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Review: Super Mario Maker

Sep 02 // Chris Carter
Super Mario Maker (Wii U)Developer: Nintendo EAD Group No. 4Publisher: NintendoRelease: September 11, 2015MSRP: $59.99 The core theme behind Super Mario Maker is simplicity. Opening up with a rather lovely tutorial section, you'll be introduced to the creation process, which is as simple as touching an object with your stylus, and placing it in the on-screen grid. The entire experience can be played on the GamePad without the use of a TV, and never seeks to overwhelm the player. As the famous fictional Chef Gusteau once said, "anyone can cook!" and now anyone can create a Mario level. While Super Mario Maker doesn't give you everything your heart desires, you'll find plenty of toys to screw around with, from enemies like Kuribo's Shoe (which are actually Yoshi in select themes), to Giant Goombas that split into more Goombas, that can assist you in crafting objectives like P-Switch-centric puzzles, and even shoot 'em up levels with clouds or Koopa Clown Cars. You can create pipes or doors to send players into different areas of a level, tracks to craft moving platforms -- every basic Mario concept you can think of is here. The bread and butter of Maker is themes. You'll start with the original 8-bit Mario theme as well as the New Super Mario Bros. U series, then eventually work your way up to Mario 3, and the always delightful World. Themes (which have their own unique physics and in a few cases, movesets) can be shifted at the press of a button, including the ability to jump into underground, ghost, water, airship, or castle settings in every sub-franchise. It's awesome to create a level and see it switch to an entirely new gimmick within seconds. An "undo" option, eraser (which can be toggled with quick trigger presses), and a nuke-like reset button make everything easier. Costumes, however, are probably my favorite extra in Mario Maker, which provide players with a way to morph into other characters like Sonic, Pac-Man, or Mega Man. They're unlocked by way of amiibo, or another method I'll get to shortly, and have some unique animations and sound effects in tow, like Pac-Man's shift to an 8-bit sprite when he runs. Sadly, all of these costumes are limited to the 8-bit style only. The more you play it, the more you'll realize that limitations are a recurring issue with Super Mario Maker, despite its immense charm. [embed]306729:60161:0[/embed] Not all of these objects will be available immediately, either. Instead, you'll have to wait nine days to obtain everything, including major themes like Mario 3 and World. I can confirm that players will be able to fast-forward the Wii U clock a day ahead at a time to "unlock" the next set of items. But the process is still painfully tedious, as you have to play five minutes to "allow" the unlock, then switch to the main menu, then back to the game to receive the items, then play for another five minutes, and so on. Since this method is available, the entire requirement is rendered pointless. Having said all that, it wasn't really a dealbreaker in any way for me, and didn't have any direct correlation to my assessment here. However, there are a number of shortcomings inherent to Mario Maker's toolset even after unlocking everything. For starters, there are no assets related to Mario 2 outside of a select few re-skins. Not only is the entire theme missing from the game, but unique objects and enemies such as the iconic Phanto are nowhere to be found. Additionally, there is no way to eliminate the countdown timer (the max is 500 seconds), which takes the wind out of exploration-based creation's sails considerably. There's also a severe limitation in terms of how you can build out levels. Right now you can't choose to create a vertical-themed stage -- you have to go with the same horizontal blueprint the game gives you without fail. Maker also limits the amount of enemies you can have in any given level (for instance, only three Bowsers or roughly 100 smaller enemies) even in the 8-bit theme, which is a silly design. Mario Maker does have a few modes beyond the creation realm, thankfully, including a "10 Mario Challenge" mode that tasks you with completing eight levels in 10 lives. This essentially functions as the campaign, and brings players through a variety of different themes composed by Nintendo. The reward is two-fold -- you'll experience a fun pseudo-story mode, and obtain each blueprint for use later in the game's creation mode. They're relatively easy, but some of them provide mechanics very rarely seen in a core Mario game, and are worth spending several hours on alone. The online hub (titled "Course World") is probably where players are going to spend most of their time in the coming months. Having played other creation games with online functionality for years, I have to say that this is one of the better modules. There's support for everything, from bookmarking levels (with hearts), to viewing your "played" history, to queuing up your own creations, and sorting potential levels with qualifiers like popularity and newly shared. It's crazy to see what people have come up with already in the past few weeks, like re-creations of old school Mega Man levels complete with the 8-bit costume, to the classic "music videos" we've seen for years on end in games like LittleBigPlanet. My one gripe with viewing levels online is that they are automatically "spoiled" right before you start them. Basically, by looking at a stage, it will show the entire layout by default -- there's no way to "hide" this currently, and a lot of courses I played lost their luster as a result of this snafu. As a bonus of sorts, the hub has its own version of the 10 Mario Challenge -- a 100 lives version, which basically grabs levels online and mixes them into a custom world. This is probably my favorite element of the game, as it does a good job of curating content and giving it to you in a rapid-fire format. It also rewards players with costumes upon completion, so you don't need to use amiibo to unlock them. Super Mario Maker is a charming little creation tool, and I'm sure fans will come up with some amazing levels for years to come. However, it feels a bit more constrained than it needs to be, and is in dire need of updates or DLC to keep it going long term. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
Super Mario Maker review photo
The costumes are the best part
Ever since I was five years old, I've been drawing my own Mario levels on graph paper. It's a pretty common story, because when I look at a series to give me a platforming baseline, it's usually Mario. Nintendo didn't ju...

