Review: Super Mario Maker 2

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I miss the pen

Creator of Super Mario is one of those console-defining games. On the Wii U, it represented one of the best uses of the system’s tablet controller, and offered players a chance to show off their level design skills in a way that Nintendo wouldn’t issue a DMCA notice against. Although Nintendo included some of its own created levels in the final product, the game’s actual lifespan and longevity was determined by the community and how well it adapted to the simple interface and large number level design options.

Anyone who’s followed it in the months and years since its launch will tell you that user-created courses were a mixed bag. There are a legitimate number of great levels made by members of the community, but also so a lot of shit. This shit comes back in Super Mario 2 Markereven though Nintendo has gone above and beyond to give players the ultimate level maker toolkit.

Super Mario Maker 2 (Light switch)
Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Released: June 28, 2019
MSRP: $59.99

I remember before the original Creator of Super Mario released, one of the biggest complaints from reviewers was the unnecessary waiting period it imposed on players to unlock all of the course design options. There was a workaround for this and eventually it was removed via an update, but when word of this time gate got out it was obvious that Nintendo thought the process of designing a Super Mario level could overwhelm players, even those who had been playing since the 1980s. He wanted to hold our hands, slowly guide us through the techniques he had been perfecting for 30 years.

Super Mario Maker 2 would rather push players straight into the deep end. Apart from a few special items, everything you need to create Super Mario levels is ready from the start. Does this mean that we will see exceptional levels appear quickly in Course World? Of course not, but it allows those like me who have sunk hours in the original to pick up where they left off.

I went Creator of Super Mario with a checklist of improvements I wanted to see in the inevitable sequel. I knew some of them wouldn’t happen, like letting us chain levels together to create our own worlds, but Nintendo managed to tick off most of my list and surprise me with new options that I didn’t have. not even considered. Slopes, perhaps the most requested feature from the first game, is here with enemies like Angry Sun and Boom Boom and some new level themes that cover each of the mario styles of play. i like to see Super Mario Bros. levels that feature snow and desert landscapes, although I wish Manufacturer 2 would let me choose the design of my floor pieces in 8-bit game styles. In desert themed levels it will automatically turn a single vertical column of pieces on the ground into a desert pipe or plant which is a brown version of underwater coral which is a design I don’t really care about .

Perhaps my favorite addition is Night Mode and the various effects it has on the levels you create. From altering gravity to flipping the screen, it fundamentally changes the way each level is played, and the Nintendo-created courses give great insight into how this feature can be put to memorable use. There are also the new vertical sub-areas that have already led to the creation of at least one stupendous level, scroll lock, victory conditions and the new Super Mario 3D World style of play that brings many elements of this masterpiece into the Mario Creator to fold.

If you’re a creative type, someone who will buy this game to create levels, you really couldn’t ask for more. Yes, I miss the precision of the stylus that comes with the Wii U and I really I wish Nintendo had sold the stylus it created for this game here in the US, but one finger works pretty well and the docked mode course design is pretty intuitive once you get a feel for how it works . Whichever way you choose to create, Super Mario Maker 2 has just about everything you need to create thoughtful, challenging, and memorable levels. Now if only we could get the community to do it.

I’ve been playing this game since launch and I have to say that overall I’m pretty disappointed with what I saw. There have been a few gems, mostly levels I’ve discovered on Twitter or Reddit, but most of my experience in the various game modes has been grappling with crap. The story mode single-player levels created by Nintendo are quite creative and great examples of what you can do with the toolkit it gave you. The majority of levels I’ve encountered in Course World are the opposite of this.

Course World is divided into three different game options and a leaderboard. Standard Lesson mode works the same as last time. You can search by Course ID; browse hot, new or popular courses; or use the deep search options to narrow the selection of tiers to those that match your preferences. Levels you like can be downloaded, however, players cannot edit them this time around.

Endless Challenge replaces the 10 Mario Challenge from the first game, allowing players to attack an infinite number of levels with a set number of lives. Network play offers a few multiplayer options, including cooperative and competitive play with online strangers or local play with friends. Online play with friends will come in an update, but that won’t make much of a difference if online stability isn’t improved. Most of my attempts at cooperative and competitive play were hampered by poor connection and disconnection, with the game speed slowing dramatically until each level was an underwater level. Even when I have Wi-Fi bars full, there is no guarantee that the online connection will work well. Thank goodness we don’t have to pay to play online on Switch.

Oh wait.

But even if the Network Play worked perfectly, there would still be issues with the quality of the levels available. This is the conundrum of creating a game where players are expected to provide the majority of the content. There is no guarantee that the content will be good, and thanks to the popularity and intuitive nature of Super Mario Maker 2, you’re going to cause a lot of people to clog the endless challenge and multiplayer modes with courses that have no interest in being played by anyone. I have already come across over a dozen stages designed around a random hidden block and a time limit of less than 25 seconds. The first level I played in Endless Challenge was over in 10 seconds.

Most of the courses I’ve taken so far have been a colossal waste of time, with about eight out of ten levels earning me a “Boo” rating. There have been a few decent stages, but they are few and far between. It’s the challenge to review a game like Super Mario Maker 2. Because if I judged it just as a level creation toolkit, it would be second to none. An improvement in possibilities over the original, in the right hands this could lead to courses better than even Miyamoto could create.

But this toolkit is only half of the equation. The other half is a platform game with no quality control, no impetus to put legitimate effort into your original designs, and no way to weed out mediocre content creators other than believing players will be able to discern the difference between a bad level and a good level and mark them accordingly. Considering how many positive posts I’ve seen attached to really bad steps, I don’t have much faith in the Mario Creator community right now and I wonder if it will get better on the line.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]

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