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Super Mario Maker

Super Mario Maker review

Super Mario Maker header
Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £34
inc VAT

Nintendo gives players the crown jewels of 2D level design in Super Mario Maker, but it could do more to guide the creation process


Available platforms: Wii U

Game design has never been my strong suit. No matter how many times I’ve dabbled with various level editors or sandbox games like Minecraft over the years, the end result is always the same: a bland, uninspiring mess where you spend more time tripping over crates and various bits of stage furniture than having any vague nothing of fun. 

In this sense, Super Mario Maker should be my worst nightmare, as this is a game that’s designed entirely round the premise of designing your own 2D Mario levels and then uploading them to the internet for other players to enjoy round the world. Of course, you don’t really need to even touch the level editor in order to enjoy Super Mario Maker, as the near endless supply of user-generated content is almost worth the price of entry itself.

Super Mario Maker screenshot^ With so many flexible tools at your disposal, the world’s your oyster in Super Mario Maker – provided you’ve got the imagination, of course

That’s not to say that each level is Nintendo-grade material, of course. You still get some right old duffers mixed in there, too (often with a knowing nod from the creator in the level’s title as well), but thankfully the wider gaming community has a much more vivid and varied imagination than old Miss Design Dunce over here. While my review code was running on special pre-launch servers that only had a handful of active players, there were several times when I was blown away by the sheer imagination of some of the levels on offer, and I have every confidence that the full retail game will soon be populated with equally brilliant gems in the coming weeks – including the incredible Nintendo World Championships levels which Nintendo debuted at E3, no less.

Of course, to ignore Super Mario Maker’s editing tools entirely would be short-sighted, as this is what holds the game together. From the basic brick, block and mortar stuff to individual enemies, power ups, and modes of transport, Super Mario Maker lays each individual building block of Mario’s numerous 2D adventures at your feet, giving you completely free rein to concoct all manner of chaos in whatever graphical flavour of plumber you like, from classic 8-bit NES Mario right through to the glossy Full HD graphics of the Wii U’s New Super Mario Bros titles.

Super Mario Maker screenshot01^ New objects unlock gradually day by day, but you’ll soon have more than enough tools to make the world’s deadliest Mario gauntlets

Whether it’s an auto-run level where every last action has been timed so perfectly that you don’t even need to move the GamePad in order to complete it, a makeshift shoot-’em-up thanks to Bowser’s Clown Car, or a fiendishly difficult Haunted House with multiple dead-end rooms of giant Bowsers stacked three on top of each other, Super Mario Maker has truly unlimited potential.

The Wii U’s GamePad couldn’t be a more perfect construction tool either, as the stylus makes it incredibly easy to drag and drop each item into place from the top-down menu screen, and the GamePad’s screen offers a much more intimate and immediate drafting space than playing on the TV. It’s also great for rattling off a quick comment for other players once you’ve completed a level, too, as Nintendo’s Miiverse implementation continues to go from strength to strength.

Super Mario Maker screenshot02^ Super Mario Maker’s presentation is absolutely flawless – I particularly like the auto-tuned name proclamations which tie in with the background music each time you lay down a new object

Likewise, touch one of Nintendo’s amiibo figures to the GamePad and you’ll find yourself the owner of a brand new costume for your Mystery Mushroom power-up. This lets Mario transform into classic Nintendo characters, adding yet another layer of creativity to Nintendo’s already delightfully flexible toolset. However, use one of the Super Mario Bros 30th Anniversary amiibos and you’ll be rewarded with a giant mushroom that lets Mario plough through each and every block type from all angles, making for some even more devilish platforming if you’re feeling particularly mean.

You can also download other players’ levels to edit yourself, adding your own flourishes to help improve them or put your own spin on it. You’ll need to find room for it in your Course Bot, though, as you only start off with ten upload spaces. It’s here where Super Mario Maker starts to feel a little stingy, as the only way to earn more upload slots is by earning medals from other players, which they can award after they’ve successfully completed your levels. I wasn’t awarded any medals during my time with the game (although that probably says more about the quality of my designs than anything else), but it does somewhat hinder your enjoyment of it if you’re simply not very good at using the available tools.

Super Mario Maker screenshot03^ Add a mushroom to a Koopa Troopa and they’ll double in size, making them even more deadly foes for our trusty plumber

This leads me to my main problem with Super Mario Maker, as it doesn’t really teach you the secrets to great game design, despite giving you the crown jewels to one of the best and most meticulously crafted platformers of all time. You’re given a few useful nudges in the right direction when you first turn on the game, but once you’ve been shown how to recreate the first few moments of World 1-1 from the original Super Mario Bros, any kind of further tutelage comes to an abrupt, and rather disappointing halt. Instead, Nintendo’s advice is that the more levels you play, the more ideas you’ll have to create your own levels.

These are no doubt wise words in theory, but they’re of little comfort for fellow simpletons like myself, and it’s also rather uncharacteristic for a company that’s always paid such close attention to a player’s gradual learning curve. I learn by doing, not watching, and it would have been great to see more tutorial levels where you give iconic Mario levels a Super Mario Maker twist, for example. For me, this teaching element is what Super Mario Maker is sorely lacking, and it’s a shame Nintendo doesn’t do more to offer a helping hand to those less creatively-minded.  

Super Mario Maker screenshot04

Tutorial issues aside, there’s still a lot to love about Super Mario Maker. The game’s presentation is stunning, the nods to the SNES’s Mario Paint are delightful, and if you’re creatively minded, then you’re sure to get a lot out of it. However, for those less adept at game design, Super Mario Maker is unlikely to make you feel any differently about sandbox level editors, as its full potential feels forever out of reach. There’s still plenty of fun to be had playing other people’s creations, but the quality of them can be rather hit-and-miss. I was hoping Super Mario Maker might come to the rescue of my game design skills, but it seems like they’re lost in another castle entirely. 

Available formatsWii U
Buying Information
Price including VAT£34

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Super Mario Maker review

Nintendo gives players the crown jewels of 2D level design in Super Mario Maker, but it could do more to guide the creation process

£34 inc VAT