Review: Super Mario Maker (Wii U)
If you spent your youth growing up during the eighties or early nineties chances are that at some point you invested a significant amount of time playing one or more Super Mario titles. Games of today have evolved momentously and will continue to do so in coming years. While this is blatantly obvious it has also become evident that often more simplistic indie titles are now becoming more and more popular. Super Mario Maker aims to strike a balance between nostalgic 2D platforming and the premise that anyone can create their own indie game-type environments with great ease.
The games basis is simple. ‘Create’ or ‘Play’. That’s it. Don’t let this lead you to believe that either mode doesn’t contain a significant amount of depth though. There is a lot more to this level creator than initially meets the eye.
The Create feature is perceptibly the selling point and the mode that you will no doubt want to tackle first. Starting off you are briefed by a basic tutorial on how to place level foundations, power ups and enemies. Nintendo have cleverly (and frustratingly) eased users into this experience. While the tutorial is short and easy to come to terms with there is a limit to the amount of options you have available. At first you feel that all aspects of the game should be available to you from the beginning, but in hindsight you need to take your time with the limited options you have available in order to really appreciate their potential. The frustrating aspect is that the unlockables are time related. Even with the initial limitation level design possibilities are limited to that of your imagination.
In your (design) element
Mario games are known for their charm and Super Mario Maker is no different. There are so many classic moments – A rocket riding dog gives an endearing yelp when you undo a misplaced block; Mario-themed music placed in accordance to your item placement; Koopas sweat vigorously as you pummel them into Koopa Paratroopas with the brisk shake of your stylus. The attention to detail is no different from what you would expect from a Nintendo title. If you choose you can simply recreate the traditional levels from yesteryear or you can go off the rails all together. Goombas can now swim through water levels while warp pipes can spew out endless coins. The tranquility or chaos of a level is up to you. Uploading your creation for others to experience and critique is also as simple as naming the level and selecting ‘upload’. Your item menu is accessible from the top of the gamepad screen. In order to design whichever part of the level you simply select the item and drag it to where you feel it should be. You can extend and sort this list with your most used items which makes the design process very seamless. A number of items can be combined to create exciting variations, it’s up to you to see which combos work better together.
More than just a maker
The Play aspect of Super Mario Maker allows you to view you custom creations statistics and feedback from other users. The 10 Mario Challenge mode is filled with pre-loaded levels to give you some inspiration, if needed. You are capped at 10 lives (which can be regained, if lost) and requires that you work though the given levels. These templates display the possibilities of level design rather than the constructs of tradition. When playing online user created levels for the 100 Mario Challenge (yes, 100) are sorted into three different categories. Easy, Normal and Expert. The Easy category is compiled of 8 random level creations while Normal and Expert contain 16. Easy and Normal difficulties can often be completed with losing maybe 5 lives. The Expert level however is a test of unadulterated patience and persistence. If you’ve ever rage quit or thrown a controller across the room, approach Expert mode with caution.
The level designer allows various themes which each have different gameplay elements. The 8 bit (Super Mario Bros. / Super Mario Bros. 3) , 16 bit (Super Mario World) and modern (New Super Mario Bros. U) environments could potentially change the entire outcome of your level design. Unsurprisingly amiibo integration has also been included. Various character costumes are obtainable through a Mystery Mushroom item. The 30th Anniversary Mario amiibo figure adds a Big Mushroom power-up to your course, allowing you to rampage through the course.
Super Mario Maker has an evident community focus and the level creator allows for pretty much unlimited replay value. If you have, at any stage of your life, enjoyed a 2D Mario platformer chances are you’ll appreciate Super Mario Maker as a whole. The time and attention to detail is evident in the end product. Having the ability to create your own Mario is something most gamers have at one stage or another toyed with. Super Mario Maker provides this opportunity along with so much more.