Friday, December 23, 2016

Super Mario Run (iOS) Review

Nintendo and DeNA's partnership has seen much excitement within the mobile gaming community. First was Miitomo, a free social networking app starring Nintendo's Miis, then was the phenomenon that rekindled the love of the series for many people with Pokemon Go, and now it's Mario's turn with Super Mario Run. A lot of bickering has gone on regarding the price, but how is the actual game? That's what this in-depth SuperPhillip Central review intends to find out.

Mario goes mobile with much success.


Nintendo's pursuits in mobile have seen a lot of hype from consumers and some ire from more engaged gamers. Late and great Nintendo president Satoru Iwata came to terms with putting the company's franchises on mobile for two main reasons: 1) To add an extra stream of revenue for the company, and 2) To expand Nintendo's franchises to new audiences, perhaps getting them interested in Nintendo hardware and software. For the latter, this has come true, as seen with Pokemon GO and the increased interest and sales in Pokemon games on the Nintendo 3DS. Now, it's Nintendo's-- and the gaming industry in general's biggest star's chance to shine with Super Mario Run. With it, Nintendo has successfully taken the traditional Mario experience and retooled it almost perfectly to mobile.

Super Mario Run is an automatic runner that sees Mario moving forward continuously. It uses a very simple touch-centric control system, where depending on how long you press the bottom of the touch screen, the higher Mario jumps. Ordinarily, Mario will vault over small block-high enemies and obstacles, but tapping the touch screen when he's over, say, a Goomba, will have him perform an acrobatic maneuver to gain him height.

For such a simple control system, there is a lot you can do with Mario in Super Mario Run. Like the New Super Mario Bros. games, Mario has the ability to wall jump, something that is a major importance in clearing some levels or accessing hard-to-reach areas. Timing your jumps efficiently makes reaching challenging coins and special areas possible, and getting a perfect run going feels absolutely awesome.

The goal of the 24+ levels in Super Mario Run is to simply make it the flagpole, or in the case of airship and castle levels, make it to the end and beat either series mainstays Boom Boom or Bowser in quick combat. Generally, reaching the goal of a given level isn't too taxing, and most players should be able to do so. Unlike other games of the genre, Super Mario Run's levels feature many alternate paths and routes, allowing players to take advantage of them to score big coinage or other benefits.

Death in a level results in having Mario become encased in a bubble, moving backward in a level. Pop the bubble, and you're placed back in the level. Just don't do it while the bubble is over a bottomless pit like I've done many a time! As long as you have an extra bubble in your arsenal, as seen on the top of the screen, you can continue the level if you die. Without a bubble, death means restarting the level over again after hearing the famous "you died" jingle from the Super Mario series. You can also forcefully use a bubble in case you miss an important item or wish to take a different route in a level.

However, to add some longevity to the main mode, each level contains a batch of five pink coins that need to be collected in one run. After collecting all pink levels in a level, then the harder-to-collect purple coins unlock, and after those have been collected in one run, a final series of five black coins unlock to collect. As you progress in collecting coins, you get to see the level design truly shine. Sometimes the level gets shaken up a little bit between colored coin collecting types. For instance, the first level in the game adds blocks to wall jump off of to collect one of the black coins. Collecting all of the three series of coins in all 24 levels is a mighty challenge to do, and they will not only put your platforming prowess (or lack thereof) to the test, but they'll really make you appreciate how clever and well put together the level design in Super Mario Run is.

While collecting the differently colored coins is merely optional (though not if you wish to unlock the three extra-hard bonus levels), it makes sense to try to collect them. After all, if you're going to pay the atypically high for mobile $9.99 price point, you should probably want to get as much for your money as possible. Collecting the various colored coins will very much give you way more bang for your buck.

Super Mario Run also features a side mode called Toad Rally. In it, you select from a series of five players and race against their ghost data in a given level. You can only play levels from worlds you've already beaten. Levels don't have ends to them, rather they continuously loop, with the goal of collecting as many coins as possible, defeating as many enemies as possible, and performing as many tricks as possible to gain points and get the various Toads to root for you. Collect enough coins and defeat enough enemies, and you'll enter Coin Rush mode, where coins rain down like water for you to collect. The only issue I have with initiating Coin Rush is that there is a brief pause when Coin Rush mode is activated, which on more occasions than I would have liked, messed with my timing, sometimes resulting in falling into a bottomless pit, where Coin Rush is then abruptly ended.

At the end of a Toad Rally, the player with the most points gets all of the collected Toads from the round. There are five colored varieties of Toads in all, and many are only available in specific level types, such as ghost houses or underground levels. Your collection of Toads add up to unlock new content in the Kingdom Builder portion of Super Mario Run, where you can use your coins to place Super Mario universe buildings and objects, some unlocking one of five bonus characters to play as. Earning more Toads means earning more buildings and objects to place in your ever-expanding kingdom.

Super Mario Run's greatest problems arise from the $9.99 price point, which I talked about in an earlier article this week. Because of how Nintendo and DeNA set up the game, after playing the first four levels for free, a prompt to purchase the full game for $9.99 pops up. If the developers were more direct with the price point on the App Store, maybe having a demo version and then the full version, I feel that the sticker shock of the price wouldn't have been so massive to a great deal of iPhone and iPad users. Furthermore, the need to always be connected online with Super Mario Run makes for some inconvenience, especially to those here in the States where there is no signal in subways, a place where people travel quite often. For me, it wasn't a bother, as I just played at home, but it's a serious deterrent for buying the game for some.

Being Nintendo's first paid piece of software on the App Store, I feel Super Mario Run successfully brings the Super Mario franchise and platforming fun the series is known for and makes it work in a unique way for mobile devices. While you don't have the same freedom of control obviously, you do get a similar challenge, especially if you decide to get more bang for your buck and go for all of the pink, purple, and black coins in all of the levels. The price point and always-online requirement may be dissatisfying to some, but Mario's arrival on mobile devices is overall a massive success.

[SPC Says: B+]

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