Review: Super Mario Run

There is zero doubt that this is arguably one of the most anticipated mobile apps in the history of mobile apps, and if you want to encourage Nintendo to bring more games to phones, buying this really is a no-brainer. Nintendo has been amazingly slow to even consider mobile games, given that their IP is uniquely suited to the platform. It's understandable, of course, Nintendo is also incredibly anal about their hardware/software integration. Remind you of anyone?

So I guess it's probably no surprise that Nintendo chose to go with the iPhone as the launch platform for their first real mobile phone game. And of course Mario's first run across a phone screen was always going to be huge. But for those of you on the fence the real question you're asking yourself isn't "will this game change the future of mobile gaming," it's probably "should I buy it?"

Ostensibly I'm here to answer that question, but conveniently, Nintendo kinda wants you to answer it for yourself. The game is technically free to download on the iOS App Store right now, though it will cost $10 as an in-app purchase to unlock the entire thing. But you can download it, play through the tutorial and a few levels, and then decide if it's worth your ten bucks.

And just a couple of days ago I was arguing that you gamers out there probably didn't have a better use for ten bucks than one of the most bizarre RTS's of all time. But now, if you own an iPhone, I'm not so sure.

Because I think Super Mario Run is a blast, and it's probably a better use of that ten bucks.

If you've played any of the recent Mario games, this will look pleasantly familiar to you.

The game starts in much the same way as literally every other Mario game, with Peach getting kidnapped by Bowser in a weird flying contraption while Mario watches. In fact, in terms of appearance and aesthetic, Super Mario Run's introduction is so similar to the Super Mario Bros. Wii intro that I actually had to check to make sure they weren't the same.

I mean, they aren't. It's been a while since I've seen the Super Mario Bros. Wii introduction, to be fair. But the general visual feel is very similar between the two games (which on a side note just goes to show how lousy the Wii's graphics are when stacked up against modern devices).

The gameplay is obviously not exactly like a classic Mario game. The whole thing has been designed from the ground up to play in portrait view with one hand, and sure, that's different. Not bad, just different. Mario runs automatically and you control his jumping with a tap. It sounds dumb, I know. A little like Flappy Bird. But it so isn't. While the controls are simple, the level design actually opens up a wide array of possibilities.

In order to grab all the coins and points, you still have to execute precision jumps the way you always had to in Mario, but the difference now is that you can't contemplate before jumping. Mario be running, and you jus' gotta react. It actually feels like a speed run of a Mario game in some ways, and that's appropriate, because this game goes from "fun" to "excellent" when you hit a groove and really just start blazing through the level.

And sometimes less pleasantly familiar...

The long and short of it is, this is a superbly designed mobile game. Beyond that, it's a superbly designed mobile platformer. On top of even that, it's a superbly designed mobile platformer that features Mario and, crucially, feels like a Mario game. $10 may seem like a lot for a game that's only good for a few minutes of distraction here and there while you're riding on the bus or waiting for the teacher to notice you haven't been listening for over an hour.

So it's a good thing that Super Mario Run is a lot more than just that. It's a fun Mario game. And it's on your phone. It's as simple as that.