Hail To The Plumbing King
Super Mario Maker takes everything that makes Mario good, and puts it in your hands to play with. Every platform, every enemy, and every end goal can be designed in nearly any way you want to create some of the most insane levels that have ever existed in a 2D space. With that being said, the question remains. Is it easy for someone with a lack of creativity, (like myself for instance,) to take on the somewhat intimidating task of making a Mario level?
Learning and Imagining
Well for starters, let’s take a look at what you have to work with. There are just about 60 different building blocks you have to create your levels. Platforms, enemies, hazards, and more. The gamepad is laid out to allow you to easily pick and choose where to place objects and how to center and structure them. The buttons can be assigned to multiple shortcuts to make placement a much less tedious task, and the grid based area allows you to see how much surface area an object can take up. Placement is as simple as dragging and dropping with your stylus, (or finger if you happened to have lost yours to the depths of your living room couch.)
If you are still worried about where to begin, the game actually does not give you all of the tools available at the very beginning. Items will slowly unlock over the course of play and testing, which allows you to get comfortable and familiar with what you have to work with. (This has been changed with a recent update so that everything is unlocked within a few hours).
The game will gently push you along on how to structure things, but it is truly up to your imagination to design what you want the little plumber to play on. I think the greatest thing about Mario Maker is just how creative you can be with it. As someone with a dumb sense of humor, I found myself laughing and snickering as I created stupidly large towers of roaming Goombas to try and jump over. Later, I found myself stuffing cannons full of powerups just to have them rain down on me and watch as Mario changed form from one super form to the other in rapid succession. It’s incredibly easy to entertain yourself even in the simplest of ways.
There are minor limitations to some of the things you can do in Mario Maker though. 1-ups are limited to obtaining a max of three in any level, stopping you from abusing them to constantly replay hard levels. Coins will not contribute to massive extra lives either, and basically only serve to up your score in-game once you go past the initial 3 live mark.
One of the better things about Mario Makers creative tools is also the ability to be perfectly unique with what you can design. While I will get more in depth with other community maps later, I explored maps that had taken the in game concepts of Mario and utilized them to new degrees. Maps where you had to get the highest score by kicking enemies into other enemies for huge combos, to maps where a race car would appear and you would have to complete it as quickly as possible.
Every stage can be built around the mechanics of the engines of various Mario games. The wall kicking and momentum physics of New Super Mario Bros can be utilized perfectly in the respective creative tools for that skin of the game, however the same level won’t be playable in a different Mario engine. Each game mechanic that Mario Maker takes its roots from is only playable within that respective game. Rest assured however, the community has plenty of focus on all forms of Super Mario, so any form of Mario that you favor will have an endless amount of content available to play in.
For the more meticulous creator, Mario Maker serves your interests as well. When building different structures and play testing them, the game will display various helpful menus and overlays. Jump shadows will show the exact jumps you have either attempted to make, or the length at which a jump is still obtainable. This is especially helpful for the more cruel creators that want to make an incredibly difficult, but still possible to complete stage.
Not everyone may be interested in the creative aspect in Mario Maker however, and are probably more invested in experiencing the creativity of the enormous community. Mario Maker’s 100 Mario Challenge Mode is your ticket to entertainment.
You begin by choosing a difficulty level you feel comfortable with. Once chosen, Mario Maker randomly pulls levels from the community that sync up with the selected difficulty. Once the levels have been chosen, you will have exactly 100 lives to finish the group of levels you have been given. Never fear if you are given something to sadistic for your tastes though. Holding down select for a few seconds allows you to skip a level that you've probably wasted 50 of your lives on and don’t want to deal with any longer. 10 Mario challenge also exists, and lets you play some sample levels that already shipped with the game.
The user created levels vary from insane monstrosity’s of difficulty to well… completely flat zones with maybe one Koopa strolling back and forth. You can at least browse levels by popularity, so this should prevent you from playing some of the less creative offerings out there. Each level is incredibly different from the next, and perfectly captures the imagination of an endless Mario game.
Something that also made me incredibly happy was Nintendo’s inclusion of various controller play. While you can only create levels with the gamepad, you can play any of the created levels with a Wii U Pro Controller, a Wii Remote, (no nunchuck however, it just ignores it if you have one plugged in,) a Classic Controller and a Classic Controller Pro. If you have a Gamecube adapter, unfortunately this is yet another game that does not support it, so no Gamecube platforming.
At the end of the day, creation is both simplistic, and overtly powerful. And when put in the hands of the community, it becomes a terrifying tool for levels of menacing proportions. However, I faced small issues with finding ways to filter the numerous levels that the community has generated. While you can follow creators and find some of the more popular levels, there is no way to find very specific levels based on any kind of search term or tag. It would be wonderful if an update came along to help filter all of the content that is being uploaded.
My other big complaint is the fact that 100 Mario Challenge mode cannot be set to restrict certain game modes or levels. I am a big fan of Super Mario World, but there is no way for me to exclude NSMB, SMB1, or SMB3 levels from showing up in the challenge mode. You can easily play individual levels, but it’s not nearly as fun as a set playlist of levels.
Also, do not expect to be able to play fully recreated Mario games in Super Mario Maker. While you may find individual levels here or there, as stated before, there is no way to create a playlist of levels that transition smoothly from one to the other. So don’t expect the ability to play the original Super Mario World from start to finish.
The last and rather lackluster offering Super Mario Maker has is its Amiibo functionality. Amiibo’s can unlock a variety of character skins, however they are only usable in SMB1 levels. They also function like a super mushroom, so taking a hit while playing as a character will result in you reverting back to small Mario. Various costumes do have their own characteristic charm though. Playing as Link lets you jump around Hylian style and adds adorable little sound effects. If you fear you won’t be able to experience costumes without Amiibos however, rest assured that there are over 100 other costumes to unlock just by playing 100 Mario mode.