Like Minecraft, Super Mario Maker can either become your new favorite outlet of creative expression... or a boring, tedious slog where every level you create seems to blend together. The joy one will likely take from Super Mario Maker is completely dependent on the chains shackling down one's own imagination.
Super Mario Maker gives WiiU Owners a chance to unleash their inner Miyamoto and create levels using templates from Super Mario Brothers, Super Mario Bros. 3, New Super Mario Brothers and Super Mario World. Players can create levels using themes that may not have existed in their respective games such as Airship levels in Super Mario World or Ghost Houses in Super Mario Brothers.
For many, the chance to create a Mario stage presents the fulfillment of a dream come true. For every gamer that has ever wished that there were an Airship level with more cannons or has ever sat on their couch and said, “Pff, I can do better than that,” now has their chance.
Super Mario Maker entrusts players with an unprecedented amount of player freedom. In a stage, a player is presented with a starting point, and a goal flag. Players use the game pad to place objects, enemies and objects from games across Mario's storied history on a square grid.
Fancy a level with nothing but trampolines? How about an airship moving at Cheeta's pace where you are forced to progress by jumping on Bullet Bills? With very few limitations during stage construction, Super Mario Maker lets players build the Mario level of their dreams, or other player's nightmares.
The customization doesn't end their. Even enemies themselves are customizable. Items or objects that may not have existed during a particular game can be placed on a stage, their resolution downgraded or upgraded as needed. As far as enemies go, enemies that “shoot” other items can be tinkered with as well. Imagine an armada of Bullet Bill cannons shooting coins, mushrooms or even Yoshi eggs... almost anything is possible.
The amount of enjoyment you will experience on the creation side of Super Mario Maker is likely tied to your creativity. That isn't a hard an fast rule, as I've spent many an hour simply screwing around and testing the limits of the creator and playing around, at the end of the day, emulating a “real” Mario level will be the gold standard for most. The game certainly gives players the tools to make the fantasy game developer come to life.
The system isn't fool proof though. At times, the tag line of creating levels with “Near limitless,” possibilities becomes all too literal. Some players may find the inability to make vertical levels a slight turnoff as I did. Also, not being able to select the music for your stage its a huge setback.
Not being given the option to play “Athletic” while designing a platforming nightmare is small potatoes compared to the lack of true game design in Super Mario Maker. Being given almost all of the tools to create a unique “Mario” stage feels incomplete when not being able to place them in a world map or play them as a true game.
The second “half” of Super Mario Maker lies in the magic of Course World, an index of user created stages, uploaded for the rest of the world to play. To combat what would have been a bevy of unbeatable levels being uploaded, Nintendo has made the wise decision to require a level to be beaten by the creator before being eligible for upload.
While this excellent decision does do much to ensure that a likely problem would never manifest itself, it does little to address a very inconvenient truth... Complete freedom doesn't make someone a good game designer.
Very few user created levels feel like a “true” Mario level. Courses that play themselves and courses that are nearly impossible to play litter Course World. With exceptionally limited search options, finding a good and authentic course feels like winning the lottery far more than it should.
If a user does find a level enjoyable, one can mark it with a star. The more popular a level gets, the more publicity that it gets, however if history has taught us anything, something being popular doesn't make it good. The aforementioned roller coaster levels consistently make the top of the list, leading to copy cat levels staying near the top as well. If authenticity is what draws you to Course World, then you may find yourself disappointed. As a brief side note, using coins to draw a picture on the stage is a very popular design technique, however remember... if someone can, they will find a way to draw a penis on the screen.
A very prominent video game reviewer stated in his write-up that Super Mario Maker is game that he never expected to see the light of day, and what a true statement that is. Allowing players freedom in their games isn't something Nintendo is renown for. In fact, go try and download Minecraft for the Wii and let me know how that works out for you.
This level of freedom and exploration is certainly new territory for Nintendo and feels more like an experiment than an actual game. Nintendo has recognized the power that creativity and social media can hold over the masses and given the narcissist in all of us a chance to come out. Super Mario Maker is a chance for all of us that thought that at one point we could do better a chance to prove us all wrong. For those of us with a near endless imagination, Mario Maker is a must own for the WiiU.
Final Say: Play It