In videogames, the undisputed king of them all is Mario. For 30 years, Nintendo have been creating games and level designs that have sold well enough to sustain the Italian plumber’s voracious dinosaur and mushroom habit. But now, with Super Mario Maker, Nintendo are handing the controls over to you. Can it possibly live up to the consistently high standards of previous titles?
It’s certainly going to do everything it can to help. You’ll get four versions of the 2D Mario universe to choose from: Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 3 from the NES, Super Mario World on the SNES, and the far more recent New Super Mario Bros. Not only that, but you’ll have 6 course types to choose from in each: above ground, underground, underwater, ghost house, airships and castles. Every single one of these is instantly recognisable, even if you might not have seen them in a particular incarnation. Being able to take something as iconic as a Mario Bros 3 airship and immediately re-skin it as it would have been, had such things existed back in the 1985 original title is something that will set many a gamer’s heart a-flutter.
We say immediately, but actually it might take you a couple of weeks to get your hands on everything the game has to offer. To avoid overwhelming you with tools, the game chooses instead to dish out a few new game elements each day, taking nine days in total. Whilst this can be infuriating at first, it’s actually a great way of ensuring you get a proper grasp of everything the creator tools have to offer. Having said that, we’d have preferred a tutorial system that simply required you to complete a series of tasks to unlock further elements, rather than this frustrating time-based approach. Nine days is a long time to wait to put a Chain Chomp in your level.
Levels you create can be saved to the ‘Coursebot’ which offers a generous 120 slots, spread over 30 4-stage worlds. You can either start from scratch, or modify one of the existing levels included in the game. Yes, that’s right, this game actually features a whole host of brand-new 2D Mario levels for you to enjoy. 68, in fact. However, before you get too excited, some of these are incredibly short, more included to demonstrate design ideas you might wish to explore, rather than classic pieces of gameplay. Having said that, they’re not all just glorified tech demos, and the courses that re-imagine classic Mario levels are a LOT of fun. Some of these will be unlocked during the initial tutorial phase, but the rest will be revealed by completing a series of ’10 Mario Challenges’ – where you must complete 8 randomly selected levels with just the 10 lives you’ve been given. A word of warning though, you cannot upload creations built from these sample levels so, if you like an idea in one of them, tinker around with it, then build it again from scratch.
Once you do have a level you’re happy to upload, it’s as simple as clicking the upload button! It will then be available to everyone else on Earth, assuming they have the game, via Mario Maker’s Course World. In Course World, players have the option to view uploaded levels either individually, or listed by their maker. Levels can be favourited by players, giving both individual courses, and makers, a star ranking, an elegant solution to ensuring the cream rises to the top. Alternatively, you can take on the mammoth 100 Mario Challenge – where, depending on difficulty level, you can attempt to take on 8 or 16 fiendish user-created levels. There’s an incentive to do so as well as, if you’re successful, you may be rewarded with some new items to pop in the game’s mystery mushrooms – far cheaper than buying all the Amiibo’s!
So, does the game live up to Mario’s high standards? Definitely. It’s a very different experience to previous Mario titles, but the satisfaction of completing a fiendishly difficult level from across the globe is second to none. And who doesn’t want infinite Mario levels? We certainly do.