Super Mario Run; A Decent Though Slow Mobile App

Earlier today, Nintendo finally released their second in-house mobile app, namely Super Mario Run. It’s been worked on for months, advertised like the second coming on the iTunes app store and had legions of analysts act like it’ll be the best selling, most successful mobile app of all time. Basically, expectations have been through the roof.

But does it really live up to the hype? Is Super Mario Run really as good as it’s made out to be? Well, let’s find out, in Gaming Reinvented’s exclusive review of Super Mario Run!

Let’s start with the graphics!

Graphics

Which for the most part, are traditional New Super Mario Bros styled. Indeed, most of the graphics are straight from New Super Mario Bros U, albeit toned down a bit to work on smartphones.

So yeah, not much to say there really.

Music

And the same applies with the music too. Why? Because again, it’s mostly New Super Mario Bros U songs. Yeah, you have a few new ones (mostly in Toad Rally and Kingdom Builder), but for the most part it’s all the tunes you’ll recognise from New Super Mario Bros U or Super Mario Maker in pretty much the same level of quality as they were then.

So nothing much to say there either. But how about the gameplay? Is that good?

Gameplay

Well to put it simply:

Yes

Super Mario Run is a fun game.

And what’s more, it’s quite a varied one too. Because unlike New Super Mario Bros, it comes with three modes:

  • Kingdom Tour
  • Toad Rally
  • And Kingdom Builder

The first of these… is basically the story mode from a typical 2D Mario platformer. You control Mario as he races through 6 worlds of levels to defeat Bowser and save Princess Peach.

It’s the same old stuff you’re used to (complete with traditional Mario themes), except with one major difference:
Mario runs automatically to the right.

This means all you need to bother with is jumping. Which is done by tapping anywhere on the screen.

It’s a simple setup for sure.

However, here’s the key: It works

There are no delays when Mario jumps. There are no fidgety virtual D-Pads to mess around with to change your directions. Basically, Mario does what you tell him to without fail.

And that makes it a massive improvement over 99% of platformers on smartphones. Because Nintendo actually bothered to think about what the system was capable of rather than trying to fit a round peg in a square hole.

It’s a key example of the old adage ‘Keep It Simple Stupid’ working perfectly.

But Kingdom Tour isn’t the only good part of the game.

Oh no, Toad Rally is quite good too. This mode (which is like NSMB 2’s Coin Rush) has two players compete to gather as many Toad followers and coins as possible, with the winner keeping everything collected by both participants.

And these collectables then get sent to our last mode. Kingdom Builder.

Which in a nutshell, is basically Sim City, Mario edition.

Well okay, maybe not Sim City. FarmVille Mario edition?

Eh, probably not. It’s pretty simple and limited. You have the ability to set up bonus games, pipes to extra levels and houses that unlock secret characters for Kingdom Tour (like Luigi, Peach, Yoshi and Toadette) and maybe a few decorations on the side. That’s it.

But it’s still quite fun to mess around with and unlock items for. Much better than a boring achievement screen either way.

However, not all of Super Mario Run is all that good.

For example, it’s ridiculously slow to start.

What do I mean by this?

Well, before the game begins proper, there are a TON of pointless confirmation and notification screens to go through. I mean seriously, here’s the whole process for starting Super Mario Run:

  1. Open app
  2. Choose your control
  3. Click through the terms and conditions
  4. Decide whether you want to tie in a My Nintendo account
  5. Set up your name and avatar
  6. (the above might be in a different order, but the point is the same)

  7. Watch the game’s first intro
  8. Complete a pretty long tutorial level with lots of pop up hints and no ‘learn through playing the game’ type level design
  9. Download the rest of the game (which might take about 5 minutes)
  10. Watch a second intro
  11. Click through into Kingdom Tour
  12. Select a level from the map
  13. Actually begin the bloody level.

That’s ridiculous. What’s more, it actually hurts the chances of this game making Nintendo a lot of money.
Why?

