After several months of waiting since Apple and Nintendo made the joint announcement, Super Mario has landed on iOS for the first time in the form of Super Mario Run. It’s the side-scrolling adventure you might expect as Mario goes on a mission to save Princess Peach from the evil Bowser.
The game is similar and different from the older Super Mario games in many ways, as I pointed out in my first impressions post. Make no mistake that this is a new, separate game from the rest though. As such, Super Mario Run deserves a full review, so let’s get into it.
Design and Gameplay
Let me start by saying that Nintendo took me by surprise when I went to download it. The game is initially free to download. Once you get past the first three levels, you get prompted to pay $9.99 to unlock the full game. This was actually a little disappointing. The App Store has a serious problem right now with users not wanting to pay upfront (or at all) for quality games anymore. I thought for sure if any company could solve it, it was Nintendo, but alas they took the freemium route too. It’ll be interesting to see if Super Mario Run inspires users to start paying for quality again.
The setup process is pretty bad. At the start, I had to scroll through a long list of countries to choose mine, even though my iPhone knows my location already and can tell the app in an instant. The beginning tutorial is oddly tedious and half-baked at the same time. We get it: tap to jump. Something more useful would be nice.
Once you’re passed that though the game is a blast. The graphics are terrific and gameplay is extremely smooth. I had not one hiccup playing during all my time with Super Mario Run. If you’re thinking you can pull out your Nintendo DS and play Super Mario Bros. instead of this, don’t, because this is its own game. The enemies and the general concepts are familiar, but there are different bosses, different challenges, and different worlds.
It’s true, Mario runs continuously through the game. He stops on certain platforms or when you reach pause blocks, but for the vast majority, he’s had plenty of coffee. You don’t even need to tap to jump over small enemies, he automatically leaps right over them. I’m not sure I enjoy this because it makes the game easier and I enjoy a challenge. However, while he leaps over them you can tap to destroy the enemy and gain a coin rather than merely passing by.
You’re on a time crunch in Super Mario Run, more so than any other Super Mario game I’ve played. The levels aren’t as long and neither is the timer. If you die at all during a level, you get two free saves via a bubble that lifts you up and places you again. This only partially makes the game easier because the timer doesn’t reset once Mario returns, so you lose precious seconds to make it to the flag in time.
Another reason why the paywall is a mistake is because the first three levels (which are free) are deceptively easy. I got through them in minutes when I played the demo at the Apple Store and I beat them even more quickly on my own iPhone. The game gets more difficult as you progress through the levels and worlds. New enemies, harder obstacles and even new enhancements like timer boosts come into play later on. Free users don’t get to see that.
Speaking of the worlds, Super Mario Run has six of them. Four levels per world give you a total of 24 levels to complete for your 10 bucks. I haven’t totally finished the whole game just yet, but at my current pace it seems like most people can finish it in about an hour. I do wish there were at least 30 levels because this seems somewhat short. That said, there are other fun things to do in Super Mario Run besides run through the tour mode.
Mario Gets Social
You can add friends using a horribly archaic method of exchanging 12-digit “player IDs” and compare rally scores. The rally mode is separate from the tour and lets you compete with online players to collect the most coins within a time limit and get toads to cheer you on. The person with the most toads on their side wins.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t figure out a way to duel my friends. I could only compare scores after the fact, but there was no live multiplayer mode. Instead, I had to play users Nintendo selects at random, which is odd to say the least.
Rally mode is still fun though and adds an entirely new aspect to the game. The more points you rack up the more you can build up your toad kingdom. You can also do this by entering Build It! mode and spending coins to place new buildings and objects that unlock additional features and bonus gameplay.
Nintendo Scores Big
I’m surprisingly far more impressed with Super Mario Run than I thought I’d be based on my initial impressions. I had fun with the demo version, but between both tour and rally modes, this game is totally worth 10 bucks. I’d even pay $15. Graphics are vivid and colorful like casino slots, gameplay is captivating, and the classic storyline is still amusing.
Super Mario Run needs work in some areas like the UI outside of the game — menu, kingdoms, setup, etc. Plus, it could benefit dramatically from an improvement to the social aspect. But for Mario’s big break on iOS, Nintendo has him running like a champion.
➤ Super Mario Run in App Store (free)