3DS photo
3DS

Japanese voiceovers coming to 3DS version of Azure Striker Gunvolt


Not just the PC port
Sep 02
// Chris Carter
Azure Striker Gunvolt was just released on the PC last week, with numerous extras, most notably the inclusion of Japanese voiceover work. When initially asked whether or not this feature would end up on 3DS eventually, I was ...
Shower with your Dad Sim photo
Shower with your Dad Sim

Showering with my dad was a surreal, terrifying experience


No more flying bath tubs daddy
Sep 02
// Laura Kate Dale
Yesterday, I got an early Steam code for a game called Shower With Your Dad Simulator 2015. I instantly took Mad Max and Metal Gear Solid V, threw them out the window and thought no more of them. Showering with my dad was cle...
Golden Joysticks  photo
Golden Joysticks

Vote for your favourite games in this year's Golden Joystick Awards


21 awards need your help!
Sep 02
// Vikki Blake
Voting is now open for this year's Golden Joystick Awards. If you do contribute a vote -- and nine million of us did in 2014 -- you'll also receive a copy of the very excellent Bioshock Infinite on PC via Green Man Gaming for...
Gears of War photo
Gears of War

Play all Gears of War: Ultimate Edition modes on all maps


New update removes restrictions
Sep 02
// Vikki Blake
All game modes in Gears of War: Ultimate Edition will be available across all maps as of today. The latest update removes restrictions from the playlists that stopped certain modes being played on certain maps.  Dev...
Battlefront photo
Battlefront

Star Wars Battlefront won't have a server browser


Because matchmaking always works...
Sep 02
// Joe Parlock
DICE has a history of controversy when it comes to server browsers in its games. Before release, there was a lot of criticism of Battlelog in Battlefield 3, which saw the server list removed from the game and shoved into your...
Moshi Monsters photo
Moshi Monsters

The UK Advertising Standards Agency isn't happy with Moshi Monsters or Bin Weevils


'Members are going to be super popular!'
Sep 02
// Joe Parlock
Moshi Monsters is pretty popular with kids here in the UK. It’s been around for a few years now, and has managed to gain toys and shows alongside the website and games. Bin Weevils has been around for a bit longer, but ...
Killing Floor 2 photo
Killing Floor 2

Killing Floor 2's Incinerate 'N Detonate update available now


It hath emerged from beta
Sep 01
// Zack Furniss
Though it's been possible to play Killing Floor 2's Incinerate 'N Detonate update since last week, it's now available to all. If you've grown bored with the lack of content in the Early Access, this should rejuvenate your des...
Shutshimi photo
Shutshimi

Shutshimi: Seriously Swole coming soon to Wii U


Choice Provision's great goldfish shmup
Sep 01
// Alessandro Fillari
Just last week, we were graced with the release of Shutshimi: Seriously Swole on PC, PS4 and Vita. In this bizarre tribute to classic shooters, players take control of a team of gun-toting goldfish with memory issues as they ...
Game Art Book review photo
Game Art Book review

Check out Japanator's review of a cool game art book


40 Games from Japan and Beyond
Sep 01
// Josh Tolentino
Hey there! It's not all "manga this, anime that" over at Japanator. We get cool game stuff, too, and one such thing is Game Art: Art from 40 Video Games and Interviews with their Creators, an appropriately-titled book about t...
Dead or Alive fan vote photo
Dead or Alive fan vote

Dead or Alive Xtreme 3's smallest chested volleyballer leads polls


Looks like all the youngest leading
Sep 01
// Steven Hansen
Dead or Alive Xtreme 3, which may come west and will feature women in bikinis playing volleyball on the beach, is filling out its swimsuit roster by way of fan vote. And, perhaps surprisingly, fans of the series known for its...
MGSV LBP3 DLC photo
MGSV LBP3 DLC

LittleBigPlanet gets Metal Gear Solid V DLC, fat Ocelot is great


Cute enough to look at once, never buy
Sep 01
// Steven Hansen
Remember LittleBigPlanet? Sony had a hit on its hands, and then it didn't, between a lackluster Vita game, a weak kart racer, and a third entry abandoned by the original creator for newer, more interesting ideas (Tearaway!)....

