NS Review – Super Mario Maker 2 (Nintendo Switch)

I’m a big fan of Super Mario Maker, I’ve sung high praise for the series since the Wii U release, and the announcement of the Switch version got that hype train rolling fast for me. Fast forward through some trailers, E3, and a demonstration of the game at the post-E3 event, and Super Mario Maker 2 is shaping up to be a solid sequel.

Armed from the get-go, Super Mario Maker 2 gives players an abundance of tools, and all the tools to learn how to use them

Take on a massive array of courses, in a variety of styles and difficulties

Super Mario Maker 2 is, in many regards, very familiar. From the start you dive into the usual canvas, only now content isn’t time-gated (having learnt from their mistakes) and an abundance of tools are available to the maker instantly. The toolbox is absolutely packed with an assortment of bricks, blocks, trinkets, gadgets, friends, and foes- and that’s just the beginning. Players can choose between 5 general game styles; Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros. U, and also Super Mario 3D World. Within these styles, players can toggle night and day, space or underwater, forest or haunted house, and more. Once you’ve decided the setting your creation takes place in, it’s time to lay down some rules. Change the timer, implement an autoscroll (which can be further customised) if you fancy, or set a clear condition for the course; the right amount of coins, a powerup, an accessory, a held item, or defeating certain enemies will enable the finish line to be crossed. Not everything will be immediately available to the player upon starting, but the sheer amount you do start with instantly allows for so much creative freedom. Down the line you’ll find toxic waters, familiar foes, and a variety of other ways to create your ideal Mario course.
Then, intricately customise down to the last detail by adding abilities to obstacles and terrain, or in some cases- completely switching up the object you’re working with. Thus far, Super Mario Maker 2 is overflowing in the making department. You can even switch between Mario, Luigi, Toad, and Toadette as your avatar, a swap which accompanies you throughout the modes. Strangely enough you’ll find this in settings, and the change seems to be user-side, so it seems that you can’t force others to be a different character when they play your courses. There’s also local co-op, both in playing and making, so you can bring others along for the ride. Another interesting feature is subtle changes in behaviour and controls when switching game styles, Goomba stacking or long jumping for example, which can drastically alter the experience- or break your level entirely. Unfortunately, the differences go too far in some cases, meaning the Super Mario 3D World game style has to be treated as a separate set of rules, resetting your course if you choose to switch to or from it.

You were only meant to blow the doors off…

Very topical

Previously, those who wanted to experience other people’s creations, or simply preferred not to make, could play a handful of modes; ones which cycled through randomised user-created courses, and ones which let you play courses made by Nintendo. You can certainly do the same in Super Mario Maker 2, but there’s an additional story mode now, a dedicated world where a familiar castle has been obliterated, and Mario has to work with Toadette & crew to rebuild it. Players are tasked with jobs in a small but pleasant hub world (where Mario even wears his special Mario Maker outfit), awarding them money and progress towards the castle’s rebuilding. Jobs can be taken on initially from a worker Toad, and then different NPCs later on, with content styles differing between them. Jobs themselves are actually a diverse catalogue of courses, each one focused on teaching the player something new. Generally you’ll find a course dedicated to learning about how a new item works, but each course also provides inspiration for a variety of ways to implement said item. So story mode essentially serves as a creative tutorial, providing a number of ways for players to learn and experience the intricacies of Super Mario Maker 2. Similarly, these courses don’t have a linear difficulty ramp and can be done out of order, so players can come back to a challenge later on instead of hitting a roadblock and having to force their way through it. Within the levels there’re options to call in assistance, or edit the course with a limited supply of maker tools if you find yourself struggling. It’s a clever and enjoyable way to get hands-on with the game, or just play some interesting Mario levels that wouldn’t typically make the cut in a mainline game. (There’s even some fun clues that other Nintendo characters are the ones creating the courses.)

Visually Super Mario Maker 2 is wonderful, a clean balance of playful and professional. All the older game styles look as good as they did in the previous entries, and Super Mario 3D World looks wonderful too, translating smoothly into the side scrolling needed for the courses. Every playable character has fantastic sprites and models with powerup outfits to match- and as a bonus touch; flagpoles are tailored to whoever interacts with them. Course elements differ amongst styles from subtle to boisterous, a friendly moon turns sceptical, a twinkling night sky turns to an intense nebula, winds scatter differently…even simply tinkering with the base elements yields fantastic results. Generally the game is fluid to experience but there are times in the higher resolution styles where objects or enemies look like they’re running at a different pace to the rest of the course. The Endless Challenges have smart icons and animations that just make different parts of this game feel like they truly had thought and passion put into them. Upgrades and edits to existing oddities meet the bar at a minimum but raise it in many instances. Super Mario Maker 2 just looks wonderful on the Switch, and runs smoothly.

Dynamic lighting and other beautiful visuals paint the Super Mario Maker 2 experience

The sound design follows suit with familiarity and new additions. There’s the usual goofy audio effects which can be used in your creation should you choose, but there’s also many new sounds to hear. Classic tracks from Super Mario 3D World accompany the style of course, but other, unexpected tracks make a comeback too- safe to say hearing Super Mario 64 tunes made a stage I was tackling feel that much better. Beautiful, twinkling music-box-like renditions accompