Su­per Mario Run

iOS

EDGE - - GAMES - Pub­lisher Nin­tendo De­vel­oper Nin­tendo EPD/DeNA For­mat iOS Re­lease Out now

Cards on the ta­ble: we didn’t like it at first. This was, we now re­alise, a mat­ter of old habits dy­ing hard – af­ter 30 years of train­ing, vault­ing over Goom­bas rather than jump­ing on them takes some get­ting used to – and of ex­pec­ta­tions be­ing sub­verted. Mario’s mo­bile de­but is pre­dictable in form but not func­tion, both the game we an­tic­i­pated and also not. It’s an auto-run­ner whose hero moves hor­i­zon­tally but whose de­sign thinks ver­ti­cally. It’s a mo­bile game mar­keted to the masses, yet its chal­lenge is tai­lored to­wards the com­mit­ted player. It is, in­evitably, a lit­tle con­flicted, and so are we. But how fas­ci­nat­ing that for the big­gest Mario launch to date – and the most im­por­tant one in years – Nin­tendo has cho­sen some­thing so boldly ex­per­i­men­tal.

Take Mario’s moveset. As he gam­bols along and an en­emy ap­proaches, your nat­u­ral in­stinct is to take to the air. But while you can de­feat Koopas and Goom­bas in the time-hon­oured fash­ion, you’re also able to hur­dle them; a mid-vault tap fin­ishes them off and lets Mario use them as a spring­board to higher ground. His jump has greater range, too, and a mid-leap twist to grab some ex­tra air. A new skill is a real taboo-buster: if you land just shy of a plat­form, Mario can now grab the edge You can make a cou­ple of mis­takes with­out fail­ing the level: Mario re­turns en­cased in a bub­ble, which you pop with a tap. You can use them man­u­ally, too, giv­ing you a sec­ond shot at a pink coin you might have just missed and man­tle up. This isn’t just to res­cue mis­takes, ei­ther, since many of the lev­els are built specif­i­cally around it.

That’s un­der­stand­able when there’s this much ver­ti­cal screen space, since the game is only playable in por­trait ori­en­ta­tion. It means you have less time to re­act to in­com­ing hazards, but also makes for some un­con­ven­tional chal­lenges. Ghost houses, for ex­am­ple, are re­pur­posed into de­vi­ous wrap­around puz­zle boxes, where you move be­tween floors seek­ing ei­ther a key for the exit door, or the door it­self. If the dif­fi­culty level is rel­a­tively easy­go­ing – even novices should rat­tle through th­ese 24 stages in a cou­ple of hours – that’s less true when you’re hunt­ing down the five pink coins scat­tered across the stage. Nab them all, and they’re re­placed by pur­ple coins, then black, with the level fur­ni­ture shifted to pro­vide a steeper chal­lenge still.

Some will strug­gle to ac­cli­ma­tise to its stac­cato rhythm. Oth­ers will curse the mus­cle mem­ory that makes lo­co­mo­tion feel awk­wardly un­fa­mil­iar. From that edge-grab to pause blocks and con­vey­ers that turn jumps into back­flips, it’s an auto-run­ner that of­ten seeks to ar­rest your mo­men­tum. Yet in a genre so in­tently fo­cused on flow, this comes to feel new and thrillingly dis­rup­tive. It’s not quite vin­tage Mario, but this long-awaited mo­bile de­but demon­strates an in­ge­nu­ity and a keen ap­pre­ci­a­tion of for­mat that is quintessen­tially Nin­tendo.

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