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Super Mario Run review: (Almost) mobile gaming perfection

Super Mario Run is fantastic. That’s all you need to know. Nintendo has, somehow, managed to liquify fun and pump it straight into your veins. There isn’t a moment of Super Mario Run that isn’t enjoyable, even when you’re having to restart levels because you’re a perfectionist who can’t miss a single collectible coin in a run.

Before you run off to the App Store and snap up your copy of Super Mario Run, though, there’s a couple of things you need to know first. One, it’s going to cost you £7.99. Two, it’s worth every penny – even if it does have a crucial, and irritating, flaw.

I’ll come onto that in a minute though, for now you need to know what you’re getting for what seems like an awful lot of money. Don’t worry, Nintendo hasn’t skimped on the content to build a game that simply appeases its shareholders; this is a proper, fully-fledged Super Mario game. The only difference is it doesn’t run on Nintendo hardware.

Super Mario Run review: Who needs a run button?

When I first heard that, in order to make Mario work on touchscreen devices, he’d run automatically, I was sceptical. Surely, there had to be more to it than that. Turns out, that’s all Nintendo really needed to do. By stripping you of control over Mario’s forward momentum, Nintendo is liberating you from the shackles of Super Mario’s conventional level design.

Here, in Super Mario Run, Nintendo’s level designers know exactly how you’ll approach a situation and can tailor some spectacular levels in the process. Pause blocks freeze the ticking level timer and let you weigh up hazards ahead; jumping when running along arrow blocks boosts you in the indicated direction; “invisible” arrows generate lines of coins when you run through them and some of the multi-route level designs are so fiendish there’s no way you can finish a level completely in one take. It’s replayability genius.

While Super Mario Run lets you progress through its generous 24-level Tour mode by just simply reaching a level’s goal flag, every level also tasks you with collecting five coloured coins in a single run. Collecting those coins not only changes how you play a level – doing repeat runs to snag each and every one – but completing a challenge unlocks a more difficult run of five more coins. If you manage to surmount that tricky challenge, a black coin run opens up, which is most certainly not for the faint-hearted.

Mario die-hards will also be pleased to know that, in true Super Mario fashion, as you progress through each world in Tour mode, the levels get progressively harder. Without the run button, timing really does become everything. Super Mario Run is as much a puzzle game as it is a twitch-based auto-runner. It’s a glorious reworking of the biggest games franchise ever made and it feels just as at home on iOS as it does on a Nintendo 3DS.

Buy Super Mario Run on the App Store now

Super Mario Run review: Premium plumber

You may still be thinking that, despite having 24-levels, each with three coin challenge difficulties, £7.99 is still a lot to ask for a mobile game. Well worry not, for Nintendo has done what Nintendo does best and added so much content that Super Mario Run is literally (read: figuratively) bursting at the seams.

Alongside the more traditional Tour mode, Super Mario Run’s main menu doubles as a Mushroom Kingdom-building attraction known as My Kingdom. Here you’ll build up your castle, unlock new characters and mini-games, collect Toads and develop yourself a snazzy kingdom. This may sound pointless, but I did find myself wanting to spend earned coins on snazzy new additions and the multitude of unlockable mini-games certainly makes investing in My Kingdom a worthwhile pursuit.

Nintendo also knows that you can’t have a mobile game without some sort of social or multiplayer element. Not only can you compete in high scores against friends on Facebook, Twitter and with those with whom you share your Super Mario Run code, but Nintendo has also included an asynchronous multiplayer mode called Toad Run.

Toad Run pits you against the ghost of another human player as you run through a looping level trying to collect as many coins as you can in 30-seconds. At the same time as collecting coins, you’ll need to pull off special jumps and tricks to curry the favour of onlooking Toads. Finish the level with the most coins (and the most Toads), and you’ll win, bagging you new Toads for your kingdom and a sense of smug satisfaction in the process. Lose, however, and those notoriously fickle Toads will leave.

If you’re wondering why Toads are so important, some of Super Mario Run’s best additional content is locked away behind your kingdom’s Toad population. For instance, if you want to play as Yoshi, Luigi or Toadette, you’ll need to persuade Toads of various colours to stay in your kingdom, otherwise you can kiss goodbye to ever seeing Yoshi’s little legs struggle in the air as he jumps.

Buy Super Mario Run on the App Store now

For anyone who’s still sat thinking that £7.99 is still too much for all this content, or perhaps you’re offended at the prospect of spending money on a mobile app full stop, Nintendo is offering a free version of Super Mario Run too. Just like the full-fat £7.99 version, there are zero micro-transactions here – instead, Nintendo has limited access to the worlds you can play in Tour mode and restricted how many entries into its Toad Rally multiplayer you can get. Think of this as one big demo.

Super Mario Run review: That one, near-fatal, flaw

As I said at the start, Super Mario Run is practically perfect. Nintendo has taken the iconic Italian plumber and transplanted him immaculately onto the smartphone platform. There really hasn’t ever been an iOS game as enjoyable as Super Mario Run – it’s a complete must-have.

However, it does have one glaring problem – no offline play. For some peculiar reason, Nintendo always wants you to have an active internet connection to enjoy the delights of Super Mario Run. You can play through a level but can’t currently move beyond the end of it without a live connection.

With an iPhone, this is less of a problem as you’ll have data most of the time you’re away from a Wi-Fi connection. On non-cellular iPads, however, it’s pain in the rear as it means you have no hope of playing Super Mario Run when you’re out of the house – unless you tether to a nearby smartphone.

Still, despite that glaring problem, Super Mario Run so wonderful that I’m full prepared to put up with it and you should be, too. Hopefully, it’s something Nintendo will eventually fix via an update, but even if it never does, Super Mario Run is – and will remain as – the best mobile game money can buy.

Buy Super Mario Run on the App Store now

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