|System: Wii U|
|Release: September 11, 2015|
|Players: 1 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080i||Comic Mischief|
by Sean Engemann
Nintendo, often labeled as a xenophobic game developer who keeps their designs close to the vest and their secrets puckered up tighter than a snare drum, has opened the floodgates to would-be designers. Now their most sacred franchise, Super Mario Bros., has been deconstructed down to its individual pieces, with the Wii U GamePad acting as graph paper, and offered to players to let their level design imaginations run wild. Now, stages that took weeks and months to create back in the days of the original Super Mario Bros., can be fashioned in an hour or two using Super Mario Maker's expertly crafted and user-friendly editing tools. The game boasts nearly limitless platforming possibilities, but a close inspection reveals the strings wielded by the developer to keep complete freedom in check. Of course, rules are made to be broken.
The game begins in a modest fashion, providing the very basic set pieces, power-ups, and enemies, along with a slice of the Super Mario Bros. iconic World 1-1 level. After a very brief tutorial the palette is handed over to you. Nintendo clearly avoids guiding your hand, instead filling the frame with icons begging to be experimented with. Piecing together your first course couldn't be easier. Drag and place terrain, pop in Super Mushrooms and Goombas with a tap of the stylus, stretch some Green Pipes, then scroll around and tweak your first draft. You can quickly copy and paste one or multiple pieces, erase mistakes, clear the entire board, and undo previous changes. You can plop down Mario at any time and start a test run to work out the kinks and test the difficulty.
New elements are locked behind time barriers. After fiddling around in the editor for a few minutes you'll receive a notification of new content arriving the next day. A few crucial elements such as Warp Pipes and the addition of a secondary "sub-level" are held until the final day. But once everything becomes accessible after just over a week (or playing time traveler with the system clock), you're free to go crazy... to an extent.
You're given a fair chunk of space to be creative, but there is still a ceiling as to how much you can cram into your courses. You can load the screen with hundreds of coins, but not nearly as many Bill Blasters. You're limited to four sets of connecting doors, putting the kibosh on any thoughts of a fully loaded maze of doors. Once you near the limit, items that require more space will become grayed out. Fortunately the "sub-level", once unlocked, handles its own capacity, essentially doubling the amount you can play with.
Super Mario Maker encourages imagination, and you'll quickly find that you can take a single set piece or simple concept and fashion a remarkable level around it. My most recent creation, which I titled, "Burning Skies" has the player gingerly navigating though the sky atop Note Blocks and scrolling platforms while dodging Fire Bars, fireball shooting Piranha Plants, and Lava Bubbles launched by Lakitu. There are plenty of surprises beyond what is displayed on the surface. Many items can be shook using the stylus to reveal an alternate function. Chain Chomps, for instance, can be freed from their tether anchor, green Koopa Troopas can be changed to red, Spiny can shaken out of its spiked shell, which can then be used as a power-up that knocks even Thwomps off the screen. Many items and enemies can be combined for even more possibilities. Instead of just a Piranha Plant, try giving it a Super Mushroom and Wings for a more intense challenge.