App Reviewed on: iPhone 5, iPad Air 2
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Nintendo has officially made its first full step into the mobile games arena with the release of Super Mario Run. As everyone expected, this game is a runner that stars Mario and involves a lot of the classic characters and concepts from previous Mario games. Although this isn't the deepest Mario experience you could have, Super Mario Run provides some solid platforming action with a lot of Nintendo charm layered on top.
New Super Mario Runners
In Super Mario Run, you take control of Mario–or another character once you've unlocked them–and tap to jump your way through levels full of Goombas, Koopas, and more. Your character will automatically run and vault over easy obstacles (including enemies). They'll also run over certain blocks on the floor that might change their jump behavior, like reverse arrows that make Mario leap backwards or pause blocks that stop you in your tracks so you can time your next actions carefully before tapping to move on.
The whole game takes the look and physics model from the New Super Mario Bros. games and features a lot of familiar enemies and concepts, but stops well short of Mario's full catalog of tricks. The action here is so focused on running that there aren't even fire flowers, much less Tanuki suits, to switch things up.
If you are looking for a long and involved Mario experience in Super Mario Run, you'll be sorely disappointed here. You can see and beat every level in the game within an hour or two. Instead Super Mario Run focuses on creating highly replayable levels that will keep chasing a high score.
This score chasing aspect of Super Mario Run is driven primarily by the Toad Rush Mode in the game. In this mode, you compete with other players to try and collect the most coins and performing platforming combos within a set amount of time. If you win in this mode, you earn Toads which can unlock allow you to unlock new characters via the strange, Mushroom Kingdom, town-building system that you can manage when not actively in a level.
Is Super Mario Run worth my $10?
Super Mario Run is a free-to-try game, but the free portion of it is limited to the game's first three stages. If you play those first few levels and find yourself wanting more of exactly that, you should feel safe spending the $10 to unlock the full game.
That said, if you are looking for completely new game mechanics to surface, an interesting story to dive into, or anything else that isn't immediately shown in those first three levels, don't pay for the game. That stuff just isn't there.
Also, if you have an older device, I recommend testing a few levels of Super Mario Run on it prior to making a purchasing decision. Although the game doesn't really crash on my iPhone 5, it does regularly freeze the action for a second or two while playing, which is super frustrating.
The bottom line
Super Mario Run is unlike any other Mario game out there, and it's cool to see Nintendo exploring mobile by trying new and different ideas. I'm not sure that Super Mario Run will fully satisfy people who were hoping for a console-style platformer from Nintendo on mobile. That said, Super Mario Run is a really well made runner that combines some new score-chasing ideas with a bit of nostalgia.