It’s time to overload your imagination and baffle players worldwide with Nintendo’s finest level creating tool yet in Super Mario Maker. But even if you haven’t got a creative bone in your body, the game still oozes the typical Mario charm to pick up and play.
Developed under Nintendo’s EAD division and from Mario producer Takashi Tezuka, Super Mario Maker is a pocket full of dreams, desires and wishes for level creators worldwide. Designed both for creating and playing, the game brings so many inventive cards to the table it’s often hard to focus on just a few. With freedom like you’ve never experienced before in a franchise title, Super Mario Maker not only encourages you to think outside of the box when creating levels, it delivers various tools to users with the perfect pace. Over the course of nine days, you’ll unlock four Mario universes and a plethora of objects, enemies and power-ups to satiate your creative hunger. It’s simply the perfect excuse to keep you coming back for more; feed us a little and we won’t just crawl back, we’ll perform a perfect Mario dash with child-like glee.
Similar to Mario Paint on the SNES, the main menu screen within Super Mario Maker is interactive. By using the GamePad, players can touch different parts of the game’s name to unleash items, enemies and other effects, all while able to fully complete the background level. It’s in these small, charming touches littered throughout the game that makes Super Mario Maker exude life and a complete pleasure to watch, play through and create.
But in order to become the ultimate level creator, Nintendo won’t just throw players in at the deep end without a floatation device. Instead, you’ll unlock new in-game items and settings by spending between five and fifteen minutes creating a level with those currently available. You’ll be guided through those first tutorial levels and, over nine days, can unlock additional sample courses to play around with. Getting a feel for your surroundings and the different options available to you is key to creating the best levels. In fact, some of the best user-created levels I’ve played have been ones that use just one theme, or focus on finding just one crucial item. Less is certainly more in Super Mario Maker.
Players can choose to design courses in either Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World or New Super Mario Bros. U. There are also six background options available for each game including the overworld, underground, underwater, ghost, castle and airship. At first, the amount of options presented seem just right, particularly coupled with the many transformation combinations offered, but before long you’ll be craving for different Mario universes to invent and explore within.
However, with that said, there are ample choices for creators via 60 in-game items and sound effects. Drag and drop wings on the back of Goombas, Koopas and Piranha Plants or supersize them with mushrooms – instead of Big Macs. Send Mario into sub areas through pipes and doors to lengthen the level, or use power-ups in humorous ways to dash through enemies, and decrease the time limit to really ramp up pressure and frustration.
Stand out from the crowd by recording your own voice in levels, or by using a mixture of the readily available sound effects such as fireworks and laughter to amuse – or annoy – other players. But if secrets are more your calling card, you can also use the mystery mushroom to spoil gamers with up to 100 different character costumes available, though thankfully you won’t have to unlock each one with their counterpart amiibo. And despite showcasing their pixel-led models in the retro levels only, it’s another small but wonderful touch from Nintendo.
When uploading your imaginative creations to the online server, players must complete their courses before doing so, weeding out the impossible levels whilst allowing you to tweak or edit the levels to your liking. At first, you’ll only be able to upload 10 courses but players can unlock more slots by earning medals. When other Mario fans play through your courses they can either leave a comment on Miiverse or reward a star to those they really enjoyed. Quite simply, the more stars you earn the more opportunities you’ll receive to bag a medal. And if you thought a level was particularly good, you can choose to download it to your repertoire to play whenever you wish.
However, it’s unclear at this point how Nintendo select levels for the featured section. How does your ingenious level become noticed in an oversaturated part of the game? For instance, I’ve seen countless creations by those with one or two medals, but not many from new creators. Even my own level was played by just seven users, six days after it was uploaded. It’s a major worry in a game that pushes heavily on its creative elements. Perhaps we need to hit the Nintendo “quality seal” to find an audience.
As levels are uploaded within a few short hours to the server, Course World offers an abundance of user-created levels. Players can scroll through courses by difficulty level, their maker, or through the Featured, Up and Coming and Star Ranking course tabs. But if you don’t fancy choosing any yourself, you can play through randomly selected courses in the 100 Mario run. By playing with either the Wii U GamePad, Wii Remote, Classic Controller Pro and Wii U Pro Controller, take on eight different user-created levels with 100 Mario lives at your disposal. This is a great way to find newly uploaded courses by other users, specifically those that haven’t been highlighted by Nintendo’s servers. There’s even a handy skip option if you’re finding a level too difficult or frustrating.
Super Mario Maker isn’t just a game for creators though as it also offers a 10 Mario offline mode to rival its online one. With over 70 levels designed by Nintendo’s EAD team, you must clear 8 levels with just 10 Mario lives in order to rescue Princess Peach. Super Star Dash, Find the Fireflower, Dry Bones Stampede, and Zig-Zag Lava Bubbles are utterly charming, fun and fresh levels to play through. But since the courses are entirely randomised, you’ll most likely run into the same ones repeatedly and – unlike 100 Mario – there’s no option to skip them. For players, then, Super Mario Maker is extremely light on content. Perhaps a mode similar to those seen in NES Remix placed as a single-player campaign would have given us something extra to chew on.
With longevity for creators, Super Mario Maker is an incredible design tool. But it’s a title that is solely reliant on user-created content, and therein lies its predicament. Truly amazing in short bursts but how long until the imagination well runs dry? Perhaps we’ll need to question how long that piece of string is first, then add wings to it.