Super Mario Maker: review

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How many times have you played a Super Mario game, and decided that you could do a better job at designing the levels? Quite likely none, unless you have the sort of ego problem that leads to a career in politics. Nonetheless, you may well have fancied having a go, or maybe you have some ideas that you’d like to see Nintendo try. Well now, you can officially make your own levels and, yes, share them with the world.

User created content is a trend that hasn’t exploded across the industry in the way that some may have expected, but it continues to spread; and that’s a good thing. Super Mario Maker is surely a dream come true for anyone with an interest in that sort of thing; a slick, super-user-friendly Mario level creation tool full of 100% authentic assets. And that’s one of the most important parts of the package. All of the blocks, enemies, power-ups (including Yoshi!), platforms etc are exactly as you’ll find them in the official games. Once unlocked, you also have the option of choosing the graphical style of Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World, or New Super Mario Bros U. Best of all, you can swap the style on any of your levels at any time.

Speaking of unlocking, a day-one patch removes the need to wait literally days for everything to become available. Instead, each package of items is now unlocked after you spend a certain amount of active time in Create mode. This may sound frustrating, but we never found it to be so; in fact, after the first few unlocks, we found new stuff was arriving before we’d even come close to finishing our play around with the last set. And you will spend a lot of time playing around.

Actually yes, a giant hand does appear on-screen while you’re creating; but thankfully, only on the TV.

You can make a workable level with pretty much no skill, but those with the time and talent can produce (and have produced) some extremely impressive stages. Backgrounds are limited to a selection of classics (such as ghost house, airship, and underwater), but what goes in the foreground is entirely up to you. Bringing an item into existence is a simple matter of selecting it from the menu and tapping the screen (with the option of dragging it to reposition). There’s a faint grid to help, and certain items – such as vines, tracks and pipes – can be resized and/or re-angled too. Big clumps of the same item can be made by dragging the stylus across the screen, which can come in handy for making large collections of coins or towers/walls. It’s easy to make more precise designs or structures, but that involves creating or finishing off square by square.

You can spend hours bringing out your inner Miyamoto for a stage that would fit snugly into an existing game if you wish – or you can turn the ideas of the series on their heads. Nintendo have allowed – and encouraged – a significant degree of freedom. You can choose what a question mark block contains, which includes any of the Amiibo costumes (which grants an extra hit point like a mushroom). And yes, if you don’t own the Amiibo a creator has used in their level, you still get to use the costume. It goes further than that, though. We’ve put squids in mid-air (they fly around quite happily), and created a bullet bill cannon that shoots fish. Online, you’ll find many levels that have anachronistic enemy placements, and some extremely creative uses of the mechanics. A popular trend at time of writing is to create intricate, visually impressive stages that play themselves through ingenious use of pipes, springs, enemies, moving platforms, and insanely precise timing.

Okay, so you’ve spent hours/minutes creating your masterpiece; but will anybody actually play it? Actually, unlike some other similar titles, yes; even if it’s only a few dozen people. Nintendo have gone to pains to ensure every level gets a chance. Go online, and you’ll certainly find that the levels with the most favourites are the most visible. However, there’s also a section next to it for new levels, and a ‘100 Mario Challenge’ mode that gives you 8 or 16 randomly picked levels in a row. You don’t need to worry about literally impossible levels either, as each stage must be completed from start to finish before being uploaded.

See the amount of planning that’s gone into just this one simple screen? You could do that…

The GamePad’s touchscreen certainly earns its keep in making the whole experience as user friendly as possible, and the mic is even used for allowing you to record one unique sound effect/snatch of speech per level if that floats your proverbial boat (whatever your first thought was upon learning this, don’t do it). You also, of course, have a theoretically endless supply of user-created levels (of varying quality) to play. There are things to whinge about if you look for ’em. For example, it’s not possible to create a game as such, as there’s no way to (officially) link your levels to one another. Multiplayer elements, there be none. Bosses are limited to Bowser and Bowser Jr, and there’s also no way to create your own items or enemies; there’s a hell of a lot you can do with the tools provided, but creating your own assets from scratch is a no-no.

If you have any interest at all in making user-created content, Create mode here isn’t just interesting – it’s fun. This is in no small part thanks to Nintendo’s decision to gently nudge you in the direction of options and possibilities rather than give you a dull and prolonged idiot’s guide. It’s easily one of the best games of 2015, and has us crossing fingers and other things in the hope of a Super Mario Maker 3D. Hey, we can dream…

critical score 9Critical Hit

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

One comment

  1. Hmm, I don’t know if I dare use this. What if I would ruin the game somehow, either by creating a far better game than the original or just plain sucky levels..

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