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CONSOLE: Wii U DEVELOPER: Nintendo PUBLISHER: Nintendo
RELEASE DATE (NA): September 11, 2015 GENRE: Level Editor/Platformer
// review by Jeff

Tired of 32-year-old courses? Make your own!

Are you sick of having multinational corporations shove their tactfully-designed Mario courses down your throat? Are you tired of letting Nintendo tell you when and how you should be stomping Goombas, receiving Fire Flower enhancements, and falling down pits? Wouldn't it be great if you could be in control in your own plumber destiny? Well, whine and complain and feel fatigue no longer because Super Mario Maker is heading to a town near you.

At first glance, Super Mario Maker is a level editor, when in fact it's...a level editor. Yeah. It's an $80 (if you're Canadian) level editor. At its pure essence, that's what it is. That in itself could be entertaining for a little while, but because you can then upload some of your best work for others to play (and, in turn, give strangers' stages a test lap). Users can subsequently rate your creation, which may positively or negatively influence its prominence when people are looking for new, cool stages to try out.

Using the stylus and the GamePad touch screen, you can plunk down all sorts of things and form your own stages. The terrain can be altered for different altitudes, and you can even use detours, such as pipes, to shuffle Mario from one area to another and back again. All the standard Mario universe objects are at your fingertips: Goombas, question blocks, Koopas, P-Switches, doors with locks... wait, I don't really remember that last one... Pretty much anything you remember from classic Mario games reappears here. Well, except for Luigi. He must be off golfing at Mar-A-Lago again. And with a quick flick of the wrist, you can modify those items and transform them into different ones! Who wants a GIANT Hammer Brother? Just place a small one, grab it, give it a shake, and presto! — you have yourself something that'll make Mario quiver in his plumber boots. And if that's not enough, you can even add special visual and sound effects within your courses. Local players can even hear YOUR voice triggered using the GamePad's built-in microphone! The Mushroom Kingdom is truly at your brain's mercy, and for what it is intended to be, Super Mario Maker is a fairly robust content creation apparatus. Granted, there is a limited number of objects you can place in your course, but that number is high enough that it shouldn't be a hindrance to creativity.

In fact, if you are crafty enough, you can even do things the developers may not have done in their own Mario games. I got a little cheap thrill after discovering you can plant Wigglers (those friendly yellow caterpillars whose friendliness quickly dissipates when jumped on) on the same tracks as large Grinders in Super Mario World. So, instead of using a standard moving platform, now you can hop on a Wiggler to get places! You ARE constantly hopping and bopping around, though, which adds to the challenge.


No matter what your style is, there's a bottomless pit with your name on it!

Super Mario Maker offers four different coats of paint for your levels. You can choose to offer your course in the visual styles of the original Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, or the newest 2D Mario game, New Super Mario Bros. U. Even mid-development, you can switch between the game styles on the fly. Some elements may not carry over when you switch styles. You can swap between environments on the fly as well, if you think your current course would be better suited to being underground as opposed to above ground, or underwater instead of inside Bowser's castle.

But wait — is something missing here? There IS one thing that players go nuts for, and that's costumes. What would the game be without being able to zip Mario into a snug alter-ego-boosting costume? If you're feeling the urge to dress up Mario in a fancy suit, now you definitely can, and there's no shortage of them. Link from the Legend of Zelda series, Mega Man, a barfy slug thing from Earthbound, the Felynes from Monster Hunter, they're all there! To pull players back even longer, Nintendo held event courses released on specific days that would let you unlock even MORE costumes upon successful completion. And that's how I got my Hello Kitty costume. Costumes can also be unlocked by participating in the game's "100-Mario Challenge", where you are given 100 lives toward the completion of a series of random user-generated levels, either in sets of 8 or 16 of a difficulty setting of your choosing. Connecting amiibos to Super Mario Maker also unlocks costumes.

