Nintendo’s Super Mario Run is a Free to Start, not Free to Play, mobile game that is an auto runner, side scrolling game produced by legendary video game creator, Shigeru Miyamoto. Miyamoto has been involved in creating some of the most well loved and popular video games and characters of all time including the likes of Super Mario, Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong and Star Fox. While we would never expect a mobile game to live up to those high standards, here is hoping that a game with that level of producer and utilising Nintendo’s main star, Mario, will at least be half decent.
So, the premise of the game is simple and very familiar. A short video at the beginning shows Princess Peach be abducted, again, by Bowser. You run your way through each level working your way towards a castle, in the hope of rescuing the princess. There are 6 worlds altogether and each world has 4 stages so that is a grand total of 24 levels to play. Sounds reasonable but they are very, very short. In the free version you get the first 3 levels to play and to unlock level 1-4 and beyond you need to pay to unlock the full game. That costs a hefty £7.99 which is very much the high end of the mobile game market so is it worth it?
Super Mario Run has been designed to be simple and playable with just one hand and so Mario runs from left to right on his own. He also jumps on his own, when a small obstacle, gap or enemy is in his path so all you have to do is add to the jumping which can be done by just tapping the screen at the right time. This can allow you to jump, double jump, bounce off enemies and walls and reach question mark blocks and, importantly, coins that he will not jump to reach in his own. It is the timing of these jumps and the collecting of these coins that are the actual purpose of your games. Mistime a jump and you may miss out on a chain of coins or fall down a pit. If that happens you are picked up in a little bubble and reversed through the course for a time before you tap the bubble to burst it and start the running again. Fail too many times though and you will have to start again but in truth, you won’t fail many times. It is really very, very simple to make it to the end of each level and complete all 24 levels of the main game, known in the app as Tour. Yes, there are a few little challenges where your timing needs to be good but with the short levels and the multiple attempts available to you will find that you figure your way through them all quickly and with ease. The real purpose and replayability comes in the form of the coins.
Now if you have played any Super Mario game, you are aware of the levels being littered with coins but this is possibly the first game where they are the real reason you will need to play again and again. As you run through each level you will need to time your jumps to perfection to collect every coin. There are different coloured coins too so if you manage to make it through a level and collect all the pink coins, the next run will have new purple coins to be collected which will be in different, harder to reach places. Grab all of these and black coins will appear instead. This gives you multiple reasons to replay each level multiple times to grab those coins and unlock bonuses such as tickets which are needed for the other main game mode, called Rally, where you play against the ghost runs from other real players. Beat their run by grabbing more coins and, therefore jumping your way through the level with more style to win. If you win, you earn Toads and the loser loses some as an alternative to points. Rally mode costs tickets to play which can be earned through daily bonuses and grabbing coins in Tour Mode.
The final part of the game allows you to spend your earned coins and bonuses on your home screen to rebuild your kingdom which shows as destroyed after Bowser attacked and absconded with the princess. There is a store where you spend coins to add buildings and decorations, which are unlocked, as you progress though the game and earn more coins. This adds very little to the game but gives you a reason to keep earning coins I guess and there are a few buildings you will want to place which add to the game experience by giving you benefits such as better daily bonuses.
So that is the game really – it is expensive, reasonably short and not too challenging unless you want to try and collect every coin in the game but what it is, is unmistakably Nintendo.
It looks fantastic, plays smoothly and simply and is instantly recognisable. The levels look great as do the characters. You can unlock more playable characters as you progress such as Yoshi, Peach and Luigi, who each have familiar traits such as the ability to float for a short time when playing as Peach. There are Koopas, Bullet Bills, pipes and secret doors and all of them look great and feel familiar even on the mobile platform. The music and effects are the old familiar tunes from the original games from the intro music to the sound of collecting a coin.There were also many obvious opportunities for Nintendo to add micro transactions in here with tickets, coins, buildings to unlock etc… but there are none. All of these items are earned by you with the coins you earn by playing the game so that is nice to see though the high purchase price is probably the reason for this.
As the first proper mobile Mario game, it is a promising sign of things to come as Nintendo look to enhance their presence on mobiles. It isn’t perfect, but it is decent.
It feels a little like you have to choose between whether it is worth spending the money for getting a Mario game. The game alone isn’t worth the price, I don’t think, but it is Mario, it is okay and there is a bucket load of nostalgia that comes with it. If that is enough for you, and for many it will be, then why not? Things don’t always need to be market changing, sometimes it is enough for them to just be okay and to work well. It is expensive but who doesn’t want to hit a brick, get a mushroom and grow into big Mario one more time?
Super Mario Run is available on Apple now with an Android release expected in early 2017.
Super Mario Run
The Final Score - 6/10
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