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access_time July 13, 2019 at 7:00 AM in Nintendo by Daniel Ladiano

Review | Super Mario Maker 2

I have to admit I was one of the few people who didn’t like Super Mario Maker when it was released for the Wii U late 2015. While the creation tool was stellar, a lot of the player created levels were designed to annoy than provide a real challenge. But that issue didn’t deter Mario Maker to become one of the biggest hits for Nintendo that year. Four years later, we finally have a successor in Super Mario Maker 2. Nintendo could’ve easily just added some extra themes, add the long-anticipated slopes and call it a day. Thankfully, the game goes beyond those meager expectations.

New to the sequel are a variety of additional themes: for example a desert theme in which players can insert their own angry sun to chase Mario throughout the level. There is even an interesting Day and Night cycle mechanic that alters levels depending on the respective aesthetic. Night time underground levels would have inverted gravity and the angry sun would be replaced with a pleasant moon that gives players goodies.

Perhaps the biggest gameplay mechanic in Super Mario Maker 2 are the on/off switches. By pressing them, red or blue blocks will appear or disappear respectively. Not only is this mechanic used to make platforms appear, but it can also be used to block enemies. In fact, the switches bring a whole new facet to level making that focus on solving puzzles. It often puts players in a room to try to figure out what tool is right for the job. The game also brings auto-scrolling levels, and there’s even an option to control the scrolling speed for an extra challenge.

Another wonderful addition that might be the smallest yet most crucial is objective goals. While reaching the goal in a traditional level is a staple of the Mario series, having new goals to accomplish not only brings a fresh twist, but also encourages exploring the levels further than one would otherwise. Collecting a certain amount of coins, defeating a number of enemies and even finishing a level without leaving the ground add a welcome new layer of challenge.

Using all the above mechanics comes to fruition in the Course Maker. Perhaps the one element the original game does better than its sequel is the benefit on using the Wii U gamepad to create levels. Not only does it have a stylus, but players can create levels on the pad while seeing their creations on the TV. Since the Switch has to be either docked or in handheld mode, Nintendo did the best they could with the limitation. Using the in-game cursor to create levels is slower, but it still remains intuitive. It’s just not as intuitive as playing the game on handheld mode.

There’s also a vast variety of maker lessons that allow players to learn the intricacies of making their own. Those tutorials are presented by Nina and her companion Yamamura the Pigeon. The dialogue between the two is amusing, if it does tend to drone slowly after a while. Still it’s a wonderful tool for beginners and pros alike.

Other helpful additions help to make levels an easier experience, even on docked mode. The selection wheel allows choosing a stage element in a quick manner. In addition, clicking on enemies can open a window that allows players to enhance them efficiently instead of rummaging through a cumbersome menu. The only negative I had with the maker tools is creating walls. It would’ve been nice to have a simple “wall” option in the menu instead of dragging one block and dragging it from the bottom to the top just to cover as much area as possible. This isn’t a deal breaker, but it would be convenient should Nintendo ever patch that feature in.

Admittedly, many people who get Super Mario Maker aren’t into making levels. I’d confess I am one of those people as well. The good news is that thanks to the many creative folks out there, the amount of playable content is astounding. Perhaps the most surprising one is the addition of a story mode.

The premise is simple. Players need to rebuild Princess Peach’s Castle from the ground up, and Mario has to collect coins in a myriad of levels to help with the renovation. Mario will receive different jobs from Toad, each centering on a specific mechanic in the game. For example, there’s a level dedicated to teaching how the new claw swings work. The dialogue in the story is surprisingly funny, often having Toads whining about their working conditions, and the individuals behind some of those tasks can be amusing to say the least.

Despite how well-crafted the Nintendo original levels are, the meat of Super Mario Maker 2 are the user created levels. By going to the courses menu players can choose from popular levels, brand new ones, or even search specific elements such as game style, theme or even difficulty. It’s a shame, however, that players cannot look for individual creators via that menu. Instead, players must use a nine-digit code if they want to share their creations with others, which is rather primitive in 2019.

Endless challenge returns from the original game, pitting players in a gauntlet of levels with a limited stock of lives. This may be the most streamlined way to play without sifting for hours through levels in the courses menu. Despite the game’s best effort of providing the most consistent levels, more often than not there will be levels with several cheap elements or are just downright lazy. This is of course not the game’s fault, as it this game relies heavily on its community. Thankfully it’s easy to hold a button and skip a level if it is rather lacking.

One element that I can’t be forgive, however, is the multiplayer. Players can take part in this mode locally or online, but both have stipulations. Locally the game can only be played with multiple switches as opposed to traditional split-screen (or all on one screen like New Super Mario Bros.), whereas online play doesn’t allow playing with friends. On one hand it’s a major shame, but considering the quality of the multiplayer feature itself, it’s not that big of a loss.

Multiplayer has both co-op and versus options. Both involve finishing a level, depending on whether players work together or against each other. Some versus levels can be fun, whereas some aren’t a proper design to have four different characters jumping around narrow obstacles. It would’ve also been nice if the game didn’t end immediately after the first player reaches the goal. It would’ve been better to let other players compete for second and third place. The worst part is the severe lag. Game sessions can vary from barely playable to a downright slide-show. I play with a LAN-adapter myself and I experienced numerous slowdowns, not only with the frame-rate, but with severe input lag as well.

An element that is seldomly a cause to celebrate in Super Mario Maker in general is its visuals. Not only are the different menus and interfaces are clean, but the levels themselves look terrific. Nintendo could’ve easily just ported the graphical look of the games and called it a day. Instead, each game style has its own nuances. Mario 3 and World levels have a slight shadow on each element for enhancing depth. The backgrounds of the Mario 3D World levels are gorgeous. The music is also faithful to the original, and even brings in the original composer, Koji Kondo. He wrote fresh melodies for the new themes introduced in the original Mario style.

Super Mario Maker 2 takes what worked with the original and improves upon it. Even without simultaneous pad and TV course-making, the game does a great job simplifying its editor that even those who play the game docked can create intricate levels of their own. Seeing the amount of imagination on display from both Nintendo and the millions of level builders so far shows that this game is going to remain a Switch staple for a long time. Even with some minor blemishes, Super Mario Maker 2 is definitely a killer-app for the system.

Final Score: 9 out of 10

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