As Nintendo lets players take control of their flagship series we check out the critical reception to Super Mario Maker.
We’ve all spent lazy afternoons sketching out levels and maps on graph paper, either to document a game you are playing – my hand drawn Super Metroid map was second to none – or to create your own levels for your favourite game.
Super Mario Bros has always lent itself to this type of creative process. Although not entirely true, the game is fundamentally constructed of blocks, like a virtual Lego set that can assembled and rearranged in a million configurations.
But until now these levels have only ever existed in our heads or on paper.
Sony’s Little Big Planet series featured an impressive suite of game creation tools but despite the its impressive scope the game’s pernickety interface limited the best creations to a core of dedicated enthusiasts.
With Super Mario Maker Nintendo are making an unabashed attempt to bring game creation to the masses – or at least their sizeable legion of fans – and capture some of that Minecraft market. But how well did they succeed?
Polygon’s Griffin McElroy praises the scope of the game’s toolset, despite its deceptively simple appearance:
Super Mario Maker’s tools keep it simple by removing headier elements like logic programming, ala LittleBigPlanet’s toggles and circuit boards. That limits somewhat the possibility of your creations — don’t expect to be able to whip up a grand, turn-based Mario RPG, for example — but it doesn’t mean you’re hemmed into making a straight platformer. The limited, pre-launch Super Mario Maker community has whipped up a ‘shmup, a math trivia game and a weird bowling mini-game in the span of a couple of weeks.
Nintendo’s decision to unlock the the games tools over a nine day period has frustrated some players. Jeremy Parish, writing at USGamer, says that the gradual release of elements actually benefits the creation process:
Nintendo can afford to take the hands-off approach when it’s put together a tool kit as intuitive and simple to use as Super Mario Maker. The day-by-day tool unlocks help, to be sure, because you really need to figure out how to make functional stages with just basic bricks before you start fussing with conveyor belts. Yet even if you were jump right in to the full tool set (which many impatient types will do by fudging their system clock, though having been through the proper training cycle I really recommend taking the game at its own pace), Maker’s interface and rules make it, by far, the easiest to use level creation tool ever sold to consumers.
Aside from user-created levels the game is also bundled with Nintendo created challenges. Jose Otero at IGN praises these for being fun in their own right and also serving as inspiration for creators:
You’ll see a genuine reverence for Mario’s history in the 10 Mario Challenge, a mode where you’re given 10 lives to complete sample courses. There’s 68 stages in all and each one is wildly different from the other. Some remix levels from past Mario games, others showcase interesting twists and challenges that transform Mario’s standard platforming mechanics into a puzzle to be solved. Overall, it’s a fun experience, even if it can be finished in one or two sittings, depending on your skill level.
It’s not all praise however, with Chris Carter at Destructoid none too pleased with some of the game’s restrictions:
There’s also a severe limitation in terms of how you can build out levels. Right now you can’t choose to create a vertical-themed stage — you have to go with the same horizontal blueprint the game gives you without fail. Maker also limits the amount of enemies you can have in any given level (for instance, only three Bowsers or roughly 100 smaller enemies) even in the 8-bit theme, which is a silly design.
Kotaku’s Patricia Hernandez concludes her review by relishing the fact that the historically secretive Nintendo has finally opened up the creation process to its fans.
I keep coming back to the idea that Mario Maker shouldn’t exist. It gleefully flies in the face of Nintendo’s controlling nature, and gives players the means with which to theoretically render every subsequent 2D Mario game obsolete. But Mario Maker is also a sign of Nintendo’s confidence. The world will never stop wanting that special Nintendo magic, and Nintendo knows that. Nintendo just want to give us a chance to make our own fun for a change and, in the process, learn to understand what they do a little better.
So, in general, it’s a big thumbs up. Where Nintendo themselves can go with the Super Mario Bros series after Super Mario Maker remains to be seen, but for now we have a game 30 years in the making to enjoy, and the Wii U finally has its killer app.