Banner Saga 2 is 'basically the same' as the first

Sep 01 // Kyle MacGregor
[embed]308796:60226:0[/embed] It might have been a refreshing moment of honesty, you know, if the statement were actually true.  While The Banner Saga 2 may not be a drastic revision that goes out of its way to reinvent the core experience, intimating it's a carbon copy that merely continues the story might be underselling it. In my limited time with the game, I witnessed a number of notable tweaks to the existing formula that figure to go a long way in addressing players' complaints about the original being somewhat of a repetitive slog. The sequel feels like a more dynamic, varied evolution on what's already been established, thanks to little touches like how battles arise and play out. The Banner Saga 2 reinforces one of its predecessors greatest strengths -- how consequences born from player choice ripple throughout the experience like stones cast into a pond -- by having them directly bleed into combat, starting out battles with scenes that stem from your decisions, rather than have them play out exactly the same way regardless of how a particular situation came to pass. Once a skirmish begins, you'll encounter new foes, such as four-legged creatures that can cloak themselves and ambush more fragile units (such as archers) that you figured were safe behind the front lines. New support units will also force you to make difficult decisions between targeting the enemy's bruisers or the guys making them even more imposing than they otherwise would be. Even outside of battle, players will have new options to manage their caravan. Clansman seem to be of more use this time around, as they can be recruited as fighters. However, much like everything in Stoic's universe, there are drawbacks to this; these new warriors will no longer focus on collecting supplies, making your caravan's precious resources dwindle at a faster clip. At a glance, it may not seem that too much has changed since The Banner Saga launched in early 2014, but upon closer inspection, the development team at Stoic appears to be making subtle, yet impactful changes to a blueprint that already worked in an effort to take its game to the next level.
Bad PR photo
Except not really
Game previews are an inherently strange part of this business. You wouldn't read a few pages from an unfinished book and render judgement about the final product. Likewise, we don't often have the opportunity to sample a song...

Street Fighter V photo
Street Fighter V

Fan complaints seem to have changed Cammy's Street Fighter V look


More anime-looking
Sep 01
// Steven Hansen
While everyone was flush with wanting to fuck bearded "Hot Ryu"/"Dad Ryu" -- I wrote that as "breaded" originally, which made me also want to fuck him -- Cammy's retailer exclusive pre-order costume (above and still a bogus p...
Bloggers Wanted photo
Bloggers Wanted

Bloggers Wanted: Those meddling kids


I would have gotten away with it, too...
Sep 01
// Pixie The Fairy
Everyone wants a better life. Some people might take shortcuts, like robbing a bank, to get to there. Perhaps you discovered an amazing ability that made your life more interesting and decided to use that ability to your adva...
Mobile focus photo
Mobile focus

Final Fantasy XV heads Square Enix's Tokyo Game Show 2015 lineup


A lot of mobile
Sep 01
// Steven Hansen
Wow, just a few more weeks until I'm eating curry twice a day and peeing in sexy anime nurse urinals. Also, playing video games over at the Tokyo Game Show (September 17-20). Yes, I did reuse this intro from an hour ago, because I am writing another story about a company unveiling its TGS lineup and, like Japan, I am very efficient. Anyways, it's Square this time. No Call of Duty Black Ops III?
Humble Tom Clancy Bundle photo
Humble Tom Clancy Bundle

Splinter Cell, Ghost Recon, Rainbow Six abound in the Humble Tom Clancy Bundle


...Redeem on uPlay
Sep 01
// Darren Nakamura
Years ago, my friends and I used to make a habit of sneaking up on one another from behind and putting each other in headlocks. We called it "Splinter Celling." We also called series protagonist Sam Fisher "Tom Clancy" as a l...
MGSV photo
MGSV

Kojima: 'I always felt that every chapter I made would be the last'


Director on Metal Gear Solid V
Sep 01
// Steven Hansen
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain's director Hideo Kojima has done a "Debriefing" video timed with the release of his latest and, presumably, last entry in the series. And it appeared on Konami's channel, no less. (And Ko...
TGS 2015 photo
TGS 2015

