Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Super Mario Maker Review

OK so this makes a bit of a change of pace me reviewing a brand new game, just before its official release in this case. It is unlikely to be the first review for Super Mario Maker that anyone reads as there have already been at least a good fifty reviews done by various official video game critics but still I thought I would like to try my own hand at it. Now its sort of important to say that this will be somewhat of a preliminary review. I have been informed by a friend that Super Mario Maker has been made in such a way that the tools unlock slowly over a period of time, I have read up on this and not only is it apparently true but supposedly you can cheat this by messing with the system clock. (Those who have been following all of the news announcements and watching the trailers as they have been released will probably have already caught wind of this as it has been shown in the official Super Mario Maker Overview trailer, I must have missed this one).

Even though I want to review this game I also want to enjoy it in as natural a way as possible without cheating the system. I want to try and enjoy it in the way Nintendo intended. To do this I will play within the rules and not mess with any settings or try to cheat my way to content it does not want to let me have yet. I will however make sure to make a post called Super Mario Maker revisited to follow up on my experiences. I will pin a score to the end of this review but I might even revisit that figure as I will be guessing on some things like how long I feel it will last me before I tire of creating levels etcetera.

Anyone who has been keeping up with my attempt to review 150 SNES games will have seen that I have already reviewed both Super Mario World and Super Mario All-stars and talked about them and their effect on my life and will know that I am a big fan of the Mario games in general. I have played pretty much every 2D Mario platformer there has been, so the chance to build my own and to download and play levels built by others is of course very exciting, however I am not excited enough to think that this concept is a totally new one.

There have of course been homebrew Mario games for years completely full of no officially designed some of these have turned up as roms online which could be downloaded and played on an emulator others have been put on to cartridge and sold as games often to the uniformed who don't know the proper names or titles of Mario's various adventures, some even on dodgy multi game carts. Beyond this there have been various tools to help you rip apart older Mario games and piece them back together in your own way, there are entire blogs, forums and groups devoted to the subject. Did you know for example that there is a full unofficial sequel to New Super Mario Bros on the Wii, which was built over 3 years by a team of Nintendo fans. It is called Newer Super Mario Bros and is playable on a homebrew-enabled Wii. I won’t provide links to anything like this as a quick google search will easily let you find this kind of thing.

As far as official products go there has never been anything like this featuring Mario before but there have been other platform games such as Little Big Planet which have toyed heavily with the idea of letting you create your own game worlds. Although I am happy to have Mario Maker sat here in front of me right now, even more so because it is before its official release I am still surprised that it has taken Nintendo so long to release an official level creation tool set like this, you would think that the moment someone had brought it to their attention that people were messing around making homebrew games based on altering Mario levels from existing titles they would have begun thinking how they could control it and profit from it. Reggie from Nintendo America praised Little Big Planet, so Nintendo on at least some level were fully aware of it even if they would like to try and claim they never noticed all the homebrew and dodgy cartridges. The release of Mario Maker does leave you wondering though if Nintendo will become more focused on clamping down on and people who host or produce unofficial games or level editing tools.

Ok so I am not mentioning homebrew games and tools and Little Big Planet as a way to attack Super Mario Maker just saying that I approached this title knowing these things existed, so I am not about to go overboard on praise for the fact that I can design my own levels like it’s a brand new revelation that no one has ever come up with before. Ok so as I undue the plastic and get ready to insert the game into my Wii U there is one thing I want to say. I might own a large set of Amiibo but I only own 3 which are open, a Smash Brothers Mario Amiibo, a Link Amiibo and a Mario Collection Yoshi Amiibo I have customised (painted to be a Pink Yoshi) these will be the only 3 Amiibo's I will be using in relation  to this title. Why? Well for one I don’t really wish to open the others at least at present and also because I feel I would like to best replicate the experience of the average user. Sure there are some people out there like me who might have a whole bunch of Amiibo's but I think most less diehard fans will simply have one or two of their most beloved characters.

Ok so as I have mentioned you start out with a limited tool set, but even now just looking at the one row of bits and pieces I have I feel confident that I can create something of worth, yeah I would like more things to mess around with but I guess I can see how this has that sort of Animal crossing come back and play every day vibe to it. Thank goodness I know that there is more or I would be seriously shaking my head right now. This is where the real selling point of the game comes in, the Wii U pad is perfect for this, it feels like it was made to drag and drop the level pieces, it’s so user friendly that I can’t come up with any complaints here.

OK so I just got my notification that the next set of tools will be available to me tomorrow. I could be a little pissed at this but I guess I can see what they are sort of getting at doing it in this way. Not only does it mean that users are unlikely to be overwhelmed by the limitless options on offer it also forces you to be a little creative and think about new and interesting ways of using the same old pieces. Most people wouldn't be able to sit and play this for hour after hour on an average day, but at the same time they could pop on for half an hour every other day and build something and take note of what new bits and pieces they have been awarded. Part of me likes the way they have handled this but then there is another part of me that wants to scream ''typical bloody Nintendo, telling me what I will enjoy when and how.''

One thing that I find an absolute crying shame is that Mario Maker only allows you to make single levels. If you had some huge desire to piece together your own Mario game by making level after level and then linking them together then I am afraid this game simply is not going to help you and if your desire to do that is strong enough then you are going to find yourself looking at ways to hack older game ROM files on your PC or using some 3rd party most likely legally grey creation tools again on your PC. This is a shame as I can’t really see why this couldn't have been somehow catered for.

So creating is only half the game in Super Mario Maker, there is also the playing aspect of it, but you can’t make whole games only individual worlds you might be saying, well when it comes to playing the levels Mario Maker has its own way around this. Essentially in the playing mode Mario Maker will download a bunch of custom levels and push them together giving you the challenge of completing the set. Now one important thing to realise is that in order for a level to be uploaded the person who had made it (or at least someone in there house holding the game pad) has to have completed it, so don't worry about being met with impossible levels, although you might find yourself coming face to face with a frustrating balls to the wall level that on first glance seems impossible. Once you have finished the level you will either move on to the next one, quit or leave a comment about the level before continuing. While I would much prefer to be able to download a bunch of levels created by one person and tied together as there idea of a continuing Mario story I have to admit this pick a mix style of gameplay can be fun. Ultimately though this side of the game is only as good or bad as the people who own the game, create levels and upload them. One minute you can be met with a level which is as dull as dish water and as easy to complete as holding down one button and the following moment you can be met with either a complex level full of wonderful ideas or a complete bastard which will have you pulling your hair out in utter frustration.

Rating this title is a little hard as how good it is kind of depends on how you approach it and what you were expecting to get out of it in the first place. So on the one hand you have this awesome level making creativity fun kit, but then on the other hand you don’t have a game maker. You can get people to experience your idea of an awesome level or your idea of a challenge but you can’t get them to experience your idea of the perfect Mario game. You can play awesome levels put together by people who have put so much effort in to every inch of a level that it is on par with the best levels made by professional designers but then the next moment you can be met with a level which seems to have been made by a sadist with no desire other than to cause the highest number of people possible to tear their own hair out and to cut their eyeballs out of there skull. The game is undeniably fun which scores it major brownie points but then it also disappoints. On balance I would give this game 8 out of 10. I will return to this review again in a few days and offer further comments and discuss how my opinion has changed if it has but this is where I stand right now at this point in time. My recommendations? Obviously you will have read this review if you have gotten to this point and you will know how this sounds to you, if it excites you then buy it, if you find yourself moaning and winging about what the title doesn't offer then either don’t buy it or wait and see if either you can pick up a deal or if any changes or updates are made in the future which make this product seem any sweeter to you.

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