The fourth day of Super Mario Maker is an important one for budding level designers. It’s the day you gain the ability to trace Mario’s route, radically increasing the amount of precision you can build into your levels. When you jump from playtesting to editing, you now have the option to view a trail of ghost Marios, highlighting your route through the last few seconds of gameplay. This makes it much easier to place that block exactly where you’d land if you took a running jump from the edge of that last cliff, for example. You’ve had a few days to play around with placing blocks and enemies willy-nilly around your levels; now you can place them exactly where they need to be to achieve your desired results.
As the levels people have already created amply demonstrate, this is where truly bonkers level design becomes possible – or at least a lot less difficult. If, in the course of playtesting or just messing around, you pull off a series of tricky jumps, you can pop into the level editor and throw in some power-ups to reward players who can match your platforming prowess, or insert obstacles that will force them to. Many of the best Mario levels give you a puzzle and then subtly guide you towards its solution, leaving you with a sense of accomplishment for both discovering and then successfully navigating the tricky route to the finish line. Now that you can actually see that route onscreen, you can much more easily build a level around it.
This feature also lets you do a bit more playtesting. One of the first things I did in the editor today was to create a section in my level where the easiest way through a series of obstacles is to simply hold right on the D-pad and let Mario bounce from music block to music block until the automated path drops him onto a moving platform. Seeing Mario’s route onscreen let me do two things: first, it made it easy for me to bring fireballs and other obstacles right to the edge of Mario’s path, creating the illusion of danger; second, it let me quickly see what would happen if players did the “wrong” thing, and add traps, safety nets, or visual cues as I deemed appropriate.
There’s also a great Easter egg in this batch of tools. When you shake the music note block, it transforms into an alternate version of itself that makes a slightly different sound when you jump on it: a single note whose pitch corresponds to the block’s placement in the board. In other words: the tools to start building musical levels. Steer Mario into a series of carefully placed musical blocks with precise timing – or drop enemies onto them – and you can build a level that plays a song. Now, even with a pretty solid musical background, I doubt I could personally put together much more than a few seconds of simple melody or a few chords for Mario to run past. But I don’t doubt that someone out there will put together some mind-blowing musical levels.
And that’s one of my favorite things about Super Mario Maker. As much as I get excited by every new item that’s made available, and am eager to build levels for my friends and family to try, I’m far more excited by the prospect of what other people will do. Whenever a new design option becomes available, I start to drool imagining what that top 1% of Mario Maker users will cook up. There’s already a wealth of great stuff out there, but as more and more people unlock the full slate of tools and work through the game’s learning curve, the bounty is just going to get richer and richer and richer. Soon, it may be time to make a variation on Rule 34: if you can imagine it, someone will do it in Mario Maker.
Read all about What I Play When I Play.