Review: Super Mario Run is a sparkling new twist on an old idea
This year, Mario will be thirty-years old and, in that time, the nifty little plumber has managed to shape gaming as we know it today.
Beginning as a coin-op arcade feature, Mario quickly grew to become the most ubiquitous symbol of both Nintendo and gaming at large. It goes Mario, Sonic and Lara Croft and it's been that way for twenty odd years. However, with the advent of Sony and Microsoft entering the console market, Nintendo's fortunes have diminished slightly and Mario has become more a symbol of nostalgia than anything else.
Outside of hardcore enthusiasts, the speed-runners or Mario Maker designers, Super Mario has long been overlooked by mainstream gaming. However, with the arrival of Super Mario Run to iOS, Mario might just be getting a mushroom to boost him into the mobile world. From the very beginning of Super Mario Run, what's most striking about it is how easily you'll feel yourself getting back into the old rhythm of playing not only Super Mario, but platforming games in general.
You remember that it's mostly about timing and flow, rather than stopping to think. Although the constant movement of your character might be off-putting initially, it doesn't take all that long to adapt and before long, you'll find yourself getting into the swing of it. The game doesn't have much in the way of a narrative, instead focusing on a tour - which is essentially six worlds with three levels each and a boss level at the end - and Toad Rally, which is where the real fun happens.
Toad Rally sees players pitted against ghosts of other players in an attempt to score the most amount of points. You perform lots of flashy jumps, beat more enemies than the other player, get further into the level than the other player, and you win the round and collect their Toads. The more Toads you have, the more you can expand your Kingdom and get access to higher-stake players and bonuses. The matchmaking has, for the most part, been quite evenly matched and the skill levels amongst early players seems to be reasonably balanced - unlike, say, Pokemon GO.
The design of Super Mario Run is neat and easy to use with bright and colourful landscapes as you'd expect from Nintendo. The music is the usual chirpy nonsense from most Mario games and the sound effects all have the familiar twang. Likewise, the graphics and animation are slickly produced and, most surprising of all, the game doesn't draw all that much in terms of battery usage.
At €9.99, it's definitely more pricey than other games in the Apple Store, but thankfully Nintendo have not yet given over to the idea of microtransactions. Indeed, the opening three levels of the game are free of charge and players can play them to decide if they're interested in the wider aspects of the game.
Although it may seem like it, Super Mario Run isn't just a simple port to the mobile games market and it isn't a bland pastiche of the original Super Mario either. It works from the DNA of the original games, but incorporates the limitations of the mobile into the makeup of the game so that they're positives. For example, you can very easily play Super Mario Run with one hand.
In essence, what Super Mario Run has over other games in the Apple Store is charm and quality of design. You can tell that professionals worked at this game to make it as playable and fun as possible, and that's something that's truly rare in most mobile games. Many are so flat and boring, with nothing in the way of unique design or even a reason to continue playing past the initial stages. The multiplayer aspect of Super Mario Run is a masterstroke, and the added bonus of finding fellow players and friends on the game to play against shows that Nintendo is thinking long-term about the game.
It's a joy to play and a snazzy update on a modern classic. Highly recommended.
Story by Brian Lloyd | 19:46 | Saturday 17th December 2016 | Games