Saturday, November 29, 2008

New Super Mario Bros: I finished it!

Great game. It's the second Mario game that I've ever finished (the previous being Super Mario Galaxy). Obviously, I'm not a hard core Nintendo gamer.

Perhaps the biggest takeaway -- and something I know I mentioned in my review of SMG -- is the focus on learn as you play. Levels are structured in ways that teach you some relatively complex problem solving skills without you even realizing it as a player.

I'll take some time to write and post screen shots of a couple of sequences in particular, but it's amazing how this DS game compares to a game like Wall-E for the DS that I watched a kid play the other day. In Wall-E, new concepts are taught via text billboards that often have jargonistic text. Not only is the text boring to read, but it breaks the flow of the game and really serves only as an apology for not having enough time to design the puzzle or level in a way that players can figure out in a fun way. This is not to say "dumb it down". Players enjoy challenges that make them struggle and experiment as long as they provide clear feedback to the player about why they either passed or failed and do not overly punish the player for failure.

I think I'll write up a quick piece that compares and contrasts two levels from both of these games to illustrate the difference in approach.

Of course, to be fair to Wall-E, the game did look fun (I wanted to play) and I'm sure they had a much smaller budget than Mario did -- which means less time to iterate and polish levels such that they encourage the player to have fun learning by doing instead of learning by reading text.

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