It’s about damn time, mobile gaming…..
It’s a typical Thursday afternoon here at Thumb Culture Towers (a place that was once PSGamer HQ, that was HeyUGuys Gaming before that. We got through a lot of names). Sean is drooling over PSN deals, teasing himself with the possibility of Mafia III for a miserably cheap £25, wondering if his children have been good enough this year that they should benefit from what resides within the PSN penny jar instead. Stu is looking for someone to Netflix and Neflix with (yes, no Chill) and Paul is so deep in PlayStation VR he now believes that our reality is a dystopian future in which reality as perceived by most humans is actually a simulated reality called “the Matrix”, created by sentient machines to subdue the human population, while their bodies’ heat and electrical activity are used as an energy source.
It’s quite the conundrum.
And me? I’m just sat here putting the finishing touches to our Christmas tree, longingly placing a visual depiction of Delilah in Firewatch upon it, creating a somewhat full circle in that this year of which we are leaving. It’s a touching display of how terrific gaming has been all year round. On consoles and PC, at least.
On mobile? It’s been another year of tremendously banal trash. Our App Store stockings filled with more and more absolute piss which offers us nothing to enjoy. Our televisions are full of ‘download free on the App Store’ garbage which we believe offer us excitement, instead creating an industry sector so utterly devoid of anything that can truly be recommended to gamers in any capacity. It’s a cesspit of FTP titles and classic games ‘remastered’ for mobiles, offering us Grand Theft Auto with the type of touchscreen controls that make you want to throw your expensive mobile device through the nearest window in the hopes it’ll land on a teenager declaring Mobile Strike is the best game ever. Once again, the mobile genre has had a godawful year.
Then this happened.
Shigeru Miyamoto appears, RKO outta nowhere on the Apple stage where they plan to announce the brand new iPhone and steals the show, revealing to the iCult that a brand new Mario game will be coming to their devices. The room goes mad. The internet caves in on itself and this humble writer whose words you are currently reading literally fell of his chair (literally. I’ve still got the scar). That game? Super Mario Run. And it’s here, and I’ve been playing it all damn day.
Let’s get this straight right from the off, Super Mario Run is not free.
Yes, it’s free to download. Yes, you can play the first three levels, experience a Toad Rally and check out the empty Mushroom Kingdom that you need to rebuild, but that’s it. It’s absolutely the smartest way to demo this game to the masses.
After you’ve exhausted all of the free options, the game asks for £7.99 for the entire shebang to be unlocked. If this is an issue for you, you may aswell stop reading. There’s plenty of free to play greatness(!) that you can enjoy on the App Store. I’m sure you won’t have a problem finding a game as dense and as lovingly crafted as this one without spending a penny or seeing a single advert pop up anywhere.
Go ahead. I’ll wait.
…..Oh hi! How did you get on? Oh? Of course I’ll tell you all about Super Mario Run! Pull up a toadstool.
Super Mario Run is all about bringing back that feeling of running through classic Mario levels without breaking a sweat. It’s about bringing back that nostalgia-ridden beating heart of retro gaming where every tap meant life or death. This is not an endless runner with procedurally-generated levels (god I’m sick of that term. CHOOSE ONE DESIGN, DEVS), each level has been intricately designed, returning you to that golden era of platform gaming and placing it slap bang back into your hand.
Mario runs automatically. He reaches a Goomba and other grounded enemies and simply vaults over him like Nicholas Angel before a Somerset fence. This can be timed to jump off their backs to reach higher platforms. You can hold down your tap to make Mario jump just that little bit higher. Suddenly it feels like you’re in control of classic Mario and it all comes flooding back to you, the jumps are as precise and perfectly executed as ever. Jumpman has never felt so good.
You do get to have yourself a bit of a breather every now and then. Environments include a ‘pause’ block which will allow you to time jumps perfectly, which is pretty much essential if you wanna get through the levels beyond World 1. Wall jumps also make a welcome return, another mechanic you’ll need to learn quickly to adapt to Mario’s speed. You’ll be jumping on Bullet Bill’s to reach elusive higher ground and sailing through the air spin floating off walls. Every touch feels important, every weighted jump appears to have been analysed, discussed and perfected, possibly multiple times until it felt completely perfect. The Nintendo difference.
This is the classic Mario we know and adore. Yes you’ve got your Super Mushroom but nothing else. No flying squirrels or fireballs here. Instead, you’ll find that the more elusive scenery segments such as the p-block is utilised far more than in the past. Mario can still backflip, moving backwards and up which allows the player to retract to platforms they may have missed to take another route, a wonderful piece of animation then sees Mario turn straight back around and carry on running again. As Mario is continuously running you have to think one step ahead at all times. You need to get Mario to a particular platform, you could vault off a Goomba and use the extra momentum or you could backflip off the wall to jump up that way, but now there’s a huge gap between you and the next jump, have you left enough space to make it? Do you need to go back down? You can’t, you’re still moving, you’re gonna have to hope there is something that will appear than can save you here. A p-block? Brilliant, that’ll create a bridge that wasn’t there before, gotta jump on that. Oh ok, straight run, but there’s more coins up that way, what next?
