It’s here, it’s here. If you haven’t heard, Nintendo’s latest Mario game, Super Mario Run, has hit the App Store. Apple even made a brand new app store feature, the ability to be notified when a game is available, just for its release. Needless to say, the hype train for this reached Bowser-sized proportions, and I’m talking about the giant-Bowser-size from the Mario Galaxy series. Does Mario leap to new heights, or does he get turned into a plumber-pancake by the hype train of doom? Let’s take a look.
First things first: this game is not free. The first three levels are a demo of sorts; designed much like cocaine to get you hooked on a little so you invest in a lot. Netting the entire game will cost you $9.99 or £8, which is definitely on the higher side of app prices. For this hard-earned money, you will receive access to the games 5 other worlds, for a total of 24 levels to (Super Mario) run through.
It’s hard to categorize Super Mario Run. It’s not an endless runner, as each level has the iconic Mario flag pole at the end. The levels are not randomly/perpetually generated like other endless runners. Instead, each level is its own enclosed running space, with Mario constantly running and you in charge of jumping. So the game itself takes care of the Super Mario Running, and you take care of the Super Mario Jumping.
Along the way you encounter standard baddies: the Goomba (Goombas? Goombi? Goombades?) the Koopa (Koopades) and President Bullet Bill Clinton. And get this… in most cases you don’t need to avoid running straight into them. Let that sink in for a moment.
World 1-1 is one of the best opening levels in all of gaming because it set up our expectations for a Mario game. Hit your head on gravity-defying bricks, mushrooms pop out. You pick up mushrooms, you grow. Just like in real life. Also integral to the Mario franchise: you have to jump onto the heads of the enemies. Run headlong into them, you die. This was a simple Mario truth. Not so in Super Mario Run.
When you allow Mario to run into a Goomba in Super Mario Run, he will automatically vault over it. You can tap as he is directly over the enemy to “pull off some cool moves” as the game refers to it. THIS is when Mario will stomp the Goomba and jump higher off its crushed corpse just like we are used to.
It may sound like a minor beef (or tofu for our vegetarian readers), but I maintain that the need to jump on our enemies is so engrained into our Mario-addicted minds that to deviate from that norm is going against the core of Mario himself. It is a compulsion. Mario MUST jump on his enemies. Otherwise he’s just a spikeless Sonic. Who does that hedgehog think he is, being able to run into enemies head-on?
If this is a game in which you run, you’d expect the running to be pretty good, yeah? Eh, I was unimpressed. In typical Mario games, while not as fast as his Erinaceid counterpart (look it up), the plumber has a sense of urgency in his gait. Not so in Super Mario Slow Trot. He ambles toward the right side of the screen like he’s taking a stroll through the park. If this game is a Run, I’d hate to see a Walk.
Also, for a platformer that demands precision in order to pass some of the game’s obstacles, the hit boxes sure are weird. Mario feels as though he hovers at the end of each platform, his weight somehow perched upon the single pixel left touching the platform. And that is not just annoying; you must take advantage of it at times. You must wait until you are sure that by now Mario should have fallen but through the magic of programming and hit boxes he has not.
The levels themselves are standard Mario: everyone say it with me: Grass World, Desert World, Ice, Fire-bender… the gang’s all here. Each will see you running along a path, vaulting over enemies, wall-jumping, butt-sliding, brick-bashing your way to the end. Along the way you collect colored coins that appear in specific locations. Collecting all of them will unlock the next sort of run of that level, the next difficulty level, if you will. But it’s not really a new difficulty, it’s more a different layout of coins. Let me explain.
Each level has three runs, and each run has coins that guide you along a certain path. As you progress into the later runs, the colored coins become more difficult to collect. The first two runs of each level are absurdly easy; I completed most of them in one or two run throughs. The third runs for the levels, though, are where Super Mario actually gets fun.
“Wait wait wait,” I hear you type. “You can’t hide the enjoyable bits of Super Mario Run two thirds of the way through the review.” Oh ho ho, I counter. If Nintendo can hide the good bits of their game two thirds of the way through, then I sure as hell can in my review.
The last run of each level, after you’ve already gone through the slog of the first two runs, actually offer a bit of a challenge. Not a huge one, but at least it offers a glimpse at what Super Mario Run might have been. The coin placements here require some creative jumping and timing to obtain, which makes me feel as though I’ve actually accomplished something.
It is, however, a completionist-only affair. I do not recommend wading your way through the first two deathly boring runs just to experience the thrill of the third. That would be like forcing you to watch M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady In The Water and The Happening before finally allowing you to watch Sixth Sense.
And the multiplayer (if you even want to call it that, you’re really only playing against another player’s already recorded run) is sort of interesting? You compete with the opponent’s ghost to get the highest score, which will net you cheering Toads. The winner will then hoover up all the Toads in a weird sort of alien abduction pipe and bring them back to the hub world where, if you have enough of certain colors, you can purchase buildings which give you more coins, or alternate characters like Green Mario and Nasal Cyst Dinosaur.
Which may seem innocent enough, but when you think about it, it’s a might disturbing. Why do you need X Green Toads to build that green house… and why is there an industrial sized meat grinder over in the corner…? And these brick shaped molds…
Super Mario Run shows it true platforming prowess in the last third of it’s campaign, but like a three-layer cake made from cement, toothpaste, and german chocolate, we shouldn’t have to wait until we are two-thirds of the way through to get to the good stuff.
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Super Mario Run Away
Playing Super Mario Run can best be summarized by comparing it to Mario’s original occupation of a plumber: you’ll have to work hard at it, you won’t have much fun, and you’ll be surrounded by poo but at the end of the day you’ll have got the job done.