Paper and pencil make you a game designer with new app

Pixel Press
Pixel Press

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By Devin Coldewey
Draw a level on the graph paper at right, and turn it into levels on your device.Pixel Press

Aspiring game designers and nostalgic Mario fans will get a kick out of Pixel Press, an upcoming iOS app that lets you build Nintendo-style, side-scrolling levels with just a pencil and a piece of special graph paper.

Everyone who's played "Super Mario Bros." or one of the many other platformers out there has probably secretly wished they could make their own levels. And you can, but the software and techniques to do so aren't so easy. What if you could just draw them on paper and watch them come to life?

That's the promise Pixel Press makes, and while it's still a fairly limited tool, it really does let you draw your own levels. Sketch them onto their custom graph paper (you can print it), make a few marks to indicate lava, spikes or moving platforms, and then take a picture of it with your iPhone or iPad using their app.

After a bit of processing (it can take a while), you'll be able to jump right into your new level, or customize it with art, move blocks around, or get to work on level 1-2.

It has only been in the works for a few months, so it's not quite a finished product, and it remains to be seen whether the gameplay itself will be as fun and fluid as the platformers of yore. Fans of vertical scrollers and open-world exploration like "Metroid" or "Legend of Zelda" are out of luck for now; It's strictly Mario-style side-scrollers for the moment.

You can try drawing a level right now using their free "sketch kit" template (PDF), but you'll have to wait to actually play the level — Pixel Press is starting a Kickstarter campaign next week and hopefully will have the iOS app ready to download by the time that's complete.

via Polygon

Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is