Super Mario Running Man Challenge

Mario Makes the Jump To Mobile!

For the first time in his long and storied 2D digital history, Nintendo’s  Mario is finally making his debut on mobile phone devices. It’s true that the prized plump plumber is no stranger to being portable, making his first hand held appearance all the way back in the early 80’s with Game & Watch’s Donkey Kong. From there, he would star in various other Game & Watch games, and various other jobs, before finally finding his permanent plumbing position and portable home on Nintendo’s Game Boy starring in 1989’s Super Mario Land. And for nearly 20 years, that’s where Mario stayed, in the dependable hands of Nintendo’s portable division; growing from Game Boy, to the Game Boy Advance, the DS, and today’s 3DSXL. Each iteration of the Game Boy showcasing it’s own collection of great Mario titles. But this year, earlier in 2016, Miyamoto and Nintendo were proud to announce that they were now going to share their pasta loving turtle stomper with an even wider audience by introducing Mario to iOS devices and mobile phones. Fan’s of the mustachio’d main man went wild and were quick to pre-order the download from the app store. After months of waiting, Super Mario Run is finally available.

The Run Down

The game design geniuses behind Super Mario Run knew exactly what they were doing when they created this game. Taking into account that Nintendo already has the world cornered in regards to the hand held gaming experience, thanks largely due to the Nintendo DS/3DS, the game designers understood that were was no need to create a port of their previous Mario titles. Although that does seem to be the trend nowadays in regards to retro classics (I’m looking at you Capcom. ::cough cough:: Mega Man 2 ::cough cough::), Nintendo wasn’t satisfied with just following the trend. Nor, does it seem, were they content with just releasing a series of mini-games, making their mobile outing into some sort of portable Mario party. Instead, the brilliant development team decided to find the perfect middle ground for their mascot: creating a brand new IP that’s just small enough so as not to compete with Nintendo’s own portable sales numbers, and at the same time large enough to distinguish itself from other big name mobile games out there on the market.

The concept behind the game is simple: using simple one touch jump mechanics, you must take control and help navigate a continuously running Mario across a tricky and treacherous stage, collecting coins and avoiding dangers along the way. It’s just like what we are used to with previous Mario games, except this time, Mario runs nonstop. If that sounds simple enough, well that’s because it is. If that sounds a little more complicated than it seems, well, that’s because it is. When I called Super Mario Run’s game designer’s geniuses, I wasn’t kidding. Super Mario Run, in my opinion, is perfect example of how to balance a game for casual and hardcore gamer’s alike. Let me explain.

Setting the Stage

There are 6 worlds in all, and 4 stages per world. When you first download the game, only world 1, stages 1 thru 3, will be available for free. The rest of the worlds are available for purchase for the price of $9.99. That sounds almost unfair, but really, when compared to the in-app purchase prices of some other popular games (::cough cough:: Summoner’s War ::cough cough::), it’s actually incredibly reasonable. This price point will be the first hurdle for the casual gamer, and just a warm up for the hardcore. But despite that, even if you only play the free version of the game, the level design and ingenuity in gameplay mechanics, are still top shelf, and the nostalgia is everything you remembered.

As the title Super Mario Run suggests, Mario runs non stop, and it’s your job to make him jump over obstacles, pitfalls, and opponents. The longer you hold your finger, the higher Mario jumps. A quick tap will have Mario skip lightly over a block or enemy; hold your finger longer and Mario will leap into the air accessing hard to reach ledges or traversing over bottomless pits. Littered all over the stages are gold coins for you to collect. At the end of every stage is the classic flag and flag pole combination, as well as the unmistakeable fireman pole slide to signal victory. And at the end of every world, Bowser on a bridge over lava. All of this is par for the course when it comes to Mario games, which is admittedly a large part of it’s appeal. Casual and fans alike should be very pleased. But this is when it starts to get a little hardcore.

Scattered across every stage are 5 special colored coins; first pink, then purple, and then black. If you manage to run through a course and collect all 5 pink coins, a more difficult version of that same course is then unlocked in which you hunt and collect the purple coins, then so forth with the black coins. You don’t need to collect every gold and special color coin to progress to the next stage, you need only slide down the flag pole and complete the stage. You DO, however, need to collect every special color coin to unlock the next color for that stage. After each stage, a results page will show you how many gold coins you collected, as well as how many of the special coins you gathered. Casual players are free to just complete the stage and enjoy the experience, while undoubtably the hardcore gamers and completionists will try to acquire every special coin. There will also be a leaderboard showing who among you and your friends has collected the most coins for that stage. Rivalries and friendly competitions are just waiting to be had thanks to that leaderboard. Speaking of friends…

Mario Run Party

Adding friends in Super Mario Run uses the same 12 digit code method as other Nintendo consoles, or you can link your Facebook or twitter accounts and find friends that way. Once you’ve added some friends is where the real fun begins in Super Mario Run. As I said earlier, once you have friends you are able to see how well they do on individual stages and compare coin counts. THIS is where Super Mario Run gets addictive and amazing: the competition. I’m sure I’m not the only gamer out there who loves to top leader boards, and seeing the #1 spot change names multiple times during the day is just exhilarating.