Sony announces Tokyo Game Show PS4 and Vita lineup


Two more weeks
Sep 01
// Steven Hansen
Wow, just a few more weeks until I'm eating curry twice a day and peeing in sexy anime nurse urinals. Also, playing video games over at the Tokyo Game Show (September 17-20). This list is likely missing some super secret game...
Resident Evil 0 photo
Resident Evil 0

Resident Evil 0's Wesker Mode is absurd


Look at him run!
Sep 01
// Jordan Devore
The Resident Evil series is no stranger to silly modes, and I'm glad to see Capcom continue down that path with Wesker Mode in next year's Resident Evil 0 HD remaster. Uroboros? Uroboros. In the new mode, Albert Wesker fills in for Billy Coen and oh my god, his sprint is hilarious.
Assassin's Creed photo
Assassin's Creed

Newest Assassin's Creed trailer shows the game's best feature


And none of the stabbing
Sep 01
// Brett Makedonski
Without a doubt, the best part of every year's Assassin's Creed game is the setting. It was certainly the case for Unity's Paris. Ubisoft generally does a great job of making these city sandboxes feel lived-in and livel...
Bloodborne art photo
Bloodborne art

Bloodborne never looked so good


Hunt the Great Ones
Sep 01
// Jordan Devore
I'm not usually one to buy merchandise at PAX, but had I seen this Bloodborne piece by Kyle Fewell at the Fangamer booth, I would've changed my tune so fast. I adore those colors. If the style looks familiar, you might've seen his earlier piece, Ghibli Souls. It's exactly what it sounds like. And while not strictly Souls-related, this Adventuring set evokes similar feelings of wonder.
Cliff Bleszinski photo
'I honestly thought I was done'
If you were to look at Cliff Bleszinski's work history, you'd find a small gap between his time at Epic Games and the development of his new game, LawBreakers. A couple of years seems like a fair transition time, but Bleszins...

Blue PS Vita photo
Blue PS Vita

The US is getting a blue PlayStation Vita


Only at GameStop
Sep 01
// Jordan Devore
After following a link to this aqua blue PlayStation Vita, I had to double check the time stamp -- what year is it? Oh, 2015. It is new. I'm as surprised as you are to see Sony acknowledge the handheld. It's a GameStop exclusive in the United States releasing this November. It'll be $199.99.
Deals photo
Deals

GMG finally has MGSV: The Phantom Pain (with a sweet discount)


Gallop into a 23% off deal
Sep 01
// Dealzon
The verdicts are coming in, and Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is as good as we'd hoped for a potential last installment from Kojima. Those interested in the game can finally buy a copy at Green Man Gaming wit...
EndWar Online beta photo
EndWar Online beta

Tom Clancy's EndWar Online closed beta starts today, runs through November


'War never ends'
Sep 01
// Darren Nakamura
I had forgotten about Tom Clancy's EndWar Online. It was originally announced just about two years ago, took on some alpha playtesters, and went dark to everybody else. Today, it is coming out of alpha and into a closed beta ...

