The fuzzy warm fact at the centre of Nintendo’s first proper plumber punt since Super Mario 3D World is that Mario Maker is an infinite Mario platformer. So long as you have your Wii U, you’ll be able to jump in and sample completely new levels for the Italian avatar to hop, skip and jump through, for as long as it takes you to grow your own moustache, and beyond.
And while not every level will have the guiding hand of Miyamoto and company behind it, there are, would you believe it, some very talented, very creative people out there. The chap who put together a level called ‘Not Scary If You Keep Running,’ for example. Chased by screen-filling circles of Boos, and propelled forward by a series of tactically placed springs, we follow the level title’s instructions and belt through a perfectly-placed gauntlet of death. Cannonballs from Super Mario Bros 3 provide bottom-bumping impetus as we fire through crowds of enemies at pace. It might not be the most demanding of constructs, but the freedom afforded to creators is clear to see.
One level I play through sees Mario hop into an abandoned Koopa Clown Copter and take to the skies. Rather than have this be a simple airborne platforming session, though, the creator has given my plumbing avatar a Buzzy Beetle shell helmet, ensuring he can’t take damage from above. The result? I'm in control of a flying bumper car and have to barge our way past other Koopas, in their own circus-themed aircraft, to the finish line.
Yet another stage plays on the traditions of Mario, but in ways I didn’t expect or anticipate. It takes place beneath one of the iconic airships from Super Mario Bros 3, and packs familiar elements, such as the spanner lobbing Rocky Wrenches, but in new and unfamiliar positions.
I give the creation mode a run ourselves, and even though I'm playing an early version of the game, with a limited palette of bricks and elements from which to build my stages, I'm taken aback at how easy it all is. Nothing is overly complex, not placing things nor moving them around, nor even altering the ways they behave in the world. Pick up something, and give it a shake, and it changes, be it in colour or form, allowing for playful surprises buried beneath the overall canvas. Within just a few minutes, I have a workable stage together: an intimidating tower of Goombas in a SNES-era Super Mario World level, with a series of spring blocks, winged Koopas, and pitfalls to traverse.
Whether you intend to pick up your stylus and build something that’s been bubbling away in your brain since back in the 1980s, or you just need some more Mario in your life, this is the Nintendo game you didn’t even know you’d been waiting for.