I don’t remember how I learned about the Mario Run mobile game. It might have been that I saw a beta invite (or whatever the mobile equivalent of a beta invite is) in the Google Play store. I do remember that I downloaded it as soon as I saw it was available since I signed up for that invite to get access to the game as soon as possible.
I mean, I am the guy who has said that all Nintendo has to do is release a Mario, Zelda, and Metroid game on a system to get me to buy it enough times that it is pretty much self parody at this point to repeat it. I played it the whole way through within a day or two. Then, I changed phones twice. As you all know, my luck with electronics breaking is legendarily bad. Some of it is my doing. Some of it is just bad luck like a computer falling down the stairs or a phone getting run over in a parking lot. In either case, when I downloaded the game again recently, I thought I had lost all progress and my purchase, too. So, I didn’t play it for a few weeks.
I was willing to pay for the game again, especially since they were running a sale and only charging half price for the game. Then, I learned that there was a way to restore my purchase. It didn’t restore my progress, but that was fine. As I said earlier, the game can be finished in a short period of time. When I wasn’t distracted by the new mode, I tried to clear the game again to access Star World. More on that in the next section.
Even though I was excited about the game, I wondered and worried how Mario would translate to mobile. Look, I get that the heart of Mario is just run and jump. Those actions are pretty easy to replicate in the mobile format. Heck, if they can make a decent fighting game on mobile with a variety of moves in Injustice 2 (which is still broken for me and I’m sad about that), then they can make Mario run and jump.
Granted, the more recent Mario games have more to offer like 3D motion and teamwork, but the basics of the games are running and jumping on Goombas. So, while maybe I shouldn’t have been, I was surprised to see that the game works well. The controls are intuitive and it is Mario game play. That alone should be enough to get people into the game. But, wait, there’s more.
Another appeal of the game is that they have included multiple game modes. When I first started playing the game, there were only two. There was a “Tour” mode that played like a normal Mario game and you played through stages and worlds to advance to castles and eventually fight against Bowser to finish the game. Aside from that, there was also a “Rally” mode that was a “multiplayer” mode. In reality, you competed against a ghost of another player to collect more coins. The player that won got a collection of different colored Toads that they could use to buy buildings to improve their kingdom.
Speaking of the kingdom, when I came back to the game, they had introduced a new game mode. They call it Remix 10 and it is billed as some of the shortest Mario levels in history. That’s no lie. What they do is they take the various levels from the game and shrink them into bite size (and even less than bite size in some cases) portions and put 10 of them together. It’s a fun game mode and the one that I find myself playing over and over again. The goal is to collect 3 rainbow coins from each level. Then, at the end of the level is usually some decoration for the kingdom.
So, what is this kingdom? The kingdom is a collection of buildings. Some are decorative. Some offer small bonuses. Other than vanity, I’m not entirely sure what the point of the kingdom is in the game. It’s not my idea of good game design. Nor am I actively opposed to it and, if you are the type to enjoy that sort of thing, then that’s another potentially good aspect of the game.
It’s not exactly Mario. Sure, there is running and jumping and it feels as much like Mario as they can make a simple mobile game where the character automatically runs and you make him jump by tapping the screen feel like Mario. It’s not just because the character looks like Mario and the enemies look like Mario enemies, either. You just get the feeling when you’re playing that you are almost playing a Mario game. It’s just not all the way Mario. You can’t go back on levels unless level design allows it via wall jumps or arrow jumps. Heck you can’t even stop to explore if there are hidden areas in the level. I don’t think there are any hidden levels as the game forces a very linear progression through the game.
Also, it is short. I’ve already said that the main “campaign”, if you can call it that would take most gamers less than two hours. Less than one hour or even a half an hour if you are dedicated and better that the average noob. Sure, there are goodies to be collected and increasingly difficult coins to be found for each level. To be honest, that hasn’t been enough to keep me playing the main mode. Mostly, now, I play the Tour and Remix 10 modes. Remix 10, especially, is fun and it takes almost no time commitment to play. But, if you are the type who just wants to beat a game, you won’t find the infinite hamster wheel of Candy Crush. 30 to 120 minutes and you’re done.
The kingdom introduces some annoying mobile tropes like unlockable collectibles. In true Nintendo fashion they haven’t added real money microtransactions to the game, but that almost makes it even more annoying. The fact that I buy things with coins makes me think of the joke game “DLC Quest” where you are constantly using your coins to make the game complete. It’s all cosmetic and there’s no real money, but it’s still annoying to be reminded how icky mobile gaming can sometimes feel.
If I know Nintendo, I know that they won’t change on the real money issue. However, as I was doing research for the article (Googling for images), I came across some news that the game has not been as profitable as they hoped. I mean, maybe that’s just the way that you can make money from these mobile games. They charged 10 bucks for the full version of the game. Once you bought it, you own it. I like that type of game, but so many others in the market are all too happy to take your money in exchange for (ultimately worthless) virtual goods. Is it only a matter of time before Nintendo caves? I doubt it, but if they do, it will not be pretty.
While the main game is short, it is fun. There is enough variety in the 3 game modes (maybe more added eventually?) to keep you coming back for more. There is the kingdom building aspect of the game for the collectors out there. Thankfully, for now, Nintendo has not instituted any real money shop (other than the one to buy the full version of the game) and hopefully they never will. I won’t stop playing the game if they do, but I might slow down just out of habit. If you haven’t already, please download and play the game. Maybe we can convince Nintendo to release Zelda or Metroid!