This is Super Mario Run, it never lets up. Your brain is going overtime and soon enough you’ll be making your friends call you Miyagi.
You’re consistently moving, always looking for ways to get through the level as harmlessly as possible. Of course, a mistimed jump here or a run in with a Bullet Bill there and you’re gonna pay for it, though this is rare. The levels are designed to ensure you keep moving, never interrupting the flow. If you do lose it somewhere, Mario can still wall-jump out of pits or even climb up platform edges you just missed by an inch. The game offers a bubble to save you and place you back in a place of your choice in the level should you actually fall or get hit by an enemy. They’re limited, but handy. Especially if you’ve missed something. These levels are built around your travelling lifestyle, they’re not especially long but can be challenging and offer a great relief when they’re finally complete. The beauty is you need to replay each level at least three times to collect everything you can from each level. Pink, purple and black coins are available on every level individually, and only unlock once you’ve collected all 5 of the colour before it. A great incentive to keep jumping back in, improve your skills and figure out new ways to navigate Mario with a single touch of the screen.
What else does Super Mario Run offer?
Well there’s Toad Rally, the online mode which I can’t seem to stop playing. Toad Rally gets you running through a stage against another players ghost and makes you work for coins and ‘stylish’ play. You can grab yourself a Coin Rush and the more you collect, the longer it goes on. It’s an awful lot of fun and a perfect addition to the replayability of SMR as a whole. It give you something to aim for and encourages you not to just get through the levels, but get through them well.
When you clear your opponent you suddenly don’t blink and instead are focused on all the Toad’s you need to impress in order to get the highest score, tallied up at the end (the Toad Tally. Yes, we love it too) of the level to discover who has earned the Toads to come to their Mushroom Kingdom. It’s probably my favourite aspect of the game as a whole.
Then you’ve got the final piece of this gloriously irresistible puzzle; the Mushroom Kingdom. Now, don’t go into this expecting The Simpsons Tapped Out!!, cus it ain’t that. As you progress through the game acquiring Toads you can unlock houses, fences, flowers and lay them out to your hearts content, in an attempt to rebuild the Kingdom that Bowser destroyed for some reason. You can also build houses that allow you to play bonus games. Everything you earn in terms of coins you collect within the main game and Toad Rally can be spent building up your Mushroom Kingdom. It’s not particularly dense but it’s a nice distraction. And just FYI, I’d play a Mushroom Kingdom Build-It Simulator in a heartbeat, Ninty.
So then, do you think it’s worth your seven pounds and ninety-nine pence? In my opinion, it’s worth it and more. In the space of around 24 hours I’ve had an absolute blast with Super Mario Run, it’s everything I wanted and a whole lot more. Being able to play Mario on my iPad is a wonderful experience and that it may not do as well as Nintendo have clearly hoped due to its absolutely fair price point is baffling. There’s a persistent argument raging in the gaming industry about Free-To-Play, and how it’s making money hand over first offering little transactions here and there. A majority of the gaming audience seems to have had enough and won’t dip their toe into the mobile market until they get substantial games that I’ve no doubt they’ll be happy to pay for.
And so, here’s your chance to put your money where your mouth is, gamers. If you want to see more of this kind of strategy, where you get a game you’ll play for donkeys years you’re simply going to have to pay for it. I’m sick to death of ‘micro-transactions’, I would happily pay for my game fully and let me ‘work’ my way up. I’ve never paid to win, ever. Maybe it’s just the old school mentality in me but that defeats the object of why we do this doesn’t it? As soon as my demo levels were up on Super Mario Run I immediately jumped to play more. The value of a new Mario game to me is that much. There’s absolutely no reason why I wouldn’t give Nintendo my money for something this great. This isn’t just another mobile game, for mobile gaming this is as AAA as it gets. We simply have to support it.
I’m not saying Super Mario Run is the first game to charge a ‘premium’ for a mobile experience but damn, it’s the first one to do it on this scale, with this important of a character. It’s a Mario game that’s not on a Nintendo device. Think of how long Apple have been making iDevices, and how long this has taken. Then think of how much you’re paying for these bloody devices. Don’t you think you should be playing some great damn games on it?
The mobile gaming audience needs Super Mario Run. Do not ignore it, in the long run it will be better for all of us.