Mario Makes the Jump To Mobile!
For the first time in his long and storied 2D digital history, Nintendo’s Mario is finally making his debut on mobile phone devices. It’s true that the prized plump plumber is no stranger to being portable, making his first hand held appearance all the way back in the early 80’s with Game & Watch’s Donkey Kong. From there, he would star in various other Game & Watch games, and various other jobs, before finally finding his permanent plumbing position and portable home on Nintendo’s Game Boy starring in 1989’s Super Mario Land. And for nearly 20 years, that’s where Mario stayed, in the dependable hands of Nintendo’s portable division; growing from Game Boy, to the Game Boy Advance, the DS, and today’s 3DSXL. Each iteration of the Game Boy showcasing it’s own collection of great Mario titles. But this year, earlier in 2016, Miyamoto and Nintendo were proud to announce that they were now going to share their pasta loving turtle stomper with an even wider audience by introducing Mario to iOS devices and mobile phones. Fan’s of the mustachio’d main man went wild and were quick to pre-order the download from the app store. After months of waiting, Super Mario Run is finally available.
The Run Down
The game design geniuses behind Super Mario Run knew exactly what they were doing when they created this game. Taking into account that Nintendo already has the world cornered in regards to the hand held gaming experience, thanks largely due to the Nintendo DS/3DS, the game designers understood that were was no need to create a port of their previous Mario titles. Although that does seem to be the trend nowadays in regards to retro classics (I’m looking at you Capcom. ::cough cough:: Mega Man 2 ::cough cough::), Nintendo wasn’t satisfied with just following the trend. Nor, does it seem, were they content with just releasing a series of mini-games, making their mobile outing into some sort of portable Mario party. Instead, the brilliant development team decided to find the perfect middle ground for their mascot: creating a brand new IP that’s just small enough so as not to compete with Nintendo’s own portable sales numbers, and at the same time large enough to distinguish itself from other big name mobile games out there on the market.
The concept behind the game is simple: using simple one touch jump mechanics, you must take control and help navigate a continuously running Mario across a tricky and treacherous stage, collecting coins and avoiding dangers along the way. It’s just like what we are used to with previous Mario games, except this time, Mario runs nonstop. If that sounds simple enough, well that’s because it is. If that sounds a little more complicated than it seems, well, that’s because it is. When I called Super Mario Run’s game designer’s geniuses, I wasn’t kidding. Super Mario Run, in my opinion, is perfect example of how to balance a game for casual and hardcore gamer’s alike. Let me explain.
Setting the Stage
There are 6 worlds in all, and 4 stages per world. When you first download the game, only world 1, stages 1 thru 3, will be available for free. The rest of the worlds are available for purchase for the price of $9.99. That sounds almost unfair, but really, when compared to the in-app purchase prices of some other popular games (::cough cough:: Summoner’s War ::cough cough::), it’s actually incredibly reasonable. This price point will be the first hurdle for the casual gamer, and just a warm up for the hardcore. But despite that, even if you only play the free version of the game, the level design and ingenuity in gameplay mechanics, are still top shelf, and the nostalgia is everything you remembered.
As the title Super Mario Run suggests, Mario runs non stop, and it’s your job to make him jump over obstacles, pitfalls, and opponents. The longer you hold your finger, the higher Mario jumps. A quick tap will have Mario skip lightly over a block or enemy; hold your finger longer and Mario will leap into the air accessing hard to reach ledges or traversing over bottomless pits. Littered all over the stages are gold coins for you to collect. At the end of every stage is the classic flag and flag pole combination, as well as the unmistakeable fireman pole slide to signal victory. And at the end of every world, Bowser on a bridge over lava. All of this is par for the course when it comes to Mario games, which is admittedly a large part of it’s appeal. Casual and fans alike should be very pleased. But this is when it starts to get a little hardcore.
Scattered across every stage are 5 special colored coins; first pink, then purple, and then black. If you manage to run through a course and collect all 5 pink coins, a more difficult version of that same course is then unlocked in which you hunt and collect the purple coins, then so forth with the black coins. You don’t need to collect every gold and special color coin to progress to the next stage, you need only slide down the flag pole and complete the stage. You DO, however, need to collect every special color coin to unlock the next color for that stage. After each stage, a results page will show you how many gold coins you collected, as well as how many of the special coins you gathered. Casual players are free to just complete the stage and enjoy the experience, while undoubtably the hardcore gamers and completionists will try to acquire every special coin. There will also be a leaderboard showing who among you and your friends has collected the most coins for that stage. Rivalries and friendly competitions are just waiting to be had thanks to that leaderboard. Speaking of friends…
Mario Run Party
Adding friends in Super Mario Run uses the same 12 digit code method as other Nintendo consoles, or you can link your Facebook or twitter accounts and find friends that way. Once you’ve added some friends is where the real fun begins in Super Mario Run. As I said earlier, once you have friends you are able to see how well they do on individual stages and compare coin counts. THIS is where Super Mario Run gets addictive and amazing: the competition. I’m sure I’m not the only gamer out there who loves to top leader boards, and seeing the #1 spot change names multiple times during the day is just exhilarating.
So far, my friends list only consists of Awesome Game Blog affiliates, and within that grouping I already find myself running and gunning for pole position. As it stands, Robert is first when it comes to collecting the most coins, and Brandon is first when it comes to most worlds completed. You better believe I’m hot on both of their tales, though! I love it! It’s that little bit of burning fire that comes from friendly competition that I believe the game developers really wanted it’s players to feel. However, the competition just doesn’t come from who collects the most coins in stages, it also comes from who collects the most toads!
There’s two modes in this game: Tour and Rally. Tour mode is the single player game mode, and Rally is the two player competitive mode. Both modes feel roughly the same, with two major differences: there’s no flag pole at the end of Rally, instead, the stages continues on in a loop; you’ll be running against another player. The goal of Rally is collect more coins and more toads than the other player. The way to collect toads is to impress them, usually by doing some well timed jumps, or jumping on enemies. At the end of a designated time, the match ends and the scores are tallied, and to the victor go the toads!
Where do you keep the toads you win, you wonder? Well, Super Mario Run also has a kingdom builder feature which allows you to customize and build your very own Mushroom Kingdom! You are able to purchase aesthetic pieces such as trees, plants, and hills; as well as housing for your many Mushroom people that you’ve won in Rally. Toads come in their own distinct colors, as well as purchasable color coordinating housing. The more you play the game, the more worlds you will unlock. The more worlds you unlock, the more colorful toads you can acquire. The more colorful your mushrooms, the more colorful your Mushroom Kingdom!
The game is barely in it’s first week of launch, and already there are players out there who’ve amassed over a thousand toads! And I’m certain there are some dedicated Mario fans out there right now practicing on their favorite stages in order to pull off the perfect run through. As well I’m sure that it’s only a matter of time before youtube will start seeing it’s first upload of speed runs for Super Mario Run.
I love this game, and I don’t deny that I am being biased. I’ve loved Mario games since I was young, and Super Mario Run is able to capture the very essence of Mario games: quick, colorful and casual with an underlying layer of difficulty that is both extremely fun and extremely challenging at the same time. From the very instant I heard Mario’s distinct voice at the beginning of the game, to every unique sound and visual choice afterward, the Mario universe is alive and well in this game. The $10 that it takes to unlock the whole experience might cause most casual gamers to look the other way, in my opinion, that is money well spent on a game that is addictive and fun. Whether Super Mario Run is as well received as other portable Mario outings is too early to say, but in my opinion, it’s definitely in the running for one of the best platforming iOS games of 2016.