If you watched the Mario Maker demo footage from Gamescom and E3 you might have noticed something. The stages that were being made were horrible! Note that these were being made by the same people who made Mario Maker, and most of them were just machines to get a bunch of 1-ups, horrendous gauntlets of bouncing enemies with no rhyme or reason. You can expect that many of the Mario Maker stages that we will see in the final version of the game to be more of the same.
But why? Surely someone out there has a unique idea for a Mario level right? Well, of course they do. We have seen plenty of interesting hacked Mario games over the years. So why is it that these Mario Maker levels are incredibly chaotic, with goomah pyramids and piranha plants riding on top of koopas?
The answer is simple. Few of these designers, including the makers of Mario Maker themselves, know what made the original Super Mario Bros. so compelling.
Super Mario Bros. and every good Mario game that followed it knew how to make simple mechanics seem new. All you could reliably do in Super Mario Bros. was run and jump. So Nintendo worked to produce interesting variations on running and jumping.
Sometimes the correct thing to do was to blow through the level as fast as possible. Sometimes the correct thing to do was to slowly make your way through the level, one pipe at a time. Sometimes there were small puzzle elements that asked you to choose specific paths in order to get to a goal. But all you reliably did was run and jump.
This is the same thing you see in many of the best Mario hacks. They change the idea of running and jumping. Instead of mushrooms being a second chance, certain ultra-hard Mario hacks turn them into planned sacrifices. Movement of turtle shells is used as a timer instead of a weapon. The concept of Mario is flipped on its head time and time again, and that’s why we slave at trying to complete these hacks.
But Mario Maker levels are short. They are only a few screens long. Not only that, but the tool-set is limited. Heck, right now you can’t even place fire-flowers. Can you make interesting Mario levels with it, yes, but it’s not easy. Instead, people fall prey tp the same impulse most people do when confronted with a new editing program: put more stuff on the field!
You remember this feeling. It was how you felt when you made an Excitebike course with one of every obstacle. It’s how you felt when you made a Rollercoaster in Rollercoaster Tycoon go around your whole park. It’s how you felt when you made a several track Mario Paint music masterpiece, even though it just sounded like a random jumble of notes.
Mario Maker. They are including more enemies, more traps, more ways to die, but they aren’t thinking about how this will make the game more fun to play.
If you ask me, we will have to weed through a lot of boring impossible levels until we get to the real gems, when the game first comes out.
Former Contributing Writer