The first Nintendo game on iOS, Super Mario Run, has now made its way to Android. TIANA CLINE sacrifices beach time to give it a … walkthrough?
Nintendo’s first non-Nintendo Mario game is here. Now available on iOS and Android, this Mushroom Kingdom-themed runner is everything you would expect from the moustached plumber series – a kidnapped princess, golden coins, bonus levels.
But there’s more to Super Mario Run, besides the fact that Mario, well, just keeps on running. At the same time, it’s not really a quintessential endless runner. There’s a Farmville-esque home screen (called Kingdom Builder) to restore the castle and place decorations, buildings and special items as you level up. Fast-paced online rallies through levels you’ve already completed to pick up colourful toads.
There’s actually quite a bit to do, over and above the World Tour mode which consists of six worlds, each containing four side-scrolling levels.
Each level is familiar which stays true to all the Mario games. You start in a world of pipes and blocks, continue under ground, fly through the air bouncing on giant mushrooms, escape spiky sand-dwellers and battle it out in the castle, fire included. There are ghost mansions and pirate ships, the only scene that’s missing is a flying fish-filled underwater level and I’m actually fine with that because those were always the toughest to master.
There are coins to gather, but these (from what I’ve seen) are primarily used for buying stuff to rebuild the castle. In each level, there are five pink coins to collect. Collect them all and there will more five (more difficult) purple coins to work towards. Got all five? They’re now black. This adds a lot of replayability to the levels because you not only get rewarded for hunting down all the coins (hello rally tickets!), you get to know the ins and outs which really comes in hand when competing in an online rally. And if you connect with friends, you’ll also be able to see how well they did on the different world levels.
A new update to the app means you can even play a friendly-run through with them.
Unlike other mobile runners (Temple Run is the first which pops into my head) where the speed increases in conjunction with the difficulty of the game, Mario sprints along at the same reliable, carefully thought-out pace. He does die, but Nintendo have included two back-to-life bubbles where Mario magically reappears from the ether like Glinda the Good Witch and you can pop him down where you want so he can get back to the race. Time will stand still, just don’t let him fly to the beginning of the map as you’ll definitely run out of time. You can also use these bubbles as and when you want to go back and take a different path or try for a special coin, just tap the on-screen icon.
The only movement you control is jumping. Mario can do high leaps if you press the screen a bit longer, backwards jumps with a slight swipe and wall jumps to. And you’ll have to conquer all of his acrobatic moves if you want to get through the last of the World Tour levels.
I’m really enjoyed Super Mario Run, but do I miss the secrets that you get to uncover in other Mario platformers. The mysterious pipes, magic beanstalks, being able to stop and breathe… if anything I’m still nostalgic for the innovations last seen in Super Mario Bros. 3. (Is a raccoon suit really that hard to add to a game?)
But that said, Super Mario Run does have its quirks. Connect to your Nintendo profile, for example, and you’ll be able to change the player character and download other items. And because you’re forever online (something Mario fans are not happy with) there are continuous and seasonal surprises. I had a Christmas Tree in my Kingdom and am sure more exclusives will come up with time.
And in true Nintendo-style, the Animal Crossing guilt trip which popped up when I closed a rally by mistake was almost expected. (Really Nintendo? One mistake in Toad Rally and my toads are feeling sad and don’t want to stay in my kingdom anymore? Did the 35 odd tickets I spent yesterday on rallies instead of going to the beach mean nothing to you?)
Each mode of Super Mario Run works together – you’ll need to complete the levels to earn rally tickets. If you don’t compete in rallies, you won’t pick up toads. No toads and you won’t be able to level up or place certain items. And you’ll also want the bonus toad houses and whatnot because they replenish and give you more chances at getting rally tickets.
Even when you’ve finished the worlds, something you can probably do in half a day if you just run through each one, you’ll want to go back to learn them and earn tickets. I just wish there was something more you could do with your gold coins because they build up quickly.
The only low-point with Super Mario Run is the price, R150/$10 is expensive for a mobile game. And the fact that you need to be online ALL THE TIME to play it? That also sucks. Goodbye data. I also find myself wondering if this sort of game would have been more successful if Nintendo went the micro-transactions route because, quite frankly, some of the best iOS and Android mobile games come in cheaper than Super Mario Run’s price point. And once you’ve bought the whole game, it can be over pretty quickly if you’re not competitive or collecting everything obsessed.
That said, Super Mario Run is nothing new, but it is a lot of fun. The graphics are crisp, Mario is as you would expect and the level design is brilliant, intricate and planned with the platform in mind. It’s truly exhilarating to speed through certain levels (World 4-2: Slope to Success was my favourite) while others can be tricky at times.
Overall, Super Mario Run is a good (but expensive) add-on to a franchise we know and love. Don’t love Mario? Don’t pay for the game. Rather just download the intro levels and see how you go. But if you’re a fan, you’ll really enjoy Super Mario run. Playing with one hand is only a bonus.
Smart home arrives in SA
The smart home is no longer a distant vision confined to advanced economies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.
The smart home is a wonderful vision for controlling every aspect of one’s living environment via remote control, apps and sensors. But, because it is both complex and expensive, there has been little appetite for it in South Africa.
The two main routes for smart home installation are both fraught with peril – financial and technical.
The first is to call on a specialist installation company. Surprisingly, there are many in South Africa. Google “smart home” +”South Africa”, and thousands of results appear. The problem is that, because the industry is so new, few have built up solid track records and reputations. Costs vary wildly, few standards exist, and the cost of after-sales service will turn out to be more important than the upfront price.
The second route is to assemble the components of a smart home, and attempt self-installation. For the non-technical, this is often a non-starter. Not only does one need a fairly good knowledge of Wi-Fi configuration, but also a broad understanding of the Internet of Things (IoT) – the ability for devices to sense their environment, connect to each other, and share information.
The good news, though, is that it is getting easier and more cost effective all the time.
My first efforts in this direction started a few years ago with finding smart plugs on Amazon.com. These are power adaptors that turn regular sockets into “smart sockets” by adding Wi-Fi and an on-off switch, among other. A smart lightbulb was sourced from Gearbest in China. At the time, these were the cheapest and most basic elements for a starter smart home environment.
Via a smartphone app, the light could be switched on from the other side of the world. It sounds trivial and silly, but on such basic functions the future is slowly built.
Fast forward a year or two, and these components are available from hundreds of outlets, they have plummeted in cost, and the range of options is bewildering. That, of course, makes the quest even more bewildering. Who can be trusted for quality, fulfilment and after-sales support? Which products will be obsolete in the next year or two as technology advances even more rapidly?
These are some of the challenges that a leading South African technology distributor, Syntech, decided to address in adding smart home products to its portfolio. It selected LifeSmart, a global brand with proven expertise in both IoT and smart home products.
Equally significantly, LifeSmart combines IoT with artificial intelligence and machine learning, meaning that the devices “learn” the best ways of connecting, sharing and integrating new elements. Because they all fall under the same brand, they are designed to integrate with the LifeSmart app, which is available for Android and iOS phones, as well as Android TV.
Click here to read about how LifeSmart makes installing smart home devices easier.
Matrics must prepare for AI
By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.
Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.
With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.
Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.
Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist.
So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?
For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.
In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.
This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.
In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.
As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.
This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.
The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.