Because the first chance anyone has to give them money is after level 1-3. So for a player to pay Nintendo for Super Mario Run, they have to go through a 12 step intro/tutorial sequence, beat three fairly long levels and then decide to buy the ‘upgrade’ at level 1-4.

Yeah, I don’t see that happening anywhere near as often as Nintendo is hoping, at least not with this tutorial/confirmation/infodump shoved in the player’s face seconds after starting the app.

Other than that, I don’t have any real complaints about this title as far as gameplay goes. It’s not as good as say, New Super Mario Bros on console, but it’s competently done and plays fine.

So onto something else now. Like say, the game’s length and replay value

Game Length/Replay Value

Because this is both the best and worst part of Super Mario Run.

What do I mean by this, you might ask?

Well, depending on how you play it, Super Mario Run will either last you about 30 minutes or around 2 weeks.

So the negative side first. If you’re playing this for a single player Mario platformer experience… then this will be over in a flash.

Why?

Because Super Mario Run’s ‘main’ single player story is ridiculously short and easy. Like, seriously so. The 24 levels you have to play last about 60 seconds apiece and are going to be blasted through by anyone with even the slightest level of skill when it comes to playing Mario games.

Indeed, from starting til beating Bowser, I had been playing… about 30 minutes, with a total of about 3 level retries being needed along the way.

And there are numerous reasons for this. Like say, the fact the enemy variety is fairly small, with only basic enemies to dodge in most of the levels. Yeah, you’ve got Ninjis, Rocky Wrenches, Grinders and rings of fire, but all these things are only in one or two levels each. The rest of the time? Mostly just Goombas, Koopas and their flying counterparts. In wide open, easy to run through stages where getting hit is more of a matter of being careless than something you’ll do on a regular basis.

What’s more, even when you DO get hit, you merely get put in a bubble and taken back a short distance. This is useful for collecting coins (since it can be used to rewind the level and try again), but absolutely trivialises the main game due to how pointless it makes dying. Heck, even falling in a pit only puts you in a bubble!

Admittedly, this is mitigated somewhat by the limited number of bubbles you get per level. Die three times in a level? Then you’ll have to try again from the beginning. So there’s somewhat of a penalty for death if you keep messing up, though the fact you only go back as far as the beginning of the level does mean consequences are still mostly non existent.

Either way, if you’re looking for a New Super Mario Bros style experience, then Super Mario Run isn’t it.

But wait! There is more to the game than just that!

Such as the whole coin system in the levels. Basically, each level will give you the task of collecting six coins as well as finishing the level. These coins come in three colours (pink, purple and black), with each set then increasing in difficulty along the way.

Oh, and they unlock a super secret course if you get all of each type in all 24 levels of the game.

So yeah, there’s that to deal with, which could add another 8 hours or so of playtime if you’re not great at the game.

As well as the other modes.

Because as I mentioned before, Toad Rally and Kingdom Builder do have a significant amount of content in them. Like say, special buildings to unlock for bonus games, extra characters that can be used for Kingdom Tour (Luigi, Peach, Yoshi and Toadette).

Okay, it’s still not perfect (Kingdom Builder only gives you a very limited amount of space for objects in your kingdom), but for completionists, there’s definitely a fair bit of value in Super Mario Run. Perhaps even enough to kill a few weeks of on/off play too.

Just… don’t expect a full Mario platformer from it, or you’ll be disappointed.

Conclusion

Super Mario Run is a fun attempt at making a 2D Mario platformer for smartphones. It’s not perfect (and it’s very slow start really hurts the game’s fun factor), but it’s well suited for the system and provides a decent bit of value for people willing to put the time in.

It’s a good game for Mario fans or Nintendo die hards, but not one which will become the next Pokemon GO.

But what do you think? Do you agree with my review of Super Mario Run? Or do you think I was a bit harsh on Nintendo’s new mobile game?