Super Mario Run plagued by pop ups, but still fun (Android review)

Finally, Super Mario Run is out on Android through the Google Play store. For months, it had been exclusive to iOS because of a deal between Nintendo and Apple. Now, Android smartphone users get to enjoy this landmark game.

It is a landmark game because for years Nintendo hesitated to enter the smartphone market out of fear no one would buy their own hardware. To compromise, it looks like “casual” versions of top Nintendo franchises are going to be released for Android and iOS, while deeper titles will remain on the Switch and 3DS. It makes sense, as Nintendo can lure a different crowd by using phone games as bait.

Is the bait enjoyable? Well, it is a debatable point.

Remember how people made fun of modern gaming using the original Super Mario Bros.? Bubbles were placed over Mario’s head to mock the way today’s games lecture players on obvious points.

(Credit: hiwiller.com.)

Super Mario Run is not too far from the above picture.

Forced pop ups and tutorials are present throughout, even past the game’s beginning stages. Simply starting the main game comes across as a frustrating process because of Toad informing the player on nearly everything.

Toad is just trying to be helpful, but he starts to become annoying after a few times since every single minuscule detail requires a notice. The little guy just needs to take a breather and wait a bit, as not everyone cares about whatever arrived in a gift box.

Plus, the game plagues users at the beginning with a tutorial on jumping and a few other game mechanics. Most casual gamers can figure out the controls to a 2D Mario title on their own.

The pop ups are a shame because beneath all the clutter lies a solid game.

Sure, the graphical style seems no different than the DS and 3DS New Super Mario Bros. series, but the “automatic runner” premise adds a new dimension to the gameplay. The overall level designs are still good too (although short).

Yet, for the older gamer who grew up playing the classic 8-bit Mario games, trying out this entry will be jarring because of the constant hand holding. Perhaps Nintendo should offer an option at startup and let people decide if they want so much help. It would make a lot people happier to not tap so through many options and updates. The main gameplay experience is always most important.

Some readers might disagree with the above criticism, and that is fine. Again, underneath the extra distractions is a legitimate Mario series entry for Android and iOS. Going through each level is fun, even if exploring is more difficult since Mario keeps running.

As for the extra modes (which Toad will undoubtedly lecture on), Toad Rally is a nice addition. Players compete against other Super Mario Run users around the world, but the opponent is only a “ghost.” In other words, no one is facing off against a live player. The Toad Rally mode is not unwelcome though and adds replayability.

The Kingdom Building mode seems less attractive. If players are interested, they can add buildings and other items to the hub world, or rearrange and move things around. Others might find it interesting.

One last nitpicking point: the price. Even a few Nintendo fans will find $9.99 too expensive for an automatic runner with short-ish (but well designed) levels.

Super Mario Run is not without flaws and the price is high, but with patience, gamers will remember why they love Mario all over again.

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