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What is Mario Maker?Coming exclusively to Wii U
Mario Maker release date first half of 2015
For those of you familiar with the original Super Mario Bros, you've probably already got Mario Maker on your radar. This brand new Nintendo Wii U game lets you make your own Super Mario levels using the Wii U GamePad and stylus.
We managed to get some hands-on time with Mario Maker at E3 2014, tackling the Mario level creation tools first hand and getting stuck into designing our own level.
You start with a completely blank slate, apart from a little Mario and the basic brick bottom level. From there you can add level items like blocks, question mark boxes, upgrade boxes and other platforms to build your basic level outline.
From the outset, it's clear how complex the original Super Mario Bros levels are, and mentally we took our hat off to the original creators as soon as we starting trying to build anything on Mario Maker.
Tunnels can be height adjusted by holding the stylus down on the top and dragging up and down. You might need to fiddle about with these items a bit, as the controls are a little fiddly. With the tunnels in particular, we discovered you had to immediately adjust the height before placing it, as otherwise you just moved them around the screen, which became pretty frustrating.
It is easy to delete items though, either by using the eraser button on the right hand side or simply by shaking a held item with the stylus.
The next step after you've built the bulk of your level will be adding enemies. These can be placed wherever and whenever you want, and you can add wings to any enemy by dragging the wings from the top item bar onto the character's back. Want to change your green Kooper for a red one? Just shake him.
Levels themselves are very long and take a long, long time to build, especially when you're first starting out. You can scroll from one end to the other by dragging the marker at the bottom of the screen from the start to the castle end. This gives you an idea of just how much space you have to play with at the beginning as well.
Once you've got a vague level plan mapped out, you can hit the play button to give it a shot. If you don't want to start from the beginning, or are trying to perfect a particular section, you can just drag Mario himself to wherever you want your play session to begin.
After you've played for a bit and then go back to edit mode, you'll see a Ghost Mario track that shows where you've travelled so you can tweak levels. You might need to adjust the placement of a platform or reduce the amount of enemies in a particular section, and the Ghost Mario shows you where you've died or come up against difficulties.
The main appeal of Mario Maker will be its retro charm, but those looking to bring it into the modern day will be delighted to hear you can quickly switch the graphical presentation of your level to that of New Super Mario Bros U by pulling the light switch at the left hand side of the screen at any time.
This way you can easily switch between the old and new styles without it having any impact on your creation.
Although you can view what you're doing on the TV screen, we found ourselves only looking at the GamePad when creating. Mostly because the giant, humanoid hand on the screen was a little creepy, but also because you're using the stylus it makes more sense to look directly at what you're touching on the GamePad.
In the version we played at E3, Nintendo was offering a few sample levels to get you started and mess about with the creation tools. However, when we asked several Nintendo spokespeople whether these would come pre-packaged with the game, they were unable to comment. Hopefully they will, though, as the blank canvas is a little daunting to begin with.
The major feature missing from Mario Maker though is social integration. If you've played any Little Big Planet game, you'll know that the ability to share your own level creations and play other people's is one of the key features when designing your own maps.
So far, Nintendo hasn't even mentioned social for Mario Maker. Although there may be an announcement in the future, it seems odd that Nintendo has chosen to omit such a crucial detail when first announcing the game. Although it's fun for a little while to make and play your own courses, the idea that you might not be able to share them with anyone outside your own home seems ridiculous.
Although the retro charm will appeal to the Nintendo fans of old, this game really won't succeed without social. There's a few hours of fun trying to recreate old Nintendo games and design your own, but without the ability to share your creations with the world and access other peoples', Mario Maker is going to get very repetitive very quickly.
If you've got the patience and Nintendo eventually announces the social element, this game could appeal to a huge number of gamers and be an important addition to the Wii U games library.
Read more: Best games of 2014