Everyone’s favorite plumber is back. And this time, you literally get to choose your own adventure. Unlike other games which have powerful, but incredibly complicated level editors, Super Mario Maker makes it easy for you to design a Machiavellian torture chamber or a fun, goofy stage. If you’re not innately gifted with the skill of level design, Super Mario Maker is even more fun. You’ll be chuckling to yourself several times as you design terrible, impossible-to-beat levels.
Super Mario Maker is a level editor and a 2D platformer built into one package. As a level creator, you’re able to access elements from several different Mario games and fuse them together to build your own levels. You’re easily able to upload your creations online for the rest of the community to enjoy. When you begin, you’ll be asked to choose from one of the following templates which govern the way your world works overall – Super Mario World, Super Mario Bros, New Super Mario Bros U. or Super Mario Bros 3. These skins give you an outline for your custom creations. Depending upon what you choose, items and level enemies will look and feel different. For example, if you want to put Cape Mario in your level, you’ll have to choose the Mario World skin. If you want to have Propeller Mario, go with New Super Mario Bros. U.
This world-building template allows you to play with several interesting combinations of gameplay elements. For example, you can have Bowser Jr. trying to find his way around an underwater level (which everyone hates). You can also put a mushroom on anything that you want to be larger in size. Well played Nintendo. Well played.
As mentioned before, the level editor is simple to use and has an intuitive, drag-and-drop interface. You choose the elements you want to put in your stage from the menu bar and just drag them down into your creations. Since you’ll be using the Wii U tablet, you can easily draw on the screen to create platforms and obstacles. As you’re putting together your levels, the game will intelligently add background elements to them. And the fun doesn’t stop there – you can also choose from different visual and sound elements and add those to your levels. Do you want to convey an impending sense of doom as your players traverse a hallway? Add a beating heart sound effect to the section. The easy interface makes level design an absolute joy.
In Super Mario Maker, the level editor isn’t a fun secondary feature to the primary storyline – it IS the primary storyline. You’ll have much more fun building levels and trying what other people have designed than you will playing the traditional storyline. You can easily test levels as you’re building them, so you can perfect your evil creations. As you get better at designing levels, the game becomes even more enjoyable.
Even so, the level editor isn’t perfect. There are several points in the game where you’ll realize its limitations. You don’t have the ability to add checkpoints in the middle of a stage, for example. Additionally, the only kind of level you can create is a horizontally scrolling one. You won’t be able to create a level where Mario falls through the air, avoiding obstacles as he reaches a castle at the end of a seemingly bottomless pit, for example (this is one idea I desperately wanted to see come to fruition). The enemies also have certain pre-programmed patterns. You won’t be able to create turtles who seek out Mario with a vengeance. The color palettes of enemies are fixed, and you won’t be able to add your own music to your stages. While it might be argued that some of these limitations scale down the complexity to make the editor more accessible to everyone, you’ll miss having more control over your creations.
You won’t have access to all of the tools in the editor right from the go either. You’ll have to spend a specified amount of time with the game before it decides that you’re worthy of getting access to the next tool. Oh, and a little detail – those unlock times are measured in days. Spent enough time with the tools you have? Great. Come back tomorrow to get access to the next one. Tech savvy gamers will be able to manipulate the system clock to speed up the process, but it’s still cumbersome. All of this waiting does have an upside though – it encourages you to go out and play other levels.
In a game that relies so heavily on community content, the real meat of the experience lies in playing through other people’s levels. You get to see first-hand what works and what doesn’t. You’ll also be inspired by other people’s creativity and bring back aspects of it to add to your own levels. User-created levels range from truly genius to truly maddening, as you’ll try to get through levels with literally dozens of traps at every single step. You can sort through user levels by popularity and difficulty. There’s one thing you know for sure – if the level has been uploaded, someone has beaten it. Because the only way the game allows you to upload a level is if you’re able to finish it yourself first.
Super Mario Maker is a game that delights in offering players the freedom to create their own levels within the Mario universe. A fully featured editor with an excellent interface makes it easy for anyone to pick it up and start designing. With thousands of user levels already uploaded and several others on the way, Super Mario Maker promises hours of gleeful creation and play.
Game Review Score: 9.0 Out of 10