|Release: June 28, 2019|
|Players: 1-4 Player|
|Screen Resolution: 720p-1080p||Mild Cartoon Violence|
by Jenni Lada
It can be difficult to judge the merits of a game that is also essentially a piece of software. The original Super Mario Maker was just that. There were no Nintendo-created elements there; all we had to go with was what we all cumulatively created. With Super Mario Maker 2, things are a bit more defined. Rather than tossing the community a level editor and allowing them to go nuts, Nintendo has added to the equation, with the goal being a more well-rounded experience. While all of that helps, there are still things that make this seem like the sort of game that will be at its best once people around it catch up.
It almost feels like Super Mario Maker 2 is not just about giving people a way to create the levels, but also learn more about how to create them and make them more satisfying. This is accomplished in the new Story mode, which doles out new levels as “jobs” for Mario, and via Yamamura’s Dojo, a tutorial section filled with lessons divided into three different categories. While the latter is a more obvious teaching tool, going through beginner, intermediate and advanced articles on each sort of capability, item or tool in the game, the former is a more nuanced way of helping people understand what does and doesn’t work.
In Super Mario Maker 2’s story, Mario, Chief Toadette and a number of other Toads are rebuilding Peach’s castle. Everything was great! Except, Undodog ended up stepping on a Reset Rocket button one Toad left out. This undid all of their hard work. Mario is then forced to take on 100 “jobs,” which take the form of 100 officially created levels, to earn enough coins to build each portion of the castle again. As you do, you might get new Builder avatar clothing items, one of two new power-ups to use in your own levels, money to build up the castle and access to new areas of the restored building.
Unlike normal Super Mario games, where there are worlds with themes, the story mode’s levels each are about mechanics. You might learn about using a Dry Bones’ shell as a boat, see how the new claw tools could be useful in a level, get a better idea of enemy behavior or participate in examples of courses where certain sorts of movements are restricted. It is enlightening in a way courses made by other people in Course World aren’t. While those might have a gimmick and use it once or be dedicated to not helping you win, the concepts in the official Nintendo levels scale in difficulty and tend to provide multiple examples of how to do things with parts in various ways in one level in a friendlier way.
The actual level creation portion of Super Mario Maker 2 is handled as well as ever. You have access to Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario 3D World styles. There are 10 different themes for each one, and every one has its own item parts, enemies and possible power-ups. (Though, many of them are all available in every theme.) It is easy to place, erase, undo and reset. You have a main area and sub-area available to you. There are lots of different sounds and songs. If someone else is on-hand, you can even give them the second Joy-Con and have them help you create a stage. It is incredibly comprehensive, and someone could spend hours working out how everything works together. However, you can only upload up to 32 levels online.
What is interesting on the Maker side is the inclusion of Night Mode. The Angry Sun is now an a possible enemy in Super Mario Maker 2, which means you can swap it to a Moon. It behaves differently, while also allowing you to make Night Modes of each level. When applied to a screen, it alters the properties of an area, possibly changing the way enemies act, power-ups work and adding new environmental effects. It changes everything you know about Super Mario levels, giving you a chance to experiment in a whole new way and see how what new sorts of challenges could be available.
As for playing these levels, Super Mario Maker 2 lets you access Course World and its array of levels (if you are a Nintendo Switch Online subscriber). If you head into Courses, you can check ones that are hot, new and popular or search. Unfortunately, there is no option to see levels people on your friends list have made, which is unfortunate. You can search by ID, but you can’t search by level names or Maker names. You can play levels one at a time. Or, you can go for a chain of random levels. Instead of Super Mario Maker’s 100 Mario Challenge, where you had 100 total lives and would go through random levels pulled from online, Endless Challenge lets you test and see how long you can last on one of four difficulty levels when going through random levels.
There are also multiplayer options for the first time in Super Mario Maker history, which is exciting! Except, it may not work exactly as people expect at launch. You can’t play online with friends, only with strangers. If you do find other random people to play with, then you work with four people either cooperatively or competitively to get through a level Coursebot picks. Your mileage will vary here, since you never know who you will end up with or what the level will be. If you are lucky enough to get an old school style with four people who have strong connections, everything will be fine. If you end up with a Super Mario 3D World theme and full party where not everyone has great internet, then it can be an excruciating and unplayable experience.
When it comes to local play, things are a little more frustrating. To play a game locally with up to four people, you need to find a level in Course World and download it. You can save 60 downloaded courses from the internet in Super Mario Maker 2. Once it is on your system, you can choose to play together. It takes a lot of steps to get working and is just a bit frustrating.
There are a lot of things Super Mario Maker 2 gets right. The course creation tools are solid, and the tutorial lessons and story mode levels are good at helping people understand how things work and what they might want to do to create a fun level. It is disappointing the local multiplayer doesn’t work as well and the game seems to ignore that people already have friends lists with people who they may want to play with or whose work they may want to see. Still, it is a promising game, and one that only has the potential to get better. Especially since getting to play online with friends is a feature that will come eventually.