Super Mario Run: Five first impressions
by Bryant Francis
So Super Mario Run is here! Nintendo’s first big leap onto mobile answers a lot of questions of how the company is going to enter this uncharted territory, and now that Avengers Academy has vaguely revived my faith in mobile games again, I decided to download Super Mario Run and drop the $10 to see what Nintendo has up its sleeve.
Here’s a few impressions based on about 2 hours of futzing with the game. For some context, I’m not a Mario connoisseur by any means, but I do think there are some clear takeaways for game developers to focus on when they pick up the game.
1. It’s not an endless runner, and that lets it create interesting encounters
Endless runners have basically taken over the mobile platforming genre, but Nintendo’s insistence on levels with a fixed start and end let it create a bevy of unique challenges that unfold across a single space that have that traditional Miyamoto-inspired feel. Often times these challenges, such as a push to practice wall-jumping, or a set of enemies positioned just right, will chain-link together into a delightful interaction that adds a nice bit of surprise to the experience.
I really think that designers interested in making platformers should pay close attention to what Nintendo’s doing here, since it may open a space for developers interested in making tightly designed platformers on mobile (Cause lord knows Steam is not being kind to them right now).
2. The sound design is aces.
The sounds that come with jumping, collecting coins, and defeating enemies are mostly familiar invocations of the Super Mario aural palette, but if you listen close it’s clear there’s a lot of fine-tuned ‘juice’ that’s meant to satisfy quickly and clearly. Combined with the 90 second levels, it’s a good anchoring point for the short play sessions that will help psychologically hook casual players who aren’t here to master the biggest challenges.
3. There’s some interesting little twists on the Mario formula.
When Mario collides with an enemy or falls off a ledge, he gets another chance at solving the obstacle, instead of resetting back at a checkpoint. But interestingly, the reset mechanic—a bubble that lifts you up and guides you back through the level—lets players choose where to restart the challenge, giving them some agency over this do-over that I haven’t seen in other games. It’s a quality Nintendo innovation, and other games should steal it right away.
Elsewhere, one whole level is structured with the navigation logic of Super Mario Bros, with players traveling off screen to the right and appearing on screen on the left—it’s a good change-up from the left-to-right motion, and also allows for inspired levels that make strong use of the portrait alignment.
4. This game’s going to be about replayability, but for what payoff I’m not sure yet.
It’s clear that with only a handful (24 at most?) tightly defined levels, Nintendo is interested in encouraging players to master these levels and bring those skills over to Toad Rally mode, where players can compete with AI versions of other players to attract more Toads to their kingdom. There’s a lot of long-haul challenges, like killing X number of Goombas, for instance, and building up the kingdom as a whole, that simulate the usual “live” mobile experience without pushing microtransactions.
5. I have no clue what’s going on with the social stuff
I’m lucky that my Nintendo account was—still logged in somehow on my mobile phone, but it’s not entirely clear what the value of adding friends is. Luckily finding friends from Facebook and Twitter is vaguely as easy as it was with Miitomo, but I think Nintendo still seems to have an internal mental block on what an ‘online’ experience is, and what they can do well with it.
All in all I think Super Mario Run by itself is a good Nintendo game that just happens to be on iOS, and I don’t know if any of these specific takeaways will impact how well it does financially. I do hope that its hands-off approach to microtransactions (just charging you once for the content) is how the game will company will approach its upcoming DeNA-backed gamesFire Emblem and Animal Crossing series, but my hopes don’t run especially high. (source:gamasutra)