‘Super Mario Run’ a fun and faithful platformer

"Super Mario Run" is a side-scrolling auto-running video game developed and published by Nintendo for iOS and Android devices.


By RORY APPLETON | The Fresno Bee | Published: January 6, 2017

For more than 30 years, Mario has faithfully collected coins, saved princesses and fixed sinks. Oh, and his empire brought gaming from the arcades into our living rooms and did as much as any other franchise to ensure it stayed there.

The “Super Mario Bros.” brand made its transition to the lucrative mobile gaming market in December with the release of “Super Mario Run,” a fun and faithful platformer. And how did we repay Nintendo for years of mushroom-fueled fun and a shiny new toy to play with?

We complained, and we nagged.

“It drains my battery life and sucks too much data.”

“Super Mario Run” is a fully formed game, not a repetitive cash grab aimed at matching up different sweets, so of course it drains your battery. You have technology in your hands that state-of-the-art computers couldn’t handle 15 years ago. It’s going to take a little bit of juice to get you there. And I found that my iPhone 6 could play it for a solid four hours before dying, which isn’t that bad.

As for the data? Just stop. You are in a coin-collecting race with a 10-year-old from Japan, and the winner will repopulate his village with adorable Toads. Rebuilding a mushroom civilization takes bandwidth.

More than 75,000 people have rated “Super Mario Run” on iTunes. Its average score was 2.5/5 stars. Don’t tell my corporate overlords this, but the “however many stars” rating system is ancient and inaccurate. But basically, as many people liked it as didn’t, and I don’t understand why.

Let me take a crack at this reviewing thing. Stand back — way back.

“Super Mario Run” is an energetic side-scrolling platformer that stays true to the original “Super Mario Bros.” and “Mario 64” aesthetic. Rather than using two hands — one to move Mario, the other to jump — the crimson plumber automatically runs from left to right. Players need only touch the screen to make him jump, but Nintendo spiced up this simple mechanic by allowing players to manage the height of their jumps, bounce off walls and so on.

The level design is excellent. They cover all the bases — including the infuriating fire and cloud levels — while also maintaining a balanced difficulty. Some might take an hour to finally complete, while others are a breeze. It moves along what could loosely be called a “story” — basically the evil Bowser stole Princess Peach, who awkwardly offered Mario a cake before her capture. It isn’t enough that the poor woman was relegated to digital damsel status. She’s spent 30 years in that castle, but let’s make sure she was also performing a domestic function on her way out. But I digress.

The rally mode is a basic player-vs.-player race through the single-player levels. The player who collects the most coins and jump-kicks the most turtle creatures to death wins different colored Toads. The more Toads you have, the more you can customize your kingdom with various buildings and decorations. This area of the game is clearly secondary to the single-player action, but it’s a fun little addition.

Oh, hold on a minute. Stop the presses. This fully formed game with at least 10 hours of unique content is $10. That’s a lot for a mobile game, so nobody should play it ever because Nintendo is clearly trying to gouge us. Forget that we also get a few levels for free to try it out. The review is canceled.

Wait, we live in a society where goods and services are exchanged for capital currency. Hundreds of hours spent making a lovely and fun game requires adequate compensation. It costs more than most mobile games, but offers more new content for the price. That all checks out. Turn those old things back on.

I didn’t find any glaring issues other than a few connectivity drops, but maybe the 800 hamsters who run on tiny wheels on my office building’s third floor to power our Wi-Fi were in between shifts.

“Super Mario Run” is a strong mobile game, but people are upset that it isn’t another “Pokemon Go.” It’s fun for a few hours, then you will probably never pick it up again. Many great games are like that. And remember that “Pokemon Go” was a flash in the pan and not Nintendo’s doing. Both used Nintendo characters, but “Super Mario Run” is not a follow-up.

I was looking for a good mobile game to play while I am supposed to be working — I mean, washing my laundry — and “Super Mario Run” is precisely that. Most platformer fans should love it.

Platform: Out now for the iOS. Coming soon to Android.
Online: supermariorun.com

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