It’s been a whole weekend since Super Mario Maker was released to the public, and there are already some rather impressive levels making interesting use of the tools that the game offers. Between all of the enemies, obstacles, and modifiers available, the possibilities are practically infinite; however, there are always common themes an elements that run through the vast majority of levels, so let’s take a look at a couple of the major types of levels that you will see while browsing levels online.
Honest Mario, or HM for short.
An HM level attempts to emulate the classic Mario formula. It may have been made to test and show off the creator’s level design, or maybe it was made just for the sake of toying with the more basic elements to build up to more extravagant levels. They may be bland at times, and some elements may feel a bit off, but it’s honestly hard to fault levels like these much; if nothing else, an attempt at a level of this style means the creator at least identifies the good level design of the official titles and strives to create a genuinely engaging experience. Unfortunately, convincing HM is somewhat hard to find. If you run into a level that feels genuine, be sure to star(favorite) or even download it; these are the levels that will be harder and harder to find as time goes on.
Gimmick levels can take many shapes and forms: getting past a tower of enemies, chasing a giant shell through a level so it can break the blocks in your path, only being able to progress by spin-jumping on otherwise hazardous objects, and much, much more. The enjoyability for these is all over the charts: it depends on how interestingly the gimmick is implemented, as well as the disposition of the player. However, unlike an HM-styled level; it is much easier to dislike a level for faults as if the one element the level hinges on is flawed, there is little to salvage. Don’t feel obligated to hold on to gimmick levels you only “kind of” like, levels of this type are easy to make and as such will pop up often.
These levels come in two major varieties, Roller Coasters and Pixel Art. Much like their namesakes, Roller Coaster levels usually involve no player interaction, choosing rather to wow the player by demonstrating discipline and detailed knowledge of the game’s tools and physics. As a lover of good level design, I don’t know how to feel about these; on one hand, the creator worked very hard for an entertaining experience utilizing the tools to create music or other exciting events through the given tools, on the other, what does it matter that you or I are playing this? You could watch this level on Youtube and be losing nothing from it, and upon completing the level, there is no sense of accomplishment. I’d recommend saving a couple of these when you see them for the entertainment value, but they can get old pretty fast. Also, if you’re so inclined, making a good roller coaster is a surefire way to get a lot of attention, so if you want to become an accomplished Super Mario Maker creator, the effort spent on making one of these is a good investment.
Pixel art is exactly what it sounds like. Creators use various blocks and items for coloration and shape to create images. Since the blocks are being used for art, the level design and likely gameplay as a whole are usually lacking, and even at that, the images likely won’t be visible in actual gameplay due to the relative size of blocks to the screen.
Though it does take serious work to create levels such as these, it kind of undermines the purpose of the game; in all honesty, the same could be done in Minecraft and be more easily appreciated. If you’re dead-set on making a Pixel art level, consider making it a Roller Coaster as well. That way, not only does the player not need to focus on the game to see the art, but you can also guide the player so that they can see your art in a way that you feel does your level justice.
A Hard Style level is an experience. If you have any experience with Mario Romhacks, these levels are the equivalent to a well-designed, challenge-themed hack. These levels show a solid knowledge of game flow as well as tough but fair level design. As a whole, these levels are not as user-friendly as HM or classic Mario, nor do they necessarily have the cohesion to be a by-the-books Mario level; but what they lack in focus, they make up for in genuine and trying challenge. If you come across a genuine Hard Style level, save it. Moreover, if you want recognition in the Mario Maker community, a good Hard Style level is a better way in than most.
“The After School Special”
This type of level is not trying to teach you the dangers of illicit drugs, nor does it star second-rate TV actors. These levels are called After School Specials because some kid just came home from school, threw a bunch of pieces together and called it a level. Maybe the screen is cluttered with enemies, maybe the level can’t be beaten without a P-switch that’s hidden in an invisible block, or maybe it’s just a string of coins until you reach the flag. Any way you slice it, it’s beyond poor level design. I won’t go and insult the creators as they’re most likely still in grade school at this point; but I’ll tell you this right now, this type of level’s acronym is not wrong. Just stay out of easy mode 100 Mario challenge and you’ll be fine.
As a whole, Mario Maker has an amazing amount to offer. Some levels stimulate the mind, some let you relax. There are bad levels, sure, but the best levels to be found make the whole deal well worth it. If you’re playing Mario Maker right now, I hope this has given you an interesting view on available content. If you’re undecided on Mario Maker, I help this has helped you see some things in a fresh way.