So far, my friends list only consists of Awesome Game Blog affiliates, and within that grouping I already find myself running and gunning for pole position. As it stands, Robert is first when it comes to collecting the most coins, and Brandon is first when it comes to most worlds completed. You better believe I’m hot on both of their tales, though! I love it! It’s that little bit of burning fire that comes from friendly competition that I believe the game developers really wanted it’s players to feel. However, the competition just doesn’t come from who collects the most coins in stages, it also comes from who collects the most toads!

There’s two modes in this game: Tour and Rally. Tour mode is the single player game mode, and Rally is the two player competitive mode. Both modes feel roughly the same, with two major differences: there’s no flag pole at the end of Rally, instead, the stages continues on in a loop; you’ll be running against another player. The goal of Rally is collect more coins and more toads than the other player. The way to collect toads is to impress them, usually by doing some well timed jumps, or jumping on enemies. At the end of a designated time, the match ends and the scores are tallied, and to the victor go the toads!

Where do you keep the toads you win, you wonder? Well, Super Mario Run also has a kingdom builder feature which allows you to customize and build your very own Mushroom Kingdom! You are able to purchase aesthetic pieces such as trees, plants, and hills; as well as housing for your many Mushroom people that you’ve won in Rally. Toads come in their own distinct colors, as well as purchasable color coordinating housing. The more you play the game, the more worlds you will unlock. The more worlds you unlock, the more colorful toads you can acquire. The more colorful your mushrooms, the more colorful your Mushroom Kingdom!

Pipe Dreams

The game is barely in it’s first week of launch, and already there are players out there who’ve amassed over a thousand toads! And I’m certain there are some dedicated Mario fans out there right now practicing on their favorite stages in order to pull off the perfect run through. As well I’m sure that it’s only a matter of time before youtube will start seeing it’s first upload of speed runs for Super Mario Run.

I love this game, and I don’t deny that I am being biased. I’ve loved Mario games since I was young, and Super Mario Run is able to capture the very essence of Mario games: quick, colorful and casual with an underlying layer of difficulty that is both extremely fun and extremely challenging at the same time. From the very instant I heard Mario’s distinct voice at the beginning of the game, to every unique sound and visual choice afterward, the Mario universe is alive and well in this game. The $10 that it takes to unlock the whole experience might cause most casual gamers to look the other way, in my opinion, that is money well spent on a game that is addictive and fun. Whether Super Mario Run is as well received as other portable Mario outings is too early to say, but in my opinion, it’s definitely in the running for one of the best platforming iOS games of 2016.

Pokémon POP Episode 5: Two Laptops and a Mobile Hotspot

With the Apple Watch app coming, John is really wishing he hadn’t sold his to Jason Tucker a while back. Interestingly enough, I had just considered purchasing the Pokemon GO Plus just to put in my backpack or pocket. I still haven’t pulled the trigger on that one though.

This Week’s New Evolutions

  • Weeping Bell
  • Dragonair
  • Ivysaur
  • Wartortle
  • Gyarados

IV Calculators: The chase for 100

When I first started playing Pokemon Go, I had a pretty simple strategy. I would keep one of each of the individual Pokemon I’d catch and build a “Living Pokedex.” My decision on which Pokemon to keep was easy; whichever had the highest CP would stay. The rest would be turned into candy immediately.

Fast forward a few months and Brandon pointed out to me that he was keeping only the Pokemon that were listed as Wonders. To be honest, at the time, I wasn’t paying any attention to the ratings. He then stepped it up a notch and transferred all of his non-Wonders. While I wasn’t ready to draw that hard a line just yet, I did change up my strategy. I’m currently keeping ALL Pokemon that are rated as Wonders, and for Pokemon where I don’t have a Wonder, I’m holding on to the one with the largest CP until it can be replaced by a Wonder. Again, keeping it pretty simple. But, there’s a wrinkle.

Not all Wonders are created equally

When a Pokemon spawns or is hatched, it receives a random set of traits. These include attack, defense, stamina, a set of moves it will use during battles and a few other elements. When you factor all these things together, you come up with your Pokemon’s Individual Value, or IV for short. Each Pokemon’s IV is effectively a percentage. Getting a 15 / 15 / 15 in Attack, Defense, and Stamina is considered a perfect score, or 100%. Anything less than 15 in a specific area and the percentage goes down.

