Video Games

Review: Super Mario Maker

You will like this if you enjoyed: WarioWare DIY, Little Big Planet, any 2D Mario game

Mario Maker- NSMBU Editing Screen
“There’s a lot to do, but a lot of it doesn’t do as much as it could”

Initially, Mario Maker doesn’t look like much to write home about. The last two Mario platformers released on WiiU were basically “more of the same”, and, were it not for the “Maker” part in the title, you might have expected this latest title to continue down that route. Thankfully, Nintendo’s latest and greatest community creation based game (following in the footsteps of Mario Paint, Flipnote Studio, the Mario vs DK series and WarioWare DIY to name a few) manages to deliver… even if it does deliver in small packages spread out over several days.

Mario Maker- SMB3 Thwomp Boss
“The editor itself will have you dumbfounded, placing objects and listening to their names sung out in time with the classic Mario music.”

That last line was a reference to most people’s big gripe about this game. When reviewing Mario Maker, it’s best to get the few bad points out of the way to start with, before focusing on the many good ones. The game features an unlock system- it was patched a day or two after launch so that if you play a lot you will unlock new items, or you can just come back the next day for it. It’s a noble attempt at preventing that overwhelming feeling many people get when they start using a new computer program: “So many options! What do they all do?” It’s part of the general message that, in this particular level editor, creation is not tedious, but fun. The other big thing that seems to have been sacrificed in the name of simplicity is more complex configurations for many of the game’s items, enemies, platforms and level themes.

Mario Maker- SMB3 Spaceships level
“Creation is not tedious, but fun.”

The game has four themes based on four games: Super Mario Bros, Mario 3, World, and the New series. They are not reproductions, they are just that- themes. The older games no longer have their original physics, and many new sprites have been introduced (such as a standalone Bowser, sans car, in the World theme) which tend to be pretty ugly. Due to the ability to quickly change between the four themes, many important features of the newer games, such as slopes and deserts, appear to have been cut back to compensate for the presence of Mario 1. Important game-design features such as checkpoints and triggers, which for instance unlock doors when a boss is defeated, seem to be missing entirely. There are more little gripes with the game, but mainly they come down to inconsequential issues-  the kind of thing you’d see Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons complaining about (and me, of course).

Mario Maker- SMB Thwomp P switch level
“Many new sprites have been introduced, such as Thwomps in SMB1.”

Despite its bad points, this is the best game on the WiiU in my opinion. Everyone who’s ever played a platform game has got Mario to thank- and anyone who’s played a Mario game knows the feeling of one day wanting to design their own level. They’ve probably sat down with a game engine like Stencyl or Game Maker, or even a different custom level game like Little Big Planet- but no matter what they did, they would only be aping Mario. Now, though, Nintendo has allowed anyone to make Mario- and it just… works. As mentioned, the editor itself will have you dumbfounded, placing objects and listening to their names (“Brick!” “Block!”  “Koopa!”) sung out in time with the classic Mario music. Playback of changes is instant, and a trail of onion-skin Marios appears after you stop playback to see exactly where you should place those extra blocks.

Mario Maker- SMW Bob-Omb Basketball level
“When playing levels online and dying, you can also see where others died.”

WiiU games are often slow, with complicated menus and long loading times, especially for online features. Not so here.  In Mario Maker, creation mode is just one tap away, the online modes load instantly, and levels never seem to download before playing. The game also comes with a beautiful little art book and electronic manual, where you can input codes from the book to view tutorial videos (very retro, I know). Though I think it’s unfair to mark the game down for this, it is important to note that you rarely find good levels via the built-in rankings, as the game was aggressively marketed via YouTubers and as such most people uploading levels seem to be their audience: illiterate seven year olds. Thus, most levels are usually of pretty low quality when playing the “100 Mario Challenge”, which serves up between 8-16 random online levels for you to try beating with up to 100 lives- a feature many were no doubt looking forward to as it would mean spending money on future Mario titles is no longer required. As such, I would recommend these two sites for finding better levels to play: r/MarioMaker and Nintendo Life.

Mario Maker- SMB Theme auto music level
“People will hopefully stop making quite so many automatic or musical levels as they currently do, but I wouldn’t count on it…”

Play this for: the chance to create your own pitch-perfect platformers.

Pros: Effortless creation, instantaneous feedback, seamless online.

Cons: Irritating unlocking feature, several limitations.

Score: 9/10

Here are the codes for the levels I showed screenshots of; “Thwomp’s Delivery Service” is the one with the flying Thwomp: 3354-0000-002E-2B4C, “So Close Yet So Far” is the one with the Thwomp boss: CF20-0000-00A0-50FD, and “Sodden Spaceship” is the spacey one, 70AE-0000-0038-2B71. Enjoy!

If you have any good Mario Maker levels to share with us, why not tweet them to @QuenchGames? We’ll definitely retweet the best!