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9:12 PM on 09.13.2015

Mario Maker: An Artbook Surprise & Impressions from a Lost-Hazy Weekend

I honestly thought Super Mario Maker would be something i'd have a bash on here and there, but not get overly into. As it stands i've done little else this weekend but play the bloody thing and there's a monstrous Kraken-Rum bottle in the kitchen - nearly empty. The perfectionism and obsession to detail that haunts my worklife (i'm not a writer, so no japes there please) was not put to rest this weekend. I've barely been able to stop messing around with this thing. Saying that, i've barely been unable to stop thinking about it. This is not a game. It's a lifestyle choice.

The nicest surprise was an art-book that comes with the game. I had no idea about this thing until I opened the case and was beaming my face off as I turned every page. It's a very very special thing. I would honestly have paid good money for this book if I had seen it in a shop. No questions asked. Plonk. This book is a testament to the deep respect Nintendo have for their IPs and their most beloved mascott. It's the kind of thing i'd have imagined being in a premium-price special edition of the game, but here it comes with the standard version.. and even more amazingly Nintendo don't seem to be touting it? At least not that I know of?

Well. It looks like someone at Nintendo's UI department has had a peek of Google's Material Design document. The old shiny/sweaty web 2.0 buttons and interface seems to have been kicked out (hallelujah) for something more tactile and focussed. Let's hope this is the new visual standard for Nitendo's interfaces.. as this really looks the part. There's some experience crinkles here and there, but overall it's a superb job. What could have been a straightforward level designer drips charm and eccentricity at every turn. Nintendo have injected as much of their special brand of personality into this level editor as they did with splatoon and the Multiplayer shooter. It's bonkers and that's all you really need to know until you play it.

The concept of this game is simple and a lot like Twitter. Instead of posting tweets you think are great, clever and important - you post levels you think are great, clever and important. Though they're mostly (but not always) fairly shite. The first thing you'll likely do is play other people's levels and you'll be spoilt for choice on gimmicky unfair ones. Ones where you're thrown into a situation and have a frame of a second to react to something (that you couldn't have possibly known was coming) and are punished for you lack of clairvoyance by insta-death or being unable to progress in the level.

And there-in lies the genius. The compulsion/the long-game. In your arrogance you feel yourself being pulled into the rescue. Only you will be able to rectify this sorry state of affairs. You'll show them how it's done. You'll show them: the truth, the light and the secret to everlasting level design. However, what really happens is you create a mild stinker which in turn arouses another band of disparate global heroes - who in turn crank out their shite into the ever turning stinking wheel of misery.

It's absolutely fantastic.

...And i'm not really being fair. There are some nice levels and there are some really funny surreal levels, which isn't the same thing, but is still fun. This is punk Mario. This is Nintendo's version of the iconic Sniffing Glue cover but with colourful blocks, fluffy clouds and Goombas. People are getting some of the gimmickery out of their system, which isn't helped by the unlock process being sped up by how many assets you use. I think we'll start to see some really wonderful work when people get the hang of this.

And of course here's my contribution. Super-Sneak: Tunnel-Bank-Break-In. I made a level where you have to break into the headquarters of HSBC and steal all the money out of their vaults (A once-dream of mine). Because that's where major banks keep all of their money of course - in vaults at their headquarters. Amongst other creations that will never see the light of day - this is the fruits of a weekend's work and a liver-torture regiment. I tried to to make it as fair and logical as possible - it only uses a few simple assets and hones in on a simple idea. It's a start.


Let me know what you think and please feel free to share your levels. I'll give them a go. 


4:01 PM on 01.22.2014

PUSHMO: a review

Pushmo or Bloknoze (as I believe it was known as in Europe) is an original 3DS download-only game from Nintendo. You star as a round little sumo creature who clambers up these structures called Pushmos to collect children for an old man. Aside from the minimal storyline, the game is bright, bold and oozing with Nintendo charm. The simple, clean graphics suit the 3DS perfectly and make excellent use of the 3D effect.

However: Pushmo has one game-shattering design flaw.[/b]

You canít leap, jump or do wall kicks. You are severely limited with a very underpowered jump which leaves you barely able to scale the structures without pushing and pulling blocks every few seconds. Instead of being able to elegantly leap, bounce and wall-kick up these structures you end up stuck having to pull blocks out in an almost puzzle-like grind to get to the top. This is ok at first as itís fairly easy to navigate to the top, but as you progress the structures become more complex and it becomes a nightmare crawl to get to the top, pushing and pulling blocks in ever more complicated arrangements.

This nonsense could have easily been averted by having a wall kick or double/ triple jump mechanism. Something like this would cut through much of this tiresome rubik's-style messing with blocks and jumping in ladder pipes. Why your freedom is so severely restrained is beyond me? Why put the player through such convoluted routes to get to something which could be reached much easier with a better jump system? †Even better would have been some kind of power-up system where you could perhaps build a jet boost jump, eventually scaling the structures in just a handful of jumps.

As it is Pushmo is a brain-ache, having to slowly think and work out the structures becomes agonizing, and left me yearning for some kind of spring like in Sonic the hedgehog. A better approach (and I hope youíre listening Nintendo) would be to have optional microtransactions which give your ability to leap straight to the top in one exhilarating jump.

One interesting element however is a rewind mechanic. If you get stuck, or would simply like to take a few steps back you can press the rewind button and itíll whizz you back like a fuzzy VCR. Itís a good idea, but even better would have been to have a fast forward mechanic which actually pushed you towards the end goal. Imagine being stuck and pressing the fast forward to just whizz through the Pushmo and reach the end. Why itís not there is baffling? This would also work well as microtransaction; $1 for 10 seconds fast forward or something similar.

One other thing to note is there are no enemies or any real conflict in this game. It really could have used some mild-demons or perhaps war-creatures to shoot at now and then to break things up. I think itís a missed trick that the sumo cannot launch these blocks or have them rain down as attacks. I find it highly strange that a sumo does no wrestling? Perhaps this can be added as DLC?

Overall Pushmo is a nice little title, though one which becomes almost like a puzzle-game with itís lack of player customization and quick scaling controls. It has quite a good story with the Pushmos, the old man and such but leaves too many questions. It would be good to see Nintendo revisit the Pushmo world again in the future but with a more instant and modern gameplay approach.   read

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