What I didn't appreciate is that not everything is available from the beginning. In fact, you only start out with a limited number of tools and objects at your disposal when you first boot up the game. Only after a specific amount of time has passed will you unlock more environments, items, and capabilities. It took days before I could make an underwater level. There's an exploit for this, but if you don't know what that is, you're forced to wait for Super Mario Maker to literally unlock itself. I can understand this for the costumes, but considering I just paid you that aforementioned eighty dollars, and you have the gall to make me wait days, possibly even a week, for the content I just purchased? That's low.

With the total number of uploaded courses out there to download and enjoy, Super Mario Maker is, essentially, a non-stop flow of content. Until the Mario Maker servers fry and melt, or until a Nintendo employee accidentally trips over a cable and unplugs them all, millions upon millions of Mario levels are at your disposal. Nintendo claimed back in May 2016 that over 7.2 million courses had been created (and, over a year later as of this writing, I imagine that number has continued to spike). It will take some time before anyone burns through everything Mario Maker has to offer. By the time a user completes one stage, several more may have been uploaded during that time!

Here's the one problem I had: people are animals. They are. Mario Maker creators want to challenge their subjects in ways that Nintendo typically wouldn't dare in a mainstream Mario game. And they go absolutely overboard. Endless spikes, absolutely pixel-perfect jumps, mind-bending mazes, acrobatics that would make Cirque du Soleil look like a small town slug festival... these all add up to tossed controllers, cracked televisions, and lofty psychotherapy bills. The term "kaizo" has been tossed around to describe the level of difficulty, even though technically that word only refers to the reconstruction of a work.

Alas, I am also guilty of this. I, too, have dabbled in the ways of slightly challenging course uploading. Nintendo foresaw me trying to be a bit cruel and injected a clause: before you upload a course, you MUST be able to complete the level in its entirety, both from the beginning and from each checkpoint. Curse you, Nintendo! I am much more proficient in creating chaos than actually surviving it! This ensures there are no impossible levels... but many of them still feel insurmountable!


With the quick tap of the stylus, you can give users across the globe heart failure.

Beyond the "impossible", there are just flat-out terrible courses floating around out there. We all knew this would happen. There's a course called "The Best Anime". It is simply a long, straight level with "Cory in the House" scribed in coins. So, this is the definition of wasted time, eh? Others have taken the tool to a whole new level of innovation. Some user creations are purely automated; you don't have to do anything except sit back and watch Mario get pushed along by conveyor belts, springboards, or even riding enemy shells until he reaches the flagpole. There are a variety of musical levels, whereby Mario jogs along while on- or offscreen objects make noise and toot out your favourite Limp Bizkit song. One of my personal favourites involved using a combination of springpads, tall Bill Blasters, and a Koopa shell to simulate a game of table tennis.

My one major complaint is that searching for specific courses is a severe pain. It feels as though Mario Maker simply throws at you the "top pick" courses it wants to your way while making the search for courses that suit your interests nigh impossible. You can find level codes by checking out the Super Mario Maker website and searching by various criteria, but it's not that accessible unless you have a second device handy, or if you are willing to try out the Wii U's eye-twitchworthy internet browser. And even then, you can't search by user or even by date created. In short, if you want to find a course from the past, good luck. Then again, old, dusty courses do have a tendency to disappear for no reason...

There's practically no end to the amount of new content Super Mario Maker possesses, and that's a significant selling point. Though finally being able to create your own courses is why the game exists in the first place, actually playing everyone else's courses is the true draw. If you're a Mario fan, the concept of a non-stop barrage of new levels should make you giddy as a schoolgirl. It's a great game for finally reliving your dream of pushing Mario through the wringer, as well as seeing how a total stranger in Vanuatu could torture an innocent mustached plumber. It's what the world finally wanted.

...

Aha! The reviews are in for my levels! Best comment? "Why would you put an arrow pointing to an endless pit?" says user ZeldaLord. I really don't have an answer for this.


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