You probably already know what Mario Maker is about. If you don’t, the name says it all. But maybe you’re wondering if it’s as intuitive and user friendly as we’ve come to expect from Nintendo. Good news for you: it is. We were creating a brand new Super Mario level within seconds of firing the console up. That’s not a figure of speech either. Seconds!
After the title screen the game dumps you in a NES-style Mario level and sets you loose to play. Run with the D-pad, dash with B – so far so familiar. The graphics have a smooth, HD look and Mario has a kind of drop-shadow effect we don’t remember seeing before but other than that it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect.
So anyway, your gaming instincts kick in and you hop the gaps, punch the blocks and make a final leap for the flagpole. Except you realise mid-air that you’re probably not going to make it. Some idiot designer made the gap too big and you’re about to plummet to an early death in the mysterious abyss at the bottom of the screen.
The game pauses and switches to editor mode. By way of tutorial, you’re tasked with filling that death-gap, then switching back to gameplay mode and clearing the level. And that’s about all the guidance you get, a complete godsend after Wario Ware DIY and its seemingly endless tutorial mode. Adam, with his hummingbird-like attention span, still breaks out in a nervous sweat just thinking about that one.
Game creation is a stylus-only affair. You’re free to doss about, drawing blocks, adding coins and enemies, and stretching or rotating level furniture like pipes and the like. If you make a mistake you can use the eraser tool to rub it out. We cracked up when we went to “erase” Mario and he started shitting himself.
The Ninty magic is back in full force. Everything is done in that tongue-in-cheek silly way that Wario Ware players will find familiar. Old NES sound effects and remixed Mario music accompany every tweak and edit, proving that Nintendo are masters of audio design as well as visuals.
You can create levels in the style of the original SMB, Mario 3, Mario World and New SMB, and switch between them at any time. Gimmicks or items that were previously game-specific will cross over (with one or two exceptions), sometimes taking on new forms in order to fit in visually. It’s amazing how switching between styles can breathe new life into your levels.
The game will occasionally throw some curve balls, and enemies or items will behave in unexpected, hitherto unseen ways. For instance, you can put Goombas underwater or suspend Chain Chomps from moving platforms. If you so choose, you can add decidedly odd HD effects that clash with the pixel artwork.
The game, outside of the editor, is pretty barebones. Features like uploading and playing pre-loaded levels are accessed from a small drop-down menu in the corner. What this means for you is that there’s no loading and jumping from screen to screen. It’s all business, all the time. Even the title screen is completely interactive and lets you immediately start making new levels.
Our one complaint is that the game gradually drip-feeds new items and level styles depending on how much you’re using it – and no, you can’t leave it running overnight to unlock everything (we tried). You might be absolutely sick of the sight of it before you unlock the clown car or the Princess Peach costume. The popular consensus is that it takes 9 days to unlock everything, and as far as we know that’s the official word from Ninty.
But…! Stay your hands, baying hoards, before you storm the Kyoto headquarters and demand Miyamoto’s head on a pike: There’s apparently been a patch released in time for the UK launch. No one is quite sure what exactly the criteria are now, but one thing’s certain, the game breaks its own ‘one update a day’ rule. Fantastic!
To sum up, the game is presented with all the finesse you’d expect from a first-party Nintendo title. It makes any game you’ve ever played on your PS4 look like a Sega Saturn tech demo, and it’s so polished it’ll make Mr. Sheen mess his pants with envy.
The interface is so intuitive that you can do anything your heart desires without so much as thinking about what button to press or where to click, and the game will constantly charm you with its creative flair and neat little touches. You can effortlessly switch between the different game styles depending on what kind of nostalgia hit you’re looking for, and you’ll probably surprise yourself when you unleash the game designer hidden inside.
TMW Rating: – 4/5
The game loses one point for not having a “Mario 2” mode. Nintendo’s staff evidently don’t consider it a ‘true’ Mario title, along with the rest of Japan, and its unique mechanics (such as not jumping on enemies) wouldn’t fit with the rest of the game. But to the western world, that game was the real deal and we loved it more than the first. Still, there’s a lifetime’s worth of play in here.