Super Mario Maker; A Good, if Limited Level Editor

Well, after many level playthroughs, a good few weeks messing with the level editor and all manner of testing, we’ve finally completed Super Mario Maker enough for a review!  Okay, it’s a game that pretty much everyone was going to buy anyone (it’s a Mario level editor, how can any Nintendo fan not care for this title?), but either way, you might still want to read our review to find out what we think of this game.  Does it live up to the hype?  Does the level editor stack up to the hundreds of free equivalents you can find online after a ten minute search?  Let’s find out, in the official Gaming Reinvented Super Mario Maker review!

Graphics

Can I even give this part of the game a rating?  The graphics are mostly from existing Mario titles, so I’m not sure what exactly I’d be rating.  Maybe the quality of the new sprite graphics used for certain enemies, or the menu UI?

Really though, it looks like Super Mario Bros 1, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World and New Super Mario Bros U.  If you liked the graphics in those games (and I see no reason that anyone wouldn’t), then you’ll like this one.  If you didn’t like them (because you’re not a Mario fan for instance), then there’s pretty much no chance in hell that this game will change your mind about that.

There are a few dozen new character sprites for the SMB 1 style, to go with the new ‘costume Mario’ gimmick; more on that later.

And the UI?

It looks how it should do.  You’ve got the usual tiles and sprites displayed next to the options to use said tiles and sprites.  You’ve got a few pleasant backgrounds for the menu screens to keep your attention focused on the preview window rather than the background and a bunch of random characters join you on the side-lines simply to look cool, like the budgies on the level select screen or the dog that acts as an undo button.

MarioMakerEditor

Above: The level editor looks clean and functional.

Either way, it looks respectable.  Like what a level editor should look like.

Music

Again, mostly taken from the older Mario games that it’s based off of, with a few additions where original music didn’t cover that theme (ghost houses for SMB 1 and SMB 3, airships for SMB 1 and SMW).  That said, the new music does sound really, really good:

There’s also some really nice music used when editing levels.  The castle remixes are especially nice here, with the New Super Mario Bros castle editing theme drawing special attention because of its high quality:

So that’s the music.  It’s mostly from the original games Super Mario Maker is based on, with a few great new songs mixed in and Smash Bros quality remixes for the level editor view.

Gameplay

But this is always the most important part of any game, and nowhere is it more the case than with a level editing tool.  After all, no one wants to make games for a broken and mostly unusable engine, do they?

Fortunately though, Super Mario Maker works fantastically in this respect.  The engine is solid and works well, the physics mostly adapt to the style of the game they’re based on with a few (generous) exceptions (like spin jumping on enemies in NSMBU style) and for the most part, everyone works how it should do.

The editor itself (the most important part of the whole package) is setup well too.  You’ve got a simple interface showing various blocks and enemies tiles on the top, which can be placed down with the touch screen.  There’s a menu for sound effects, where you can choose to do things like automatically start playing ‘boss’ music when Mario goes past a certain area or have a mini party start complete with dancing figures and all that stuff.

Above: The sound effects are hilariously over the top, as shown by GameExplain

And using various gimmicks like winged enemies, giant enemies, stacked enemies and objects coming from pipes is extremely easy, with the process merely being that of dragging the objects around to combine them.  Want an enemy to follow a line?  Place it on a line and choose the direction.  Want to make it big?  Drag a mushroom into it. Need it fly?  Drag on the wings and it can immediately take to the air.  It’s a very simple system, and one that opens up an almost ridiculous amount of insane enemy combos that would never be even remotely seen as possible in another engine.

Above: Nintendo Life explains some of the interesting possibilities.

To add on to how easy and convenient the editor is to use, drawing land and objects in this game is literally now as simple as drawing shapes on the touch screen.  Want to have a giant Mario shaped piece of grass land?  Go ahead, the editor has been designed specifically to round off the corners and make sure everything looks as good as possible, regardless of the creator’s drawing skills or anything else.  Additionally, decorations get automatically drawn in as you create the level, meaning that even a plain set of lines and walls is probably going to look half decent and interesting rather than something from the days of Youtube ROM hacks.

