Nintendo’s done it again. Like Splatoon before it, Super Mario Maker is a new game making a huge splash on the oft-maligned Wii U platform.
Super Mario Maker is a game that lets players make their own Super Mario Bros. levels for others to play. Having seen for years what kind of levels amateurs make when given the chance, hold onto your hat. Sturgeon’s Law will be in full effect here.
Not that Super Mario Maker can’t turn out to be a great thing. But the fact is, people don’t know how to make a good level. The tools to make Mario levels have been around for years online, Super Mario World Central is a whole community of people who make Super Mario World levels and share them. But most of them are terrible, and Super Mario Maker won’t change that.
I’m looking for one feature to be patched into Mario Maker for it to turn into a truly great release. Right now players can only share single levels with each other. What we need is for players to be able to share sets of levels, as a complete (though usually short) Mario-style game. That way the good game designers, the real artists, can share an entire game experience for players to enjoy without having to wade through levels like the one pictured above.
The history of Super Mario Bros. community game design has some real highlights. One of the most famous is Kaizo Mario, a short game full of short but incredibly difficult levels. The problem with Kaizo Mario’s success is that so many amateur developers try far too hard to make their own very hard levels, only they misunderstand completely what made Kaizo Mario great: short levels with clearly-defined gimmick challenges. Basically the game is designed like the official games, but harder.
Long levels in particular are a trap fallen into by amateur designers. Fortunately Nintendo has attempted to mitigate that problem by disallowing midpoints/checkpoints in Super Mario Maker, so that levels can’t be turned into never-ending slogs.
But still, the ability to play entire collections of games by one designer or team, is a badly missed feature in Super Mario Maker. I hope and honestly expect it comes later as an add-on. When that happens I will not be able to recommend the game enough. Until then, I could take it or leave it.
New Super Luigi U is a delightful game in the meantime.