When Super Mario Maker was first released, Nintendo showed the world exactly how creation tools should be made. With all the charm of a mainline Mario game and an infinite amount of content, a truly magical experience was born. For many, the next direction to take this concept was simple, it’s Super Zelda Maker of course. Well while Link hasn’t got the memo, Super Dungeon Maker is here to pick up the slack.
When you start up Super Dungeon Maker for the first time you’re flung immediately into an oddly familiar top down dungeon with nothing but a sword to keep you alive. By wandering around you’ll soon find block puzzles, locked doors and the keys that open them, and unless you find the golden egg that serves as an exit then you’ll be trapped in here forever.
Once you beat this first dungeon, you’re greeted with a bright colourful overworld full of characters to interact with. There’s not a whole lot to do here though really, just a few dungeons to jump into and two main buildings where you’ll spend most of your time with the game. One of these is for finding dungeons online to play, and the other is for making your own dungeons.
The creation tools for the game are actually really easy to use, and in no time you’ll get used to attaching rooms to each other and placing nasty enemies and devious puzzles inside them. There’s a handy tutorial dungeon that teaches you the ropes too, where you have to switch to the creation mode to spawn keys for locked doors and delete walls to make your way to the exit. Super Dungeon Maker very much takes cues from the Super Mario Maker games, by giving you a bunch of familiar and easy to use elements to play with and just letting you go wild.
There is a slight issue when comparing this to other games with creation tools though, and that’s the level of thought that has to go into a single Zelda style dungeon compared to making a platforming level. Anyone can place a few platforms and test out how they work by jumping between them, but creating puzzles and working out where to place keys and items so players can make it to the goal is an entirely different skill set. This level of creativity is absolutely lost on me, and I just struggled to make anything worthwhile.
If you too are entirely useless at making levels, there are at least plenty of dungeons to play that others have made. There are various menus to flip through when looking for dungeons, organising them by popular dungeons or top rated dungeons. There’s no option to just play random levels though, so expect to be browsing screens of levels and trying to pick one to play a lot.
As a way to create Zelda style dungeons and play other people’s creations, Super Dungeon Maker is undoubtedly a good package. It does have some significant issues holding it back though. Perhaps the most important of these issue is that your movement just feels a tad sluggish. The little chicken protagonist moves the tiniest bit slower than they need to, but it’s enough to make the game feel less satisfying to play.
Another problem Super Dungeon Maker has is a lack of its own identity. Pretty much every item, puzzle element and enemy has been directly lifted from the Zelda games, and it makes the game feel very cheap. Even games like Mario Maker added new elements that didn’t exist in the games that they’re based on. When I entered my first boss room and realised I was fighting the big worm from Link’s Awakening it was impossible to stop my eyes from rolling.
Although it functions well as a way to create your own dungeons, it’s a shame that the dungeons are the only things you can make using this creation. My love of Zelda dungeons is well documented at this point, but they aren’t the only enjoyable part of the games that Super Dungeon Maker is clearly paying homage to. Being able to make larger worlds to explore or characters to interact with would’ve admittedly been a huge undertaking, but their absence is felt in the game.
I should also mention that Super Dungeon Maker has some performance issues on Switch. If you enter a room with too many enemies or moving parts the framerate will take a noticeable hit, and anyone who’s played a Super Mario Maker game before knows that creators love to do this.
Super Dungeon Maker lets you make and play all the Zelda inspired dungeons you could ever dream of, but has a few issues that hold it back from greatness. The fact everything is lifted almost exactly from Zelda games just feels a little cheap, and the control issues and a framerate that struggles in busy rooms aren’t ideal either. If you’re really into creating levels in games though these issues probably won’t be a deal-breaker, and I look forward to jumping into your dungeons.
A potentially infinite amount of dungeons to jump into
Creation tools are easy to use
Clever tutorials teach you how to make levels with ease
Lifts almost every mechanic and idea from the Zelda games
Your character moves a little too slowly
There are framerate issues in busy places