Next month, plenty of Wii U owners will surely be as eager as we are to dive into Super Mario Maker‘s level creation tools to build the complex, detailed Mario levels of their dreams. It seems those users will have to wait a few days before they’re able to fully appreciate everything available in the game, though.
A new Super Mario Maker trailer, released today, mentions that level-builders will "only start with the essentials," meaning a set of eight blocks and four enemies shown on the top row of the image above. A further 48 level elements will unlock slowly, over nine days, provided you play for at least five minutes the previous day.
That means, if you play a bit on Friday, you’ll get anywhere from three to eight new elements to play with on Saturday. So, no matter how much you play, you won’t have the full suite of 60 level editing tools until nine days after you get the game in your hands, according to the trailer (barring any kind of system-level date-setting trick that we don’t know about).
The trailer tries to spin this as a positive way to ease in "the uninitiated" who may find having 60 mix-and-match level creation elements "a little daunting" right off the bat. Frankly, we find that argument a little baffling. A "beginner mode" tutorial could have easily offered limited initial choices for those overwhelmed Mario newbies, while still allowing aged Mario veterans to dive into everything the game had to offer immediately.
You could argue that slowing down the unlocks will force players to really dig in to the limited options they have at the outset, leading to more carefully considered levels being shared online. But we think it will just lead to less interesting levels being posted during the first week or two that the game is on store shelves, as we all collectively wait for crucial elements like invisible question-mark blocks, music-note blocks, Thwomps, Yoshi, and more to come out of hiding.
We’ve argued vociferously in the past that developers should stop being cute with slow-drips of content and simply unlock everything available in a game from the start if the player wants to access it. This is a problem that has continued to get worse as time has gone on. In January, 2K announced that players who pre-ordered Evolve on Xbox One would get instant access to five characters that other players would have to unlock by spending time playing the game. It’s as if the publisher realized there’s no valid, gameplay-enhancing reason for witholding these characters from the outset but figured that they could milk a few more pre-orders by making their instant availability seem like a "reward." Why shouldn’t that kind of availability be the default instead?
We’re still pretty excited for Super Mario Maker, especially with newly revealed features like a music/sound effects editor and in-level background animation cues. But hiding the full set of level customization options behind a slow drip of daily unlockables is the first sour note in what otherwise seems to be a sweet package.