September 14, 2015

Review – Mario Maker


Mario Maker is one of those games that I’m amazed took as long as it did to exist. Designed around the idea of giving players tools to create their own Mario levels and share them with their friends, it’s an official toolset designed for everyone from the kid drawing Mario levels in their notebook to ROM hackers looking for quick level prototyping tools. Nintendo has finally opened up level creation tools to the masses, and the results have been pretty mixed. While some aspects of Mario Maker are fantastic, there are also some very noticeable missing features that limit what the toolset is useful for.

So, what does Mario Maker succeed at? Well, Mario Maker is a great source of ultra difficult, single instance, Mario Levels stretching from Super Mario Bros. to New Super Mario Bros. U. So long as you’ve got an internet connection, there’s a daily turnover of Mario levels that, while difficult, are technically possible. Make a single mistake, you’ve lost. No checkpointing, just you and the challenge to flawlessly traverse a world. If you’re looking for near impossibly tough Mario levels on a daily basis, Mario Maker seems set to provide that for a considerable time to come.

While the manual level discovery tools on offer are lacking, the daily highest rated leaderboards have been doing a good job so far of providing interesting and varied levels to explore.

So, where does Mario Maker fall apart? Right now, the game’s biggest drawback is the lack of ability to create, package, distribute and download multi level packages. Right now you can only play single Mario levels with no checkpointing, with no curated progression built in. You can place 1-Up’s into your levels, but they currently only add to an ancillary extra mode in the game, not the level you are currently playing.

The lack of ability to package levels together and create your own campaigns currently is a really big missed opportunity, and one I hope is addressed sooner rather than later.

The actual level creation tools in Mario Maker are very simple to use. Levels are created by dragging and dropping elements onto a grid. Hide items in boxes by dragging and dropping them onto the box. Increase enemy sizes by dropping mushrooms on them. Create warp doors by creating a pair of doors with matching symbols and placing them in your world. The tools quickly and easily allow for experimentation, with the ability to test your level from any point at any time. While the toolset is a little limited at times and has to be unlocked over a couple of hours of spamming items onto your map, the end result is a level creator that is simple enough for beginners to pick up quickly, but deep enough for seasoned creators to produce high quality levels.

Simply put, Mario Maker is great if you want to play tough as nails Mario levels and share your creations with those who already follow your work. If you want to create Mario level campaigns or share your creations with a wider audience, this might not be the game for you.