That said, the editor does have its issues. For one thing, slopes are non existent in this game, so quite a few concepts from the later Mario games are hence completely impossible to recreate as a result.  It’s not unexpected (try figuring out slope physics where players can draw them anywhere on the screen and with any possible level of steepness), but it is a bit of a let down given said features near omnipresence in fan made level editors like Lunar Magic and Super Mario Bros X.

New Super Mario Bros slopes

Above: Not possible in Super Mario Maker.

Another issue is the block limit.  It’s not hugely noticeable for many people given that it’s reasonably high by default (2000 tile blocks and 100 enemies is more than most people will ever need in a single area), but it does mean that more complex levels from later games can’t really be recreated as a result and that certain level designs are also impossible to achieve.

Outside of the editor, there are a couple of interesting modes to play around with.  ‘Course World’ is the online level sharing system, where you can find and play levels by other people and do things like them give them ratings and comments.  It’s pretty well designed and does mostly work well when using it to find random stages, but it could really have done with a few extra search options to narrow down your level searches (you currently can’t search by title or keywords when finding levels to play).

There’s also modes for 10 and 100 Mario challenges.  These have you play random levels (either from a sample levels pack or by various people online) in order to get to the end and save Peach from Bowser (or whoever lurks in the last level).  It’s a fun little mode, and does have some nice rewards at the end (the costume Mario forms otherwise gotten from scanning Amiibos), but it’s honestly a bit hit and miss in terms of level quality.  After all, most people are not game designers, and as a result, the level selection suffers heavily from ‘Sturgeon’s Law’ with the extra corollary that you can’t choose for yourself.  It’s like going on Youtube and being presented with a playlist of ten random videos; you have no idea whether the next thing you see will be a masterfully done work of art or an absolutely godawful piece of junk from the depths of hell.  Expert mode is usually the latter.

Above: Though there are also levels like the above that are really well designed.

Another interesting addition are the various ‘costume Mario’ forms.  Unlocked by either scanning Amiibo or beating the 100 Mario Challenge, these change the Super Mario Bros 1 version of Mario into various characters from other Nintendo games.  These range from the fairly average (Luigi, Peach, Toad), to well known stars (Link, Pikachu, Captain Falcon, Kirby) to all kinds of other obscure characters (Ashley, the guy from Big Brain Academy, Nikki from SwapNote).  They’re a pretty cool additional which even manage to change things like the death sound effect and the level finishing music.  Just wish they were usable in the other three graphics styles…

allamiibosprites

Above: All the Costume Mario/Amiibo forms from Super Mario Maker.

Finally, there’s a fly swatting mini game you can play by hitting flies in a level.  It’s basically the same mini game from Mario Paint on the SNES, and comes complete with the return of Watinga as the final boss.  A fun little extra that could keep you amused for a couple of play throughs.

Above: Gnat Attack gameplay by NintenU.

And that’s the gameplay of Super Mario Maker.  It works well, though with a few minor issues that prevent it from being completely perfect.

Replay Value

It’s a level editor for Mario levels.  In other words, it has theoretically infinite replay value, since all the levels are made by the game’s players/buyers.

There’s also a few secrets and extras to keep you going (the mentioned 100 Mario challenge mode, the fly swatting mini game, various bonuses and effects like the random SFX that sometimes play when Mario falls into a pit.

But the editor and use created levels are the big thing here, and what will keep you playing for many weeks and months to come.

Overall

Super Mario Maker is a good, simple to use level editor for the Super Mario Bros games, and offers a near endless amount of fun for anyone wanting more traditional 2D Mario gameplay.

It’s a great game that’s definitely worth a buy.  If you have a Wii U, you should buy it right now.