Mario Maker is as joyful as that Miyamoto photo

This evening on Twitter, Nintendo of America released a picture of Mario’s creator, Shiguru Miyamoto, playing Mario Maker with two children. Everyone in the shot is laughing, seemingly with genuine delight.

That's kind of what playing Mario Maker feels like. A game/game creation tool that allows players to make their own 2D Mario stages, it really does nail the joy and satisfaction of bringing a creation to life.

I was able to get hands on time with the game at Nintendo’s booth at E3, with both the editor and a selection of pre-made stages.

Playing with the editor felt intuitive — I was given control of a large 2D grid, with toolbars on the top and left of the screen. Building a level using familiar structures like bricks, coin blocks and pipes was as easy as tapping the appropriate icon and dragging it onto the desired part of the grid.

Placing an enemy — say, a koopa troopa or piranha plant — was just as simple, but naturally, the results were more kinetic once I hit play and tested the stage. There's enormous satisfaction in building something — even something as simple as a pipe guarded by a bunch of enemies, and seeing it spring to life.

I could also change the aesthetic between the NES to New Super Mario bros. styles with the flip of a switch. The physics appeared to be the same, no matter the visuals.

That ease of use will be important, especially for younger players getting their first shot at level design. But the toolset felt appropriately deep, even though I only had a few minutes with the game. When I played my level, I was able to actually view my character’s path through the level, including the frames of my jumps — essential for testing out platform height with Mario’s signature physics.

The available sample stages offered plenty of design inspiration. One had me jumping over a pyramid of goombas five deep, only to contend with infinitely spawning koopas end the end of the platform. Another had me clearing several lines of enemies with a single koopa shell, which played out like a particularly kinetic — and satisfying — round of dominoes.

Mario Maker is slated for release on the Wii U in the first half of 2015.

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