Review: Super Mario Maker 2
Posted 26 Jun 2019 at 13:00 by Ashley Jones
Having previously given you the ability to make your very own Mario levels in Super Mario Maker what was Nintendo to do in the sequel? Give you the ability to make bigger and more complicated courses filled with a whole host of new items, enemies and more as well as a robust single-player option.
Super Mario Maker was one of those Wii U titles we knew would come out on the Switch. The form factor is similar enough and it was popular but stuck on a system that did not perform well. After it was re-released (with some changes) on the Nintendo 3DS it was clear the Switch version would be a sequel and now, four years after the first game was released, we have Super Mario Maker 2.
Following the original game’s release on the Wii U back in 2015 Nintendo released some DLC that added new items and functionality, all of which are out of the box in Super Mario Maker 2. Speaking of out of the box, this time around most options are available from the off, foregoing the stretched out day-by-day unlocking that its predecessor forced upon you. Players (or should we say makers) are now able to play around with most of the tools from the off.
You can build stages in both handheld and docked mode, but for obvious reasons it is much easier in handheld mode. Nintendo has done a good job of making it work in docked mode but its clearly designed around the handheld mode. When docked you can pull up the toolbars around the edges by using the D-Pad and then switch back to editing mode once you have selected what you need. Certain items are mapped to face buttons (e.g. erase is L, Undodog is B).
If you've played Super Mario Maker you'll get to grips fairly quickly but those that haven't, or have not played for a while, you'll find yourself at first accidentally pressing the wrong button or taking a while to remember where something is. Once it becomes muscle memory you'll be designing courses much quicker, but it does take a bit of practice. Thankfully there's also an extensive tutorial section that you can hop in and out of, even when building courses, to help you when you can't quite remember how to do something. Although the attempted twee dialogue between the human Nina and the pigeon Yamamura does slow things down a bit sometimes especially as its not always clear which tutorial you should watch to answer your question.
Elements can be modified by pressing on them which opens a sub-menu (as opposed to having to shake them as in Super Mario Maker) allowing you to change the size of enemies, add wings to blocks or change platform types. Elements such as platforms and pipes can also be rotated or extended and I tend to find this more fiddly. You need to click on the end and then drag and I found more often than not I clicked on the wrong part, but perhaps that too will become more natural with more time. You may wish to invest in a stylus to make the whole process easier and to give yourself more accuracy.
The four styles from the original game return as well as a brand new Super Mario 3D World style. I’ve always found the New franchise art style a bit meh personally and 3D World is certainly better but I've still never really warmed to it. However the Super Mario 3D World style offers some unique features you can’t get in the others such as Meowser, transparent pipes, Cat Mario, Koopa Troopa Car, ! blocks and much more.
In some ways this fragments the game into two; while you can change styles between the others you can’t change between them and 3D World (because of its unique elements and the way it handles certain items differently). However, while this could be seen as a negative it could also be said it essentially provides two different ‘types’ of styles, each capable of doing different things and 3D World gives you enough unique elements it will guarantee that you at least try it out.
As we had a media preview of the game we didn't really get a chance to test out the online functionality but as with the original you will be able to share your own creations and try other users creations. The new multiplayer course option, as discussed below, also opens up new opportunities to tackle courses with strangers (and in the future with your friends). Games like this in part live and die by their online; either they're barely used and they appear barren or they become so popular it becomes flooded and discoverability takes a hit. Only time will tell how Super Mario Maker 2 handles it. Nintendo had some missteps in Super Mario Maker which they have hopefully learnt from and of course the user base for the Switch is much bigger than the Wii U ever was.
Of course it wouldn't be a sequel without some new features and Nintendo has certainly added plenty to the already stuffed title. There's new elements such as slopes (of different steepness), cranes, rising water/lava, custom paths for snake blocks and also new enemies including giant Bullet Bills, Ant Tropper, Pirana Creeper, Meowser and much more. As well as all of this there are new four new themes (desert, snow, jungle, and forest), a new night time mode that has some interesting effects depending on the chosen style (e.g. weather effects), the ability to create vertical sections and custom camera movements to name a few. Plus you can now play as some green plumber but nobody cares about him.
