- Developer: Nintendo EPD
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Release Date: December 15, 2016
- Platform: iOS
- Playtime: 7 hours
- Acquisition: Purchased by Reviewer
In March of 2015, Nintendo announced that they were partnering with DeNa to make mobile apps. Their first effort, the social based Miitomo, released one year later to a mixed reception. Then in July came Pokemon Go, developed by Niantic. Taking the world by storm, Pokemon Go broke the App Store record for most first-week downloads. Now, Nintendo has released the next game in their mobile initiative, starring their industry-changing mascot, the world-renowned Mario.
Instead of adopting a free to play model, Super Mario Run costs a one-time price of ten dollars after playing the first three levels for free. The price structure may be traditional, though it’s questionable with the content provided.
Is it Mario?
Well, that’s pretty much it, in addition to a very brief cutscene. A narrative mix up would’ve been nice, but the plot meets the expectations for a 2D Mario title.
Super Mario Run looks exactly like a New Super Mario Bros game. This may be disappointing for some, but it’s probably a good idea for Nintendo to use a recognizable look in order to maximize appeal in a market that’s new to them. Super Mario Run does suffer from being too familiar since all the visuals are existing franchise assets. So the game doesn’t boast any new visual motifs as other Mario titles often do.
The soundtrack faces a similar fate to the visual design, consisting entirely of slightly remixed songs from the New Super Mario Bros series. Super Mario Run would’ve benefitted from original music since the New Super Mario tracks are greatly overused.
Tap to Play
Played with the tap of a finger, Mario runs automatically, even vaulting over enemies all on his own. Jumping and mid-air spinning are what players need to focus on when attempting to complete the levels.
Surprisingly, the mechanics lead to gameplay that’s radically different from other 2D Mario games. Even seasoned Mario veterans likely won’t feel right at home as it takes a few levels to become accustomed to the new gameplay. Despite Super Mario Run lacking the word “New” in its title, it certainly manages to put a fresh spin on the series.
Boss battles in Super Mario Run sadly are abysmal and feel as if they weren’t created with mobile in mind. An exception though is the final level since it features a decent boss fight. Made with auto-scrolling in mind, this final battle excels and it’s a shame the previous ones didn’t follow the same route.
Super Mario Run’s gameplay may be unique, yet it doesn’t capture the magic of past Mario titles. The automatic running of Mario feels boring and requires little skill of the player. Or at least, this can be the case when playing only to beat the levels.
Super Mario Run’s World Tour mode consists of 24 levels and takes about an hour to beat. Designed well, the levels usually give Mario different ways to navigate the environment. Players also have the option of collecting the rather difficult hidden pink coins throughout each level.
These coins take skill to find and collect, and are where the real challenge of the game exists. They force the player to navigate the levels in different, more challenging ways and often require large amounts of precision. When it comes down to it they’re reskins of older levels, and they don’t necessarily alleviate the short length of the campaign.
The main issue of these coins is that in order to unlock the next set, the player must collect all five in one playthrough. This makes trying to collect them incredibly aggravating. Furthermore, without knowing where they are beforehand, some coins are nearly impossible to collect.
Bubbles, which act as lives, make the task somewhat easier, allowing some backtracking. Despite the presence of Bubbles, it doesn’t account for the poor design choice of collecting all the coins in one try. This design choice simply comes across as a way to pad out the game’s content.
Collecting all of the coins of one set will unlock a bonus level, which means that there are three in total. These are a fun reward for the task, though it would’ve been nice if there were more.
Toad Rally serves as the other big mode in Super Mario Run for players to delve into. In it, players compete against the ghost data of other players, running through looping courses and impressing toads. This mode focuses on collecting coins in a timely manner, which promotes a different skill set than World Tour, and it’s a fun change of pace.
Toad Rally becomes confusing for a variety of reasons. For one, players don’t choose the course they want to compete on, just the theme of it. These include plains, airship, or ghost house. Toad Rally stages loop, so players will usually run through the same places even in one play, which gets annoying.
An additional annoyance comes up during coin rushes, which are the climaxes of Toad Rally. These are supposed to be advantageous to the player, but there are too many things on the screen at once which results in lost lives and frustration.
Upon kidnapping Peach, Bowser also laid waste to the Mushroom Kingdom. With no inhabitants, it’s up to the player to rebuild the kingdom to what it once was. While it serves as a nice connection between the other two modes, Kingdom Builder is ultimately unappealing and amounts to very little.
Players can use collected coins from other modes to purchase buildings, plants or pipes to decorate their kingdom. Kingdom Builder serves a greater purpose since it unlocks content such as new characters. Oddly enough, character unlocking isn’t done with coins but rather with colored toads. This ties into the muddled Toad Rally.
Despite having five types of toads, there’s no real purpose to each category. For the best unlocks players need large amounts of each toad, which negates any uniqueness to a particular type.
Though tedious to unlock, the six different playable characters do a great job of mixing up the gameplay. Each has unique skills, and it’s fun deciding which one will be the best to take into situations. The characters extend the replay value of the game, but it’s a shame they take so long to unlock.
Mario Mobile Mayhem
Despite issues ranging from padding with collectibles to a lackluster Kingdom Builder mode, Super Mario Run is what a mobile Nintendo game should be. It offers a taste of what the franchise is like, while still bringing something new to the table.
Super Mario Run isn’t a replacement for the console Mario experiences, but it’s a fun game to pick up and play. The gameplay is simple, and if the 24 levels, countless collectibles, and unlockable characters seem to be worth ten dollars don’t hesitate to pick it up.