super mario maker

10 Things Parents Should Know About ‘Super Mario Maker’

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super mario makerLaunching next week, Nintendo’s Super Mario Maker is poised to make quite the impression on gamers young and old. With its blend of one of gaming’s most iconic properties and the sort of creative freedom usually only reserved for sandbox titles, it’s both a retro throwback and a new school virtual toolkit. But is it right for you and your family?

Let’s see.

What exactly is this game anyway?
Whether you spent your 8-bit youth planning out presumptive jump puzzles on graph paper or are presently helping your own kids build extravagant platformers in Minecraft, Super Mario Maker is a full realization of your game design dreams. More than anything, it’s an expansive suite of tools designed to help you–as the title implies–make your own Super Mario levels.

You can skin your creations in the original’s iconic low-fi glory, the still gorgeous Super Mario Bros. 3-style sprites, as 16-bit era standout Super Mario World, or as the more modern, high-poly incarnation, New Super Mario Bros., complete with appropriate power-ups, enemies, and sounds. Better yet, you can change on the fly with a simple tap on the GamePad, and even bring totally anachronistic worlds to life.

Want to make an 8-bit ghost house? Sure! An underwater level full of Thwomps and Goombas? Go ahead! Flying Piranha Plants? A Lakitu that tosses coins? A mushroom-spouting pipe? Knock yourself out, you glorious lunatic!

Wait; it gives you all the building blocks to make Super Mario levels? That sounds a little… overwhelming.
That’s sort of the beauty of this title. On day one, you’re given a limited palette of blocks, enemies, and other elements. Play around in creation mode for five minutes or so, and you’ll get an alert telling you when new goodies will be made available. By playing a little every day for a week, you unlock a wealth of content at a very manageable, deliberate pace.

This both incentivizes play and doles out Super Mario Makers‘ massive offerings without ever overwhelming the player. In another sense, it eliminates the dreaded tutorial mode by encouraging you to–if I may dust off this old jewel of an idiom– build with the bricks you’re given.

So I can recreate my favorite 8-bit memories?
Yeah, if that’s your thing. Whether you grew up playing Mario and friends in the 1980s, ’90s, or even the 2000s, Super Mario Maker presents you with a visual aesthetic that will no doubt seem delightfully familiar. Of course, that’s not to say that SMM doesn’t encourage the use of non-traditional elements and outside-the-box thinking.

Like what?
Oh, where to start? A slate of different sound effects, from doorbells to laughter and cheers, can be added to your level using the same simple drag-and-drop interface as the graphical elements. You can record your own custom sounds using the GamePad mic, and there’s even a bonus set of elements that are eventually unlocked that only serve to make your levels more surreal.

What if I’m not good (read: terrible) at creative building titles?
I feel you, my friend; I feel you. Even as I was uploading the very best of my creations to the Course World, I couldn’t help but feel outclassed by what everyone else had contributed. Meticulously constructed underwater obstacle courses and massive choreographed levels that literally play themselves seemed to be the order of the day–and the fact that many of those in this review cohort were either A) Nintendo staffers or B) longtime game journalists likely didn’t help matters.

Still, I discovered both inspiration and fun in playing the fruits of their labor. Whether just perusing the available levels–which can be modularly viewed in categories like “Featured” and “Up & Coming” for easier digestion–or taking part in the 10 or 100 Mario Challenge sets, it rather felt like a beautifully interactive “Game Design 101” course.

But how will I know which levels to play?
In addition to things like the Featured category, you can look at levels sorted by popularity and/or creator. Play through a level you love? Star that bad boy! This Star Ranking further helps you separate the wheat from the chaff, and you can even read player comments to get a better idea why folks love the things they love.

Like YouTube comments?!
Oh hells no! Nintendo’s often heavy-handed approach to moderating online interactions definitely works in your favor here. Sure, you may see the occasional negative comment, but you’re not likely to encounter the sort of racist, sexist, homophobic, totally unhinged rants to which we’ve become (sadly) accustomed within traditional online portals.

Super Mario Maker–or, at least, my time with this review build of Super Mario Maker–feels like a community of like-minded gamers. Innovation is praised, and I even received some helpful pointers from a couple of the more seasoned designers in the comments to my meager levels.

