The hype is huge and the pricing premium, but how’s the gameplay in Mario’s first outing on iOS?
Size: 205 MB
Platform: iPhone / iPad
Mario is the most recognizable game character in the world, but until now he could only be found on Nintendo consoles. In a welcome change of strategy, he’s made his way to mobile – but how does the king of platform gaming handle the transition, and does it justify that divisive $10 price-tag?
Let’s start with the gameplay. Yes, it’s an auto-runner – Mario races forward of his own accord, and he can vault small obstacles and enemies by himself too. Beyond that, he’ll need your help to avoid the dangers and pitfalls each level throws at him. Tapping the screen makes the portly plumber jump, with tricks including wall jumps, midair spins and cool flips adding a level of complexity to an otherwise simple one-button control scheme. Mario games have always focused on jumping above all else, and the mechanics make a decent transition to the small screen.
The core of Super Mario Run is World Tour, a selection of 24 colorful and varied levels covering the gamut of enemies and locations familiar to long-time Super Mario fans. Our only concern is that there’s nothing new to be seen. The art style and music – though excellent – are recycled from previous Super Mario games, while every level and character is something we’ve seen before. Nostalgia is a big part of Mario’s appeal, but a few new enemies wouldn’t go amiss.
Each of six game worlds ends in a short fight with Bowser or one of his minions, culminating in a slightly anticlimactic rescue-the-princess finale. That said, the level designs on the whole are excellent and pretty varied – though perhaps a little on the easy side. It won’t take more than a couple of hours to play through the lot, but luckily there’s a decent amount of replay value here. Completionists and those who crave more of a challenge will be pleased to know there are three distinct coin-collecting challenges in each stage – meaning 72 challenges total, each with slightly different level layouts. Unlike the main game, finding the lot is genuinely difficult and will keep you coming back to this mode.
If you tire of the World Tour, the game has a secondary mode that pits you against other players. Toad Rally sees you racing against recordings of other players in a fast-paced score challenge. Collecting coins and pulling off stylish moves is key to impressing the toads – the toadstool-like residents of the Mushroom Kingdom – who ultimately decide who wins the contest. It’s a satisfying alternative to the standard levels and ups the challenge considerably once you start contending with really good players. Plus, if you beat your opponent, the toads will come and join your kingdom! Which brings us to the final mode of Super Mario Run…
Kingdom Builder is the third aspect to Super Mario Run, a city builder that allows you to design your own little corner of the Mushroom Kingdom. An in-game shop allows you to spend coins on buildings and decorations for your town, with many of the better items only available once you’ve recruited enough followers from Toad Rally. It’s entertaining for a while, but this mode lacks depth and relies heavily on the kind of grinding usually associated with freemium games. This mode is easily ignored if landscape design isn’t your forte, although there are bonus games and even a handful of tricky secret levels hidden amongst the special buildings at your disposal here.
The first three levels are playable completely free, but the rest of the game costs a princely $9.99/£7.99 to unlock. We fully support premium games as an alternative to fleecing the player with relentless in-app purchases, but can’t help but think Nintendo may have set the bar slightly too high on this one. One further grievance worth noting is that the game requires a live internet connection to play. No signal, no Mario time, which is a frustrating choice. Meanwhile, though some will complain about the one-button auto-running, we’d argue that it beats a complex array of virtual buttons any day.
It’s a shame that so many are likely to be put off by the seemingly limited controls and the high price, because despite a simplification for mobile this is a very enjoyable platformer. It’s hard to recommend it as a must-have at this price – Rayman Fiesta Run is more a more inventive platformer at a third of the cost – but those who give it a chance will find a fun, well-polished game with plenty of replay value. For Nintendo fans, it’s a joy to see the world of Super Mario lovingly rendered on iOS, and with any luck we’ll see more famous gaming franchises coming to the App Store before long!
- Mario looks and sounds great
- Excellent level design
- Plenty to keep you coming back
- Requires an internet connection
- It's not cheap!