The first ‘Super Mario’ game for iPhone is excellent, gorgeous, and too short

Good news: The first “Super Mario” game for Apple’s iPhone and iPad is really, really good.

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Nintendo/Apple

The game is “Super Mario Run,” and it’s the first smartphone game starring Nintendo’s ubiquitous mustachioed plumber.

It looks like classic 2D Mario, and it plays like it too.

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Nintendo

There’s one huge caveat: This isn’t a Mario game about pixel-perfect jumps and deep challenge. Yes, Mario moves from left to right, and there are enemies/obstacles in the way of his progress. But you don’t actually control the speed or direction of Mario’s movement.

Instead, little Mario automatically runs from left to right – your one job is to tap the screen to jump. If you hold after tapping, Mario jumps a little higher. No swiping, no virtual d-pad on-screen, no Bluetooth gamepads connected to your iPhone/iPad.

Instead of worrying about moving Mario forward, you’re instead concerned with stomping on enemies and carefully timing your taps to jump at just the right moment.

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Nintendo

That doesn’t mean “Super Mario Run” is easy, per se.

It’s slightly easier than your average Mario game, perhaps, but there’s still plenty of challenge to be found. If you’ve spent any time playing “Super Mario” games, you’re rarely going to find yourself unable to complete a level in “Super Mario Run” solely because of enemy placement or intentionally challenging level design.

Much of the challenge in “Super Mario Run” is in the game’s “pink coins” mechanic – collect all five pink coins strewn throughout a given level, and the level moves them to five new, slightly harder to find places. Collect those, and the five pink coins become five bronze coins hidden in question mark boxes, down pits, and in the clouds. I’ve only found all three sets on the very first few levels, and finding the final five bronze coins was genuinely tough.

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This is one of the easier to find pink coins.
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Nintendo

Another layer of replay value to the game’s somewhat meager offering of 24 levels is the ability to play as a variety of other Mario characters.

In “Super Mario Run,” you’ll start out as Super Mario, but a gaggle of his friends also appear as playable characters. Maybe you’re more of a Princess Peach kinda player? Perhaps you identify most with an affable green dinosaur named Yoshi?

Both are playable characters in “Super Mario Run,” with a total of six to choose from. Since each of the characters plays slightly differently – Luigi jumps higher, Princess Peach floats in mid-air, etc. – you could replay levels to get more excitement out of them.

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Nintendo

So, what else does “Super Mario Run” have to offer?

There are two modes that are distinct from the classic Mario gameplay of “World Tour” mode – they are “Toad Rally” and “Kingdom Builder.” In the former, you race against other players to collect the most coins, stomp the most enemies, and generally play as skillfully as possible. If you do better than your opponent, you’re rewarded with new followers (Toads of various types). The more followers you have, the higher your level is; the higher your level is, the larger your kingdom is.

And that last bit is important, because it determines the size of your buildable land in the “Kingdom Builder” mode. If you’ve ever played “Clash of Clans” or “Game of War,” you’re already familiar with this game mode – you build stuff using coins earned in the “World Tour” mode. This stuff ranges from decorations (mushrooms of various types) to houses for various Toads.

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Nintendo

But let’s be clear: Both Toad Rally and Kingdom Builder are ancillary modes to the meat and potatoes of World Tour mode. Players are coming to “Super Mario Run” looking for classic Mario gameplay, and World Tour mode is where they’re going to find it.

Thankfully, the two ancillary modes serve to complement World Tour.

Kingdom Builder allows you to see the progress you’re making in the game beyond just completing levels; Toad Rally allows you to put your playing skills to the test against other players. Neither is fantastic by itself, but they do a good job of accenting the classic Mario gameplay of World Tour.

So, should you spend $10 on “Super Mario Run”? I think you should, yes.

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Nintendo

There are no microtransactions, so that $10 is an “all-in” price. And for that $10, you get a solid – if somewhat limited – “Super Mario” game from the folks who created the franchise. “Super Mario Run” isn’t going to make anyone’s top five list of all-time Mario games, but it’s certain to please returning fans and new fans alike.

Since I started this with some good news, here’s some more: There’s a free version of “Super Mario Run” that has the first three levels in entirety available to play. Go give it a shot and decide for yourself!