Given there's virtually no chance Nintendo will release Super Mario Maker on PC, it's not surprising other developers are trying to fill the gap, bringing a version of the company's brilliant Mario level design tool to another platform. Even so, you can't help but laugh at the sheer audacity of Silver Moon Internet's rip-off, BoxMaker, which launched on Steam recently.
BoxMaker stars a rabbit with a red hat, instead of a plumber with a red hat. You smash into boxes with carrots on them, instead of boxes with stars on them. You can jump on turtles and use them to attack other enemies, instead of... well, that's actually what you do in Super Mario!
The recent announcement of Super Mario Run for iPhone and iPad, an auto-scrolling platformer set for December, has given hope that Nintendo might eventually consider releasing its games on other machines in the future. BoxMaker represents what often happens with Nintendo: opportunistic developers trying to cash-in where Nintendo hasn't shown up yet.
Releasing a Mario-inspired platformer on Steam wouldn't be a big deal, there are dozens of those already. What BoxMaker does is shamelessly grab Mario Maker's distinctly unique user interface for building levels. Sure, the icons are different, but the interface is much the same.
Take a look at BoxMaker and Mario Maker, side-by-side:
BoxMaker is not, technically speaking, using any of the sprites from Mario Maker. But the interface similarities are tough to ignore. It's especially blatant when you finish a level in BoxMaker and witness a screen that's, well, see for yourself.
...and here's Mario Maker...It's not unusual to see rip-offs like this appear on mobile app stores, where things slip through the cracks. You're less likely (usually) to see them pop up on Steam, but at the moment, you can buy BoxMaker for $3.99 and get access to a thoroughly mediocre take on Mario Maker!
The game's developer and publisher, listed on Steam as Silver Moon Internet, hasn't published anything else on the platform. The company's website doesn't make mention of BoxMaker, and has not responded to my request to comment about possible copyright infringement. The game has Twitter and Facebook accounts promoted within the game, but there's only a single Tweet written in Chinese, and the Facebook account it points to doesn't even work right now.
Something tells me it's not going to last long on Steam? Better buck up your $3.99 right now. Maybe they'll even patch in controller support before it disappears! (Right now, it only supports keyboard and mouse.)
What's funny is that BoxMaker actually has a few interesting ideas, features I wish Nintendo had included in Mario Maker. For example, BoxMaker lets you watch replay videos of people who've already finished a stage. Ever thrown up your hands in disgust at a particularly devious Mario Maker stage, wondering how anyone could have finished it? BoxMaker lets you do that with ease. The Mario Maker community would be greatly served by replays, especially when it comes to speedrunning—right now, the game lists a stage's fastest player but there's no proof.
Perhaps more crucially, BoxMaker doesn't have the same cumbersome limitations on what is and isn't allowed in levels. I mean, can you name a level "fuck" in Mario Maker?
Is that a straight up rip of the Facebook like button?! Amazing. Maybe I love you, BoxMaker?
As is the usual way of things, BoxMaker will probably disappear from Steam, but Nintendo has an increasingly strained relationship with games that riff on their creations. The big difference between BoxMaker and, say, Project AM2R (an ambitious, free fan remake of Metroid 2 that Nintendo shut down after it was released) is that BoxMaker costs money. BoxMaker isn't driven by passionate fans inspired by Nintendo, it's a game by a company taking advantage of that passion. Sadly for fans, Nintendo doesn't meaningfully differentiate between the two these days.
Though defending copyright is understandable and necessary, some are taking a different approach. Kotaku noted, for example, that Sega recently commented on a YouTube video featuring gameplay of a Sonic the Hedgehog fan project. That could easily be a no-no, but instead, the company wrote a funny, interesting comment. "Brb, DMCA time," wrote the company. "Just kidding. Keep making great stuff, Sonic fans." (DMCA stands for The Digital Millennium Copyright Act, a law that allows companies to easily shut down fan projects.)
BoxMaker probably doesn't deserve to exist—it's aggressively and lazily egregious—but that BoxMaker and Project AM2R are likely to be treated similarly is a frustrating sign of the times.