I've gotten a bit behind on posts since I've started doing reviews for A Most Agreeable Pastime. In particular, I reviewed Yono and the Celestial Elephants and Inversus Deluxe, both on Nintendo Switch's eShop (yes, I finally got a Switch!). But I've finished a few short games, so I'll be able to catch up a bit now.
First up is Super Mario Run, available on Android and iOS. I was extremely skeptical of the game when it was released last year, in large part because the app stores are full of endless runners, and the vast majority of them are huge snoozefests. Also, along with many others I was put off by how it presented itself as free to play, but in reality it was really more like a demo. In the free version you can play a limited amount of the "Tour" mode, which is more analagous to a regular Mario game. The free mode lets you play through the first world out of six, with each world consisting of four stages. Each stage has three sets of coins (pink, purple, and black) that get progressively more difficult to collect. Unlike the main Mario games getting all the special coins isn't about exploration but more about having exact timing, which is less interesting to me, but this mode is still enjoyable in general.
The other main mode is Toad Rally, where you compete against a ghost (i.e. saved playback) of another player and try to get more points, which are accrued by collecting coins and also performing "stunts", such as jumping after vaulting over an enemy or jumping after dropping off of a ledge. Toad Rally can be fun, although it's also kind of stressful because you lose Toads if you lose a match. Winning a rematch should get you more Toads than you lost, but only if you don't lose too many times. Toads are the main wall behind which special buildings (used in Kingdom Builder, a pretty useless mode where you can decorate your Mushroom Kingdom with various buildings and flowers and such) and characters are locked behind, so you'll definitely have to play a lot of this mode in order to collect everything in the game. The game restricts your play of this mode and requires you to use up Toad Rally tickets, but you'll have way more than you'll ever need so that's not a problem at all and seems like a pointless added wrinkle.
I was more interested in the main "Tour" mode, but I didn't spring for the full version until recently when the game was half off ($5 instead of the usual $10). The sale coincided with the release of a few new features. One was the addition of a star world which includes nine extra stages that are unlocked by completing the main Tour mode and specific missions (e.g. collect a certain number of coins on a particular stage), one for each of the nine new stages. The other was the "Remix 10" mode. This is a fun mode where the game mixes up sections of each of the Tour modes levels (basically a fifth of a stage), parts of stages from Toad Rally mode, and some new bits (mostly bonus-type stages). As the moniker suggests, you have to play through ten in a row in a sequence, and you can collect rainbow coins in order to get a chance to earn a new building. (Deaths aren't penalized other than causing you to lose your rainbow coins for that stage.)
The real draw for me was the new inclusion of Princess Daisy as a playable character, a first for a platforming game and something I was super psyched about. I would've paid the full price just for the chance to play as Daisy, who is easily one of my favorite Mario characters by far (the other being Waluigi, wahaha!). I'm still slogging my way through the Remix 10 mode to get Daisy, which requires playing that mode a lot, but it's probably one of my favorite modes of the game since it's more low pressure than the Tour mode and Toad Rally and there's a lot of variety built into it.
Phew! So that's a run-down of all the features of the game. But how was the game itself? Although on the surface the game looks exactly like a New Super Mario Bros. game, it actually took me a fair amount of time to get used to the timing of everything. Since Mario automatically vaults over most enemies, it takes some time to adjust to jumping after he's on top of an enemy instead of before in order to do a "stunt" to get more points in Toad Rally. The game adds pause blocks that momentarily halt Mario in his tracks, as well as backwards arrow blocks where when you jump on them cause Mario to jump backwards. He'll also automatically stop when on a platform suspended in air or blocked by a wall or a pipe. In the case of a wall you'll end up having to do a wall jump (slide down a wall and jump) to change direction, which is also something to get used to.
Once I got used to the new mechanics, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed the game. You can blitz through the 24 levels that make up the Tour mode without a ton of effort, but collecting all the coins will take much more time and skill. The game is really well suited to being on a smartphone, as everything is presented in little chunks that don't take more than a few minutes to get through. The modes feed off of each other (winning in Tour mode unlocks stages in Toad Rally and also gets you Toad Rally tickets, and playing Toad Rally nets you Toads, which unlock buildings in Kingdom Builder, etc.) which seems a bit overdone and overly reliant on you caring anything about the Kingdom Builder mode, but it's also easy to focus on whichever mode you enjoy the most without having to bother much with the other modes. The exception is that you're required to play a lot of Toad Rally to unlock all the characters, which is somewhat disappointing as it's one of my least favorite modes.
I never would have guessed that Super Mario Run would end up being one of the freshest 2-D Mario games in years, but it just goes to show you that you should never underestimate the mastermind that is Miyamoto. Super Mario Run. I collected all the pink coins and played a fair amount of Toad Rally and Remix 10, and although I don't feel the need to collect all the rest of the coins or buildings right away, I will definitely be adding this to the collection of games I go to for playing on my lunch break.