"It's-a Mario time!"
When Shigeru Miyamoto first announced Super Mario Run, it was hard not to be drawn into his boundless enthusiasm. It wasn't until the price-tag of the full game became available that many folks (my cheap-ass included) were taken aback.
$9.99 for a mobile game? That seems a bit steep.
And, after playing a few hours of the tap-happy quest, I still have reservations about the price.
Let's get down to basics: Super Mario Run is Nintendo's first foray into mobile gaming (do we count Miitomo as a "game," when it's really just a fashion and question-based social network?), and for the most part, they get a lot of things right.
The story is standard fare for Mario games: Bowser has kidnapped Peach once again, and levelled the Mushroom Kingdom into rubble. It's up to Mario and Company to dash through a series of levels, fight koopalings, and bring the Kingdom back to its former glory.
Lauded as a game you can play "with only one hand" the game is an "on-the-rails" style game, where Mario moves himself. You tap the screen to make him jump, do tricks, and do a little spin for extra air-time. Seems simple, but each stage is jam-packed with enough collectable coins, goombas, koopa troopas, Piranha Plants, and enough breakable blocks to make Mario's head spin.
He'll easily vault over small enemies, but if you time your tap just right, he'll do an extra little trick, defeat the enemy, and get a small boost in coins, which double as points.
And the game looks and plays beautifully. Each of Mario's actions are graceful and each tap produces a precise action. There's zero lag and no framerate disruptions. The visuals call back to New Super Mario Brothers, and once you hit the right rhythm for a level, it freaking clicks. Most games would kill to be this fluid, and Nintendo excells at making the red Plumber's games perfect.
Since Bowser destroyed most of the Mushroom Kingdom, part of the game allows you to rebuild it. You do so by collecting different colored Toads in the Toad Rally, which is the second big activity in the game.
In essence, it's a point and style competition between you, your friends, and anonymous internet folks. You perform tricks and kick Goomba/Koopa butt to impress a swath of different colored Toads. If you defeat your opponent, those Toads join your Kingdom, help build it up, and allow you to place different buildings, that then reward you with items, coins, and tickets as time progresses.
With the large amount of secrets and collectables for each world, and competition between you and your friends, and the promise of more content (that's free behind the paywall), there's quite a bit to do.
The biggest problem, and the one that makes the game's price tag seem a little too hefty, is the always online connectivity. You'll need to have access to either WiFi or cell coverage to play, else the game kicks you out.
It's a damned shame, too, since each level lasts about as long as a bus ride, or train ride, or cab ride. And if you venture into a spot with little to no service ... BAM, the game yells at you. Since there's nothing really designed in the game that warrants an always online feature (like, for example, Pokemon Go!) this just feels like a horrible oversight.
While the game does feel expensive, once you get past the paywall, it never asks you to spend a single cent again, which is a HUGE relief in a saturated mobile market.
And honestly? It's totally up to you whether you feel $9.99 is worth it. There's enough content through challenges and secrets to keep you happy for quite a while.