive undertaking. Designing all the current items to work in a new skin would be pretty time consuming.
The future is looking good as there has already been an update which includes the much requested checkpoints and even situational power-ups. Hopefully more is on the way.
The great thing about Super Mario Maker is that it appeases to two types of gamers out there in equal measures. Those who love to create things, and those who love to play creative things. This symbiotic relationship is what drives Super Mario Maker forward. Uploading your creations for the world to play has never been so easy. All you have to do it make sure the level is beatable by doing it yourself.
Once you complete your level and upload it, you will receive a code for it to share with others so they can play it. That’s not the only way for gamers around the world to have a go at your level. There is a mode called 100 Mario Challenge where you must tackle a set amount of user created levels (the number dependant on the difficulty you choose) with 100 lives to your name. Your level could be randomly put in others’ games.
If they enjoyed your level they can star it or leave a comment. At the beginning you can only upload 10 levels from yourself, but if you receive enough stars then the game will allow you to upload more. This is a great way to stop people spamming terrible levels, but on the other hand it sort of turns the whole thing into a popularity contest. I think they chose the lesser of two evils.
As mentioned before, 100 Mario Challenge is one of the gameplay mode (outside of the creating) on offer. Every time you beat this mode you are rewarded with a new costume for the mystery mushroom, an item unique to the original Super Mario Bros. skin. This mushroom will allow you to change Mario into dozens and dozens of different costumes, many of which are inspired by amiibo (indeed if you have a corresponding amiibo, you can unlock that one early). It’s great seeing so many Nintendo characters in 8-Bit sprites: Marth, Jigglypuff, Little Mac and a bizarrely large amount of Animal Crossing characters are just some of the skins available. It seems Nintendo are adding more and more too.
Aside from user created content, Nintendo did get off their backside a little and included some levels of their own. These are included in 10-Mario Challenge. Which as you probably have guessed, you take on a few levels with just 10 lives to your name. I view these as example levels rather than what would generally appear in a Mario game, but that’s fine; some of them certainly gave me inspiration.
Super Mario Maker has taken a lot of inspiration from Mario Paint; a game well loved and remembered especially for its awesome music creation tool. In fact this could be regarded as a pseudo-sequel, or at least within the same series. Many aspects from Mario Paint return, including the love for little hidden secrets and Easter Eggs. This game is riddled with them. It’s even possible to create music in Mario Maker, albeit in a more difficult way, using note blocks during levels.
Nintendo has certainly hit the mark with Super Mario Maker. Who would have thought a creation tool could be such a success? When it was first revealed it was met with mostly indifference. Sure, people thought it was neat, but it wasn’t that BIG thing they were looking out for. Now, it’s almost like what we always wanted, but didn’t really know it.
Overall, Super Mario Maker is a fantastic creation tool and a fantastic game. It’s even a fit for those who only have interest in just one of those things. Just like to play? Great, you have an almost infinite amount of creative levels at the touch of a few buttons. Only like to create? Excellent! You have a million people out there ready and waiting to play your latest masterpiece. It’s a game that loves to please and makes creating things a joy rather than a chore. It’s full of love and personality and has us practically begging: “Please Nintendo, can I have some more?”
– Brilliantly easy creation tool
– Ability to create things that even Nintendo haven’t done
– Excellent interface with lots of personality
– We want more!
– Ability to not see the whole level before playing it?