One of the unexpected but amazing things about the original game was the way some creators used it to make musical stages. Perhaps there's an audience out there wanting a revival of Mario Paint Composer and figured this was as good as they were going to get for now, but the things they were able to do with a limit toolset was quite impressive. Super Mario Maker 2 has new music for their new themes of course as well as a collection of sound effects to put in weird and unexpected locations. Unfortunately I've not had much of a chance to try them out as most of my making has been on the tube but there's a certain joy in putting celebratory sound effects in question blocks.
You and a friend can cooperatively build levels together, each taking control of a Joy-Con to build. It may sound like a recipe for disaster (depending on the company you keep) but it can be a fun way to split the burden and allow each person to focus on a certain area; one of you may want to work on the terrain while another litters the landscape with enemies to overcome.
As well as this up to four players can play through courses together. You can now mark your courses as having been designed for co-operative play to make them show up more predominantly if people are searching for multiplayer courses, but any course can still be used for multiplayer play. At launch online multiplayer will only support strangers but after some backlash Nintendo has promised that a future update will allow you to play online with your friends.
The single player mode is an inspired way of adding length to the game. In classic Mario style the storyline is brushed aside pretty quickly (having just rebuilt the castle the Undodog accidentally destroys it, although Mario and all the Toads simply run around in circles so they are as much to blame) but it provides a context for the single-player. In order to rebuild areas of the castle you need coins; in order to get coins you need to complete challenges. This loop is pretty straightforward throughout, but it proves to be a good way to allow players to explore what items can do. As you work your way through you’ll see more and more interesting ways to not only use items themselves, but also how you can combine these.
Each course presents you with a challenge and a designated amount of coins paid out on first completion. My only real complaint would be the text descriptions for what you need to do veer too far into the “let's be quirky” territory that it actually doesn’t really give much detail about what you need to do. But this is still a Mario game, it’s not that difficult to figure out.
There are also clear conditions which are presented in the single player mode but you can use in your courses. These range from the simple - collect x coins, defeat x enemies of a certain type etc - to the more complicated and challenging - once you have jumped you're not allowed to land again. They're a good way of challenging the player to explore the course or think outside the box; having to complete a Mario course without jumping certainly requires you to rewire your brain after 30 years of practice.
We received our copies at an event hosted by Nintendo and they made us pick a world theme from a hat and then three descriptions (fast, rising water, silly, boss battle, Thowmps etc) that we had to incorporate into our levels. It was a good way of getting us to explore the tools without being overwhelmed by the options and a fun little meta-game. If you find yourself in a position where you’ve got a few people with the game it could actually be a fun way to challenge each other to make levels and try them out. Essentially its like a mini game jam.
Super Mario Maker 2 is a wonderful game for the more creative gamers, giving you the ability to craft your own Mario levels. Nintendo has added many new features since the original and if you enjoyed the first title you can rest assured there's plenty of new toys to get your hands on so it won't feel like you're retreading old ground. If you're less inclined towards building your own courses there is still plenty here for you. The single player mode is actually pretty extensive, and at times challenging, for what could have been a minor add-on. It gave Nintendo the chance to create Mario levels unlike any you will have played before, providing a fresh experience.
There is of course the online element as well, allowing you to dive into a range of courses that other gamers have created. Super Mario Maker showed that you can never anticipate what some people will do with a given tool set and they created some truly imaginative (and cruel) levels. With a whole new set of options in front of them who knows what experiences they'll make. Of course this time you'll need to pay for the access to online services, but hopefully that won't mean there will be any less active.
N-Europe Final Verdict
A wonderful creative package with plenty of single player features to keep you entertained for hours. The community will make or break this title, but based on its predecessor Super Mario Maker 2 is going to keep on delivering plenty of Mario experiences that were previously unimaginable.
Lots of brand new content
Single player mode is a great addition
3D World exclusives add depth
Some iffy dialogue