A while back, I posted an opinion piece saying I’d just never got what the fuss was about Mario games.
As such, I was only mildly curious when Nintendo announced they were developing a Mario game for iOS. Like I do with all gaming news, I kept an eye on the situation, but (unlike some gamers) didn’t buy into all the hype and think this was going to be the best thing ever.
More news began to trickle out and, like many people I was mildly surprised by the premium pricing of £8 – not because I think that’s excessive (if we want to carry on playing games, we need to make sure the developers are adequately rewarded for their labour), but because it’s so out of kilter with other products on the App Store and is a lot of money to spend on something you might not like. This is true of normal games, of course, but by making your product several times more expensive than most titles on the App Store (even those from major publishers), you’ve automatically increased expectations.
I was quite happy, then, to discover that the game offered a “try before you buy” option, with the first three levels available for free. This is what I did and this blog post sums up my impressions. Before we start though, I want to make it quite clear: this is not a review because I don’t have access to the full game which I’m sure offers more features – it’s just my first impressions of the game based on the very limited experience of those first few levels.
The good news is that this is very much a game in the Mario tradition. Graphically, aurally and gameplay-wise, it instantly captures the look and feel you would expect. People who have played Mario games before will be able to leap right in and instantly feel at home with the gameplay and the aesthetic. Those with more limited experience of the rotund plumber will still find it easy to pick up the basics.
Sadly, that’s pretty much where the good news ends as far as I’m concerned. Based on this very limited experience, there is nothing here to persuade me that the full game is worth £8 of my money.
For a start, it feels slow. Whilst Mario games have never been purely about speed (in the way that, say, Sonic games are), it is an important element and one that is lacking from this latest effort. So too is the responsiveness of the character. Whilst Mario has the sort of moves you might expect, he feels sluggish and unresponsive. There is a definite lag – albeit it a very tiny one – between what control button you press and your on-screen avatar performing the action. Perhaps it’s age catching up on him, but this isn’t the spritely, responsive character expected and it definitely impacts on the feel of the game.
Secondly, the need for a permanent internet connection is inexplicable and unacceptable I live in an area where I get frequent drop-outs from my 3G connection which renders the game totally useless. This is madness – it’s at times like this (when I’ve got a bit of time to kill, but don’t have the internet) that I’m likely to turn to a casual game like this. Equally, the amount of data it uses may cause issues for anyone on a limited data tariff or pay as you go internet (I’ve seen estimates of around 60MB for each hour of gameplay) and could easily lead them to people unwittingly rack up massive data charges. I’m not a massive online gamer at the best of times, so why should I be forced to take part if I don’t want to?
I know there has been massive uproar from disappointed Mario fans about many aspects of this game. To be honest, I don’t think a mobile outing was ever going to satisfy those people who want a full, old-style Mario title. As a neutral observer though, I would agree that the game is a disappointment. I didn’t find it to be particularly fun or addictive. It did nothing to change my opinion of Mario and it certainly didn’t make me want to pay £8 (or indeed any amount) for the full game.
Before the flak starts coming in, I fully accept that only playing three levels is not a fair basis for a full evaluation and that’s why I stress that this is not a review, just a few observations. However, surely the point of those free levels is to convince sceptics like me that this is a good game and one worth paying for? If that was Nintendo’s aim, they’ve failed badly. All those levels have done is convince me to keep my credit card firmly in my pocket.
I’m sure there will be improvements made to Super Mario Run over time and eventually some of the kinks might be ironed out. However, it’s done nothing to change my mind about Mario and on the evidence I’ve seen, Nintendo needs to urgently revisit its mobile strategy before it convinces me that it can justify that premium price tag.