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Friday, September 25, 2015

Review: SUPER MARIO MAKER Allows for Infinite Replayability

While it had a less than stellar launch, the WiiU has seen a wide swath of successes with its first party games in the last few years. While the lack of a serious 1-player Mario, Zelda, or Metroid title is certainly felt, Super Smash Bros. for WiiU, Super Mario 3D Land, and the recent success of its new IP Splatoon are hard to deny. On the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Bros., a whole new kind of game entered the arena for fans of the mustachioed platformer in Super Mario Maker; does this quirky building game add something new, or is it just stepping stone while we wait for a new full-fledged Mario title?

Super Mario Maker is a game that borrows much from titles like Little Big Planet: it's main focus is for players to create their own Mario levels in a variety of styles, then share them with others online. Players can create levels just for fun, or work towards making something challenging for even the most veteran platformer.

The creation of courses is extremely well thought out. First off, the decision to include multiple game styles (Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, and New Super Mario Bros.) was an inspired one, and opens up worlds of variety in the look, the items, and even the gameplay. But before we get there, new players will notice that they start with only the very basic items and the Super Mario Bros. style available. At first, this seems like a hindrance to those ready to dive in and create something crazy, but the more I played, the more I realized how smart this was. Having everything available at once is a bit overwhelming, and almost like The Five Obstructions in film, being limited to just a few items forces you to get creative with your designs. The more you build, the faster things open up for you, but for the lazy, so long as you build for five minutes with the items you have, the following day the next set will open up.

The creator mode has just about all the features you would hope for: using the gamepad you can drag and drop items, draw out the platforms, and shake items for a secondary version of that item (i.e. shaking a green Koopa turns him into a red Koopa). Using modifier shoulder buttons, you can highlight multiple items to move them all together, copy items, or erase items very quickly. You can also test it instantly, and toggle back to the editor to view the trail your Mario made to fine tune things. Once you get the hang of it, it is extremely easy to get absorbed in your creation–I repeatedly found that hours had passed while I was sucked into figuring out how to do something crazy with moving platforms and Thwomps.

The other side of the game, sharing and playing others' levels, is pretty fun as well, although obviously the experience can vary widely from level to level. One of the smartest things Nintendo has done is make it so before you can upload a level, you have to beat it yourself, so there are no levels that are unbeatable (although some of them sure seem like it!). You can browse through featured levels, levels with lots of stars (their version of the 'like' button), or those that are up and coming. You can also follow makers that you like and play all the levels they have created, or search for your friends levels. Like everything with Nintendo online, this unfortunately involves typing in long numeric codes, but once you've done that, you can just follow that person and have easy access to their creations.

So far, there are levels of just about every variety you could imagine. Among the most popular are the "Don't Move" style, which involves a sort of Rube Goldberg design that allows Mario to navigate insanely complex levels without the player touching the controller. Some of my favorites are levels that 'cover' previous Mario game levels or worlds from other games (think Donkey Kong, Metroid, Zelda, Sonic, etc.). This is made even more fun by the addition of Mystery Mushrooms that can turn you into characters from other games with the use of the maker's Amiibos. But there are wonderful and challenging creations of all kinds, from gauntlets of enemy combinations to puzzlers to mazes to speedruns; pretty much anything you can imagine can be created in one way or another.

Of course this online play might get boring quickly if you don't want to browse through the lists, and what are the stakes when you're not playing through a campaign of sorts? Nintendo has an answer for that in the 10 and 100 Mario Challenges, which allow you to play through 8 or 16 levels in a row with either 10 or 100 lives. In the 10 Mario Challenge, you play through Nintendo's sample levels, which are fun and can give you some ideas for your own levels. In 100 Mario Challenge, you can choose the difficulty and play through a series of levels randomly selected from the already vast online catalog. This can be really fun and very challenging, and if a level is too hard, you can just swipe and skip it and another will come up in its place.

Super Mario Maker is wildly fun and has the potential to be played for a long time with the infinite potential of the creator. It's got some interesting unlockables as well, like the four levels created for the Nintendo World Championship and 100 different mystery mushroom characters. As if the game's ease of playability and nostalgia factor wasn't enough to win me over, it's quirky ties to one of the weirdest games in Mario's history, Mario Paint, are fun as hell: sometimes while you're building a levels, some flies will fly across the screen, and tapping them triggers the classic flyswatter minigame. If you've got a love for classic Nintendo, or wanted to get creative with a game like Little Big Planet but found it a bit overwhelming and time-consuming, this is the perfect game for you.

Super Mario Maker is available now for the WiiU console. Purchase it from Amazon here.
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