Review: STASIS

Sep 01 // Patrick Hancock
STASIS (Mac, PC [reviewed])Developer: The BrotherhoodPublisher: The BrotherhoodReleased: August 31, 2015MSRP: $24.99  The story begins with the main character, John Maracheck, woken from a stasis (heh) pod on a spaceship called the Groomlake. It's immediately obvious that something big has happened here, as there is broken machinery, plenty of bloodstains, and no one around. John sets out to find his wife and daughter, in addition to finding out what the hell he's doing here in the first place. I won't spoil anything further, but what follows is a grim and morose tale that will certainly leave an impression on the player. As the story begins to unfold and more elements of the Groomlake's history become clearer, players shouldn't be surprised if a sickening feeling washes over them. There are scenes in STASIS, especially towards the end of the game, that I'm not sure I'll ever forget. The only way I can think to describe them is: fucked up. And that is the kind of "horror" that STASIS sets out to achieve. The game doesn't just throw jump scares at the player in every scene; instead, it builds an atmosphere that will make players uneasy. There are a few jump scares, but they actually work because they're infrequent and unexpected. This is a true horror game: creepy and unsettling, with scenes sure to embed themselves in the player's mind, whether they like it or not. Much of the plot is told through PDA journal entries found around the ship. These entries are well written, and players will find themselves excited to find new ones. Entering a room often reveals quite the scene, and as players read the PDAs, the events that transpired in the room come in to view. All of a sudden that blood splatter or broken machinery makes perfect sense. [embed]308755:60221:0[/embed] The biggest issue the plot has is pacing. For someone who figures out all of the game's puzzles with relative ease, the pacing is great. For those like myself, however, who struggle with classic adventure game puzzles, the pacing can fall apart quickly. In general, I suck at figuring out puzzles in adventure games. That being said, I managed to get through most of STASIS' puzzles without struggling. When I did struggle, however, oh boy was it rough. After spending over an hour trying to figure out what to do, the game's atmosphere and themes crumble away, and the I began to look at it from a mechanical point of view. "Okay, what haven't I clicked on yet," or "which item haven't I tried to use on everything yet?" are signs of desperation and even frustration. At that point, the creepy background sounds and eerie music were just noise and I was furiously clicking on everything in hopes that it would work. For players who end up at this point, I have a few tips. First of all, make sure you've read everything. Many times, hints are offered through various PDA journal entries or in the mouse-over descriptions of things. Read them carefully! Always try to combine items, and use items on just about everything. Finally, if you're truly stuck, look it up! It's better to keep moving with the story than to spend hours banging your head against the wall, hoping for the best. Shoutouts to my Destructoid colleague Stephen Turner for helping me through some of the harder puzzles; that guy is a rockstar. With the exception of those few obtuse puzzles, most of them range from very obvious to "just the right amount of thinking." As mentioned, hints are almost always available to those who are observant enough, even though some don't come off as hints initially. Piecing together these clues feels great, and solving most puzzles provides a strong sense of accomplishment. The game takes an interesting isometric perspective, similar to RPGs like Baldur's Gate or Planescape: Torment. The view cannot be zoomed in or rotated, so what you see is what you get. This is probably for the best, since the game uses a fairly low resolution and zooming in would not be pretty. It isn't always easy to see where to exit a room, so it's best to hover the mouse over the edges of each room to find all of the exits.  Objects that can be picked up or PDAs that can be read have a glint of light, signaling to the player that they should click on it. This helps alleviate the "pixel-hunt" that many adventure games suffer from, though not completely. While interactable items sparkle like a gem in the sky, environmental objects do not. I did occasionally find myself slowly scanning my mouse over an area to see if I had missed something to click on.  While this is inconsequential, the pathfinding in STASIS is a little wonky. Often times John will take the longer route to get to an item instead of the obviously shorter one. Some of the animations are also a bit funky; certain movements don't quite line up with the surrounding environments at times. Both of these have no gameplay impact, but they can break immersion and remind the player that they're playing a video game.  The model for John also stuck out as odd. He's completely dark, like a shadow. Other character models seem to have some texturing done, but John...doesn't. Even when in a room with plenty of light, John stands as a dark figure. It comes off as unfinished, though it seems to be a deliberate choice. The sound design, however, is top notch. Various background noises easily take front stage at times, making an already creepy room into a downright terrifying experience. Sound effects after interacting with specific objects are downright perfect, and make me question the lengths that the developer went to to get such sounds. STASIS is one of the most memorable experiences I've had from gaming in quite a while. Some puzzles can be frustratingly obtuse, but the majority are a pleasure to solve. The game will take most people between six to ten hours to complete, depending on puzzle-solving skill, and just about every moment is sure to stick with the player in some way. STASIS is a game that is not to be missed by anyone craving an eerie and sinister experience. [This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]
STASIS review photo
Something you won't forget
Generally, I tend to avoid both adventure and horror games, which makes my attraction to STASIS a bit perplexing, since it's both of these things. I've been invested in the game's development for years, anticipating its relea...

Amazon photo
Amazon

Amazon offering downloads for Nintendo games now


Officially links Nintendo ID
Sep 01
// Chris Carter
Just in time for Super Mario Maker's release on the horizon, Amazon is offering up downloads for select Nintendo games. In essence, you'll buy the content, then link your Nintendo ID to the service, and the code will auto-pop...
Batman: Arkham Knight photo
Batman: Arkham Knight

Batman: Arkham Knight Crime Fighter pack DLC is out


Part of the Season Pass
Sep 01
// Chris Carter
The next batch of Batman: Arkham Knight DLC is out today -- the Crime Fighter Challenge Pack #1. In short, you're basically getting six AR missions, featuring Robin, Catwoman, Batman, and Nightwing. If you bought the Sea...
Star Wars: Battlefront photo
Star Wars: Battlefront

EA provides details for Star Wars Battlefront October beta


Coming to PC, PS4, and Xbox One
Sep 01
// Chris Carter
EA  has spilled some details for the upcoming Star Wars Battlefront beta. It'll be available in early October on the PC, PS4, and Xbox One platforms, and is a technical test that will feature 40-person battles on Hoth, p...

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