Figuring out which of your Wonders you should be powering up isn’t exactly simple. For example, here are 3 Pokemon that I caught recently. All 3 of them are Wonders. Do you know which one is best?

If it was me trying to figure out which one is best, I might initially be drawn to the one on the right because his CP is the highest. But then, I may be drawn to the one in the middle simply because of the adorable Santa hat. But the truth is, I have no idea! But, I promise to give you the answer a bit later in this post.

To actually figure out which one’s best, you need to know how it’s all calculated. I won’t try explaining the math here, but if you want to do it by hand, you can follow this [cough cough] simple guide. But, if you’re like me and are looking for a shortcut, there are a few options.

Online Calculators

When I first started looking for IV calculators, I looked on the web. All the results I found pointed me toward websites with forms that ask you to enter in a bunch of information about the Pokemon you want to evaluate. Here’s a screenshot from a form found at pokefind.co

SilphRoad.com has one as well.

Both of these calculators have their pros and cons. But the biggest issue I have with both of them is that I’m forced to check each individual Pokemon one at a time. It gets VERY tedious, very fast!

The App store

I hopped into the Apple App Store and did a search for “Pokemon Calculator.” I don’t know exactly how many results there are since I stopped counting at 30. But, let’s just say that there are plenty of options for you to try out. I, myself, tried out 5 of them. 3 of them were absolute crap, so I won’t bother talking about them. Instead, I’ll talk about the 2 that were at least worth looking at.

Poke Genie

This app came as a recommendation from several people I had seen online. So it was the first one I searched for and ended up using for a few weeks. To use it, you take a screenshot of the individual Pokemon, load it into the app and it analyzes it and gives you a score. It looks something like this:

My experience with Poke Genie is overall positive. I found the import process a little clunky, but it did the job.

Poke Module

This was the 5th and final app I tried. It was the final one because I immediately liked it the best. Like Poke Genie, it requires you to take a screenshot of each Pokemon. But, the importing process is so simple. You can have it auto import from your camera roll, and after it imports them, it will delete the screenshots from your camera for you (if you want). I found this to be a big time saver.

Aside from the ease of use, I much prefer the layout of the information. Specifically on the individual Pokemon page.

My guess is that if you were to try out all the other calculators in the App store, the bulk would work similar to the two I’ve shown here. It’ll really come down to personal preference.

About those Pikachu

Using Poke Module, I evaluated all 3 Pikachu. It turns out, the middle Pikachu had the highest score, and it wasn’t just because of the hat. There are actual stats to back it up.

Some other stats

I currently have 131 Wonders. I rated them all with Poke Module and here are few stats about the stats:

  • I have 3 Pokemon with perfect scores (Wigglytuff, Electrode, Flareon)
  • My lowest rated Wonder is a 73.7% Sandslash
  • My highest rated, without being perfect Pokemon is a 3-way tie at 97.8% (Kingler, Kadabra, Pincir)
  • I have 2 Krabby. Both are exactly 91.1%
  • 37% of my Wonders are between 90.0% and 99.9%

So, the question becomes, do I spend stardust on my wonders who are less that 100%, or do I hold off and only power up the 100%?

I would love to hear your strategy. Please take a moment and share it in the comments below.

Pokémon GO Walks: University Center, Irvine

Last night on our podcast, I mentioned that it would be cool to share some of the regular routes we walk to catch Pokémon with all of you. Since I don’t yet have a device that can track my route and allow me to access the GPX file that’s created from the walk, I checked in with Google to see if there was a thing that at least let me draw out a route. It turns out there totally is something that lets me do this. Even cooler is that it plays back the route so you can see it in motion!

Pokémon GO Walk Details

The first walk I created is a walk that I take at the University of California, Irvine. The entire circuit takes me about 15 minutes to walk and I never have to stop to wait for a pokestop to become active again. Each circuit consists of 11 pokestops (including 2 that you get twice). It starts and ends at the same location, right in front of the Irvine Barclay Theater, so you can do as many laps as you want. I typically do a minimum of four laps which is just shy of 5k (great for egg hatching!). You can see the map below.

The area beyond this map contains a lot of pokestops as well, so you can extend the route into Aldrich Park if you want to really go for it. This area has a lot of great amenities such as food places (e.g. Blaze Pizza, Cha For Tea, and Chipotle), movie theaters, places to sit and relax, and other places to shop too. Below, you can see all of the stops in one view with me near the starting point.

Ending Your Walk

One thing I don’t typically include in my route is a stop at the gym located at Cha For Tea. Since I typically focus on hitting as many Pokestops as possible, I don’t want to slow down to battle the gym. After walking for an hour, sitting down and enjoying an Ice Blended Orange Green Tea is just the kind of reward I need.

Well, I hope you found this post useful. I hope to see you there, and if you know someone who lives in the area, make sure to share this post with them.