Now, at first glance, this might look like a 2-D remake of Super Mario 64. As SMBX is to Super Mario World and 3, and Super Mario Flash is to Lost Levels, this is the rough equivalent of a "Super Mario 64" for your browser. To an extent, it is; Runouw did use SM64 as a base during development. But this isn't any normal fangame; this is a gem unlike any others.
For those of you who want a list of the games he brought material from, here we go. Like I mentioned, SMBX borrowed some elements from the earlier Mario games, although it primarily focuses on SMB3, and to an extent, World. Runouw emulates this in the respect that he takes materials from the more modern Mario games. The gameplay is heavily based on Super Mario 64, with most of the game taking place in paintings inside the castle and the three "Bowser's castles". Super Mario Sunshine, an underrated token of Super Mario history, is another major influence on the game. Shine Sprites replace the typical stars in Super Mario 63, and the FLUDD, which is a massive part of gameplay, almost in the way that Yoshi was in Super Mario World. FLUDD serves as a helping hand in some otherwise difficult situations. New Super Mario Bros has its niche with the addition of Star Coins, the collect-to-get-prizes objects in the game. Runouw even adds some nods to Super Mario Galaxy, with several songs and levels that draw inspiration from it. The most apparent influence on the game is that of Yoshi's Island. Runouw has also added some remix music from Newgrounds and other sources to really jazz it up, as well as music from the original Super Mario 64.
Hands down, though, the best moment of the game is in Bowser's Castle. This is, without a doubt, one of the best levels of any Mario game, ever. The castle alone will take you an hour to finish. It's truly a masterpiece. It's challenging, thought-provoking and a ton of fun, even if frustrating. It could be a flash game all on its own.
That's not to say it doesn't have its flaws, there are a few, that while not major, take away from the experience. Notably, the story isn't really solid. The idea of Bowser trying to destroy the world instead of just taking it over isn't true to character at all, and the plot device (Orb of Power) that serves as a plot-hole-cover for all, is just... a bad idea. I admire that he tried to break away from the "abduct Peach" thing, but it wasn't terribly successful. Also, he got other characters way off, notably Kamek. With the great plot filler having driven Bowser insane, he fires Kamek, but Kamek acts like he got fired instead of his son rebelling against him. Because when it comes down to it, Kamek raised Bowser, and if Bowser went so crazy that he "fired" Kamek, Kamek would be, to some extent, heartbroken. Because if you notice it, Bowser's the one thing Kamek truly cares about from start to finish. That really bewildered me.
Plus, some levels, as well as they're crafted, can be a real drag. For example, Tidal Isles, a level that mostly consisted of swim to stars with the twist of a tidal wave that hits you above water, which is a good twist, but the level just dragged on for the most part. Some of the other levels become a pain really fast too, such as Turbo Fludd stage, and the tutorials, which you do not have the option to skip. The Edge of the Mushroom Kingdom, a bonus level that is the ultimate 63-star unlockable level, is just borderline impossible that it takes all the fun out of it and makes me scream like a harpy at my computer. Even after nearly 50 hours of playing it I had lacked the skill to get past the first part of it.
And to top it off, the most sadistic glitch I've ever seen. After the second Bowser level in the fight against Bowser (which is really freaking hard) sometimes when you throw Bowser into a bomb, he'll spin around in limbo forever, causing you to close the game and lose all you built up in the level. Really bad
Now let's move on to the level designer. I'll just get it out of the way: this isn't the strong point of the game. Granted, it's really good, but not as good as it could be. The most glaring issue is that unlike most level designers, this does not have everything that the game has, and you come to miss it. The reason for this is because Runouw went game first, level designer second, making all the levels on Flash. He learned his lesson, making the level designer first and making levels off of it for Last Legacy, his new title, but here it really makes the level designer lacking in some ways. Another problem is that it doesn't take much to make the levels lag, you have to often put transitions all over the place to make sure it's not snail speed, and if the level is too big it won't load, it'll freeze your browser and occasionally shut your computer down.
That's not to say it's a bad level designer. You can get it literally right off the bat, and you can create beautiful, intricate levels with it. It's a shame that people can't figure it put for crap, cause it's seriously easy and with a little bit of effort, you've got amazing work, and you can make anything from simple platformers to beautiful worlds to complex masterpieces.
OVERALL: The story mode is the main attraction, with an eclectic mix of modern Mario games that create a crazy good 2-D platformer that for the most part can easily cement itself as a classic Mario masterpiece. However, the story is lacking and character development is way off, and the level designer, while easy to learn and good as it is, isn't all it can be.
You can play the game over on Newgrounds here. If you would like to have your review posted, please send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.