So, the time has finally come. Who could have guessed that we’d be one day playing a Mario game on an iPhone. Super Mario Run is here and whilst it seems incredibly barebones and shallow on the surface, this wonderful fresh version of Super Mario, is so much more.
The core game consists of Mario automatically running towards the right. A tap on the screen will make Mario jump with the height depending on how long you hold your finger/thumb down for. Mario will automatically vault over smaller enemies such as Goombas and small gaps, which makes things a little bit less hectic and allows you to play ahead.
Whilst this sounds incredibly simple, Nintendo has thrown in mechanics to change it up. Platforms that make you jump backwards, boosters which boost you into the air and P switches which turn blocks into coins are all present and help to bring a familiarity to the game.
Honestly, the best thing about Super Mario Run is that it feels super familiar from the moment you pick it up but it genuinely feels like the first huge step forward that Mario has taken in a number of years. About five minutes into playing, I had the sudden realisation that I was playing a Mario game on a mobile device that didn’t feel dumbed down. It felt incredibly special.
Super Mario Run is free to download and what you get will be enough to keep most people going. You unlock the first 3 levels of the first world and also a 30 second trial of the first castle (which introduces some new mechanics). You’ll also get access to Toad Rally and Kingdom Builder which we’ll get into a little bit later in the review.
World Tour is the most traditional mode that Mario fans will have come to know over the years. It features 24 levels within 6 different worlds, which all end with a spectacular castle level. There’s also three sets of five coloured coins to collect in each level, which will take a lot longer than you think.
Upon the surface, there’s not a lot to the World Tour, but I’d advise you to take your time going back and forth between World Tour, Toad Rally and Kingdom Builder. Playing through different modes unlocks different within each mode.
There’s six characters in Super Mario Run currently. For spoilers sake, I’ll only talk about the ones that have been shown in trailers. Mario, Toad, Yoshi and Luigi are all featured in the game and all play very differently. For instance, Toad is a lot faster than Mario, whilst Yoshi has his signature mid-air flutter but cannot grow with a mushroom or spin mid-air. There’s a lot of strategy to which character you use for which level, depending on which mode you’re undertaking.
Toad Rally is a speedrun mode of sorts. You are able to verse random people around the world or people on your friends list with the goal of collecting more coins whilst performing more tricks. These include things such as wall-jumping or successfully jumping on multiple enemies in a row. It’s hectic, fun and requires skill.
As mentioned earlier, levels are unlocked in World Tour and honestly, the strategy for each level will change and you’ll need to play through each level a few times as a certain amount of memory is required to succeed. Each time you attempt a Toad Rally match, you’ll use what’s known as a Toad Rally Ticket. You start with about five of these in the free version and get 20 once you pay the $14.99 to unlock the full game.
The incentive for playing through Toad Rally and quite frankly why it’s so addictive is because of Kingdom Builder. There are five different coloured toads which you collect by winning Toad Rally matches. You can use these to unlock items for use in the Kingdom Builder. These range from new character houses, to special spaces to vanity items.
This is where the game starts to get confusing. There are parts of both Toad Rally and Kingdom Builder that always feel somewhere between free-to-play and paid. For instance, There are special Toad houses that you can unlock which are essentially like the Toad houses in the New Super Mario Bros games. The issue is that you can only play these once every eight hours. That seems fine when you’re playing for free, but it seems weird to encounter this so often when you’ve paid a $15 flat fee. It’s quite possible that you could run out of Toad Rally Tickets and have to wait an eight hour period to get more.
There’s a lot more that I could say about Super Mario Run, but most of the brilliance is in discovering new things and realising just how much depth is in this game. It might very well be just one of my favourite mobile games of all time. What excites me even more about Super Mario Run is the fact that it’s the first time in a long time that I’ve had full belief in Nintendo again. I haven’t been able to put this game down. Everything from the level design to the incredible balance and difficulty in Toad Rally oozes quality and innovation. This is exactly what Nintendo needed heading into the launch of the Switch.
Level Design Is Brilliant
All Characters Control Differently
Toad Rally Is Addictive
Game Feels Stuck Between Freemium and Fully Fledged