And I can share the levels I create?
Yes, if you want to. Super Mario Maker asks so little, even though it gives so much. If you aren’t quite confident in your design chops, then you can simply hold back on uploading your creations.

Before they’re accepted, you must prove that your levels can be completed–which prevents the Course World from being overrun with unbeatable crap. Players can also see how many plays/completions any given level has recorded. This is a perfect way to gauge the complexity of a given creation before you play it.

Is there amiibo support?
Oh is there! Nintendo touted support for 100 amiibo, and some intrepid designer was even nice enough to showcase every last one of them (even the ones not yet domestically available) in a single level.

Tapping an amiibo to the NFC area of the GamePad adds the character skin in as a design element, which can then be dropped into your level as a Mystery Mushroom that re-skins Mario as said character. It’s a fun twist on amiibo functionality that, sadly, only works in original Super Mario Bros.-style levels. Thankfully, other players can experience this transformation within your uploaded creations, even if they don’t have that particular amiibo in their collection.

Bottom line: is this one a buy or a pass?
Super Mario Maker is a must-buy, plain and simple. While it hasn’t yet supplanted my longtime Wii U fave, the power and glory that is Splatoon, I find myself making time for it each day–to play and noodle and, in spite of myself, even learn a few things.

If you are a creative gamer with a love for the franchise, Super Mario Maker is a Nintendo-fueled dream come true. And, even if you have no deep-seeded fantasies of yourself as a video game designer, experiencing the creations of others is every bit as enjoyable.

Review materials provided by: Nintendo of America

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8 thoughts on “10 Things Parents Should Know About ‘Super Mario Maker’

  1. My major question on this title is “How much does it help you with smart level design?”

    What I mean is: Will the game show you when your jump is too long/high to be bridged by a standard Mario? Will it tell you if your chain of Thwomps are too low to the ground for Mario to run under them? Or if your holes to duck into to survive a crushing ceiling level are spaced too far to run to?

    If it doesn’t provide you with a notice, or a tool, to measure those, does it at least allow you to test run specific portions of your map, instead of having to run the entire thing just to see if the spacing is right on the last segment?

    1. There is indeed an option to show Mario’s movement to help calculate jump distance, Jacob, but I generally just use the quickplay button in the lower-left of the GamePad screen to periodically try out my build.

      At any point during level creation, you can press the “-” button to toggle between create and play mode, but this option starts you from the very beginning of your level.

      The ever-present “Play” button the on the GamePad, however, lets you pick up from wherever your Mario sprite is on the map. I like to build a bit, drop Mario into the portion of the level currently under construction, and make a couple of runs using the Play button to get a feel for the difficulty of jumps, obstacles, or enemies.

  2. I played this at PAX Prime, and then watched the final Omegathon on the Nintendo-designed level (DO NOT WATCH WITH YOUR KIDS… Content: Language), and basically I am going to get myself a Wii U when this comes out. I’ve held off, but I do not believe I can hold off any longer because of this.

    Mario Paint was one of my favourite games on the original NES… this is what we all wanted with MP…

    1. It definitely feels like some weird lovechild of Mario Paint and Terraria, Kirk. And once you get your fill of SMM, Splatoon, MK8, and Smash are excellent pick-ups as well.

  3. I love this game but I am very frustrated that you can’t turn off user comments. My kids and I were playing some of the awesome user generated levels, but the comments would pop up with swear words and such. So now my 8 year old is only allowed to play levels she builds. I’m totally bummed that they overlooked this. Am I wrong? Is there a way to turn off the user comments after all?

    1. Kate, I meant to hit reply to answer your question, but ended up just posting another comment. 🙂

    2. From the pause screen, you can also disable course comments by tapping on the little button that says “comments”. It cycles between four modes, indicated by the icon: On, TV Only, Gamepad Only, and Off.

  4. Kate, you can disable the comments by using the parental controls in the Wii U menu to restrict their use of miiverse. You need miiverse unlocked to be able to use course world in SMM (I think), but you can restrict their posting and viewing, and then an error message will pop up if they try to click on the comments. I’m not sure about comments popping up during gameplay, though. We haven’t had that happen so far.

    I would like to know how to find your friends and family in course world so that we can follow each other and play the levels we’ve uploaded. There doesn’t seem to be a way to search for makers.

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