Games used to be simple, and we all loved them because there was nothing better. As time has gone on games have become increasingly complex, which has often shed a negative light on simpler games. So what happens when a modern games gives us access to a simple toolset to create any era game from classic to modern? It’s simple really.
Simple genius that is, OHOHOHOOO GOTCHA. We’re all about puns and word-based jokes here. Super Mario Maker is a game that throws the toolset at you and says “hey punk, why don’t you make the levels for a change?” more so than I think any modern game I’ve played has. Littlebigplanet let you make levels, but there was a full campaign too. Volume has a level editor, but again there’s a main campaign. In Super Mario Maker you’ve got a few tutorial-style levels to get your brain thinking of how to create, including the ones featured at the Nintendo World Championship 2015, but the rest is all online content that the players create.
While it is annoying that the toolset gradually unlocks over time/each day depending on how much you play, once you’ve got full access you’ve got a pretty competent creation tool that is bound to be upgraded with extra content in the future. That’s a lot of tools to mess around with, and while it’s not quite on par with the crazy amount of content in similar games, the tools here have that Nintendo polish. Y’know, like how as you place objects the game lets out parts of a familiar tune along to the background music, or how the new Bowser and Bowser Jr sprites that weren’t originally in Super Mario World, still fit in with that part of the creation tool’s theme.
The meat and bones of Super Mario Maker is sharing levels with people online. A friend and I have started a war, creating levels of increasing difficulty just to cause rage. Occasionally we throw each other a curveball with a nice, fun level that everyone can enjoy. The easier levels are usually the ones that do better online, earning stars that basically just show how good your levels are – the more, the better. Of course, if you want to earn some super easy stars just make a level where the player doesn’t have to touch the controller. Everyone loves those. With the springs and the automatic tracks and all that.
The game’s replayability entirely depends on you, the player. Good, quality levels only exist if you’re lucky or go looking for them online, since there’s no decent search functions in the game. You can look at levels with a high number of stars, or risk it and browse the list of up and coming levels that may or may not be good. If you find a level’s ID you can just type that in to be sent directly to that level, but the entire level-finding system is flawed. In an attempt to be child-friendly it seems, Nintendo have limited the searching tools so it’s hard to just run across or search for levels that could be offensive. Which, while I totally understand, is really annoying for those of us who want to search for levels. Luckily, once a friend sends you a level you can just follow them in-game, which makes their levels much easier to find. If you get the game, make sure you follow any creators you like so you’ve got a good selection of fun levels!
If you don’t go level hunting or just want a random surprise, there’s always the 100 Mario Challenge. With difficulties of Easy, Normal and Expert, the 100 Mario Challenge is a fun diversion from creating levels or hunting them down. Finishing any difficulty of the challenge earns you a random new costume for mario that would otherwise be unlocked via amiibos, but the number of these that you can unlock is limited per each mode. Eventually you’ll have to face the horde of really difficult Japanese-made levels that seem to haunt expert mode. Honestly, there must be some reason that every Japanese level I’ve played has been tough.
It’s really hard to review Super Mario Maker without gushing about how nostalgic it makes me feel, or how good a job Koji Kondo did when creating new soundtrack pieces to fit in with the older styles. It’s also however, four games that you’ve probably already played. I’m not going to go back and review the graphics and sounds of games from 30, 27, 24 and 9 years ago, respectively. What I will say is that the UI is fantastic and of course, has that Nintendo polish that I mentioned before. Even the electronic manual looks fantastic.
Your entire experience will be different to mine too – you’ll make and play different levels, unlock different costumes and prefer using different blocks. I can’t definitively say this game will be enjoyed by everyone, but it’s absolutely geared towards the creative type. Don’t buy Super Mario Maker expecting a series of Nintendo-made worlds to explore. Expect to explore your own and others’ creativity.