Like the crown jewel of a beggar king, Super Mario Maker for the Wii U was one of the few titles I actually felt I missed out on when deciding to pass on the console, and was glad to see Nintendo come to their senses in porting it to their more successful handheld.
For those unfamiliar, Super Mario Maker does exactly what it says on the box, it lets you make Mario levels in classic 2D side-scrolling styles. While not the only feature of the game, this is certainly the main premise, and in that regard it has been artfully transposed to the smaller screen.
Having heeded the warning of the limitations of the port to Super Mario Maker for the Nintendo 3DS, I made sure to curtail my expectations on this title, and as result found something that while not expected, has been a worthwhile gaming experience.
Even on the smaller of the 3DS units, once you understand the layout and icons Mario Maker for the 3DS, assisted by the inclusion of a two-tiered non-invasive set of ‘lessons’, creating levels soon goes from an intimidating premise to a casual activity when you have some down time or are on the go.
Intimidating because unlike the Wii U version where elements and themes are unlocked by the amount of time played and levels created, many more of these are automatically available on the 3DS version, which can be confronting when overloaded with choice as to where to begin.
In fact, it’s completely fair to say it contains all the elements required to make a Mario level worthy of the greats. There’s just one glaring element missing – a proper pipeline to the outside world.
While creators on Super Mario Maker for 3DS are able to share their creations via local play, StreetPass or by just simply handing over their 3DS to a friend, there’s no ability to share online; the portal between the 3DS and Wii U seemingly one way.
Wii U levels that are compatible with the 3DS version are available to play, either through the 100 Mario Challenge or via the Recommended Courses screen. The ability to search these levels however has been extremely stripped back, with filtering by difficultly and refreshing the selection on the page your only means of sorting.
Which brings me to the 100 Mario Challenge, where you are given 100 lives to work your way through what I thought was supposed to be a curated list of levels. I don’t need to exaggerate when I tell you that in my first run, 6 of the 8 levels required that the player do nothing, any disruption to their intricate clockwork resulting in quick death.
These levels are cute for a taste and show off a wonderful sense of harmony… for about the first 5, and not when they are all in a row. When I finally did get to play a level, it had me run in a straight line across an empty level… pointless.
It’s not all bad though. When the run of automation finally ceased, and some levels are just OK, you eventually come to one that is clever and dynamic without being fussy, and reminds you why you are bothering with this crowd-sourced entertainment.
For players who don’t like those odds, there is a silver lining in the inclusion of the Super Mario Challenge, a large, actually curated list of classic Mario levels. While this may not be earth shattering, it does provide a large selection of the best levels for those who need a break from amateur attempts, or looking for inspiration in their own levels.
In fact the real driving force of these levels are the two medal challenges for each level, the completing of both unlocking the ability to edit each level as part of the Super Mario Maker level creator. Once again though, any masterpiece created have limited ability to be shared.
Ready to lay some pipe?
While a fun romp of classic Mario gameplay, overall the online limitations are truly the Achilles heel of Super Mario Maker for the Nintendo 3DS. Without the ability to share online, directly with the Wii U or through any form of game share with those who don’t own the title, the success of Super Mario Maker 3DS is largely academic for those of us not in the school yard. Those looking to play rather than create however, could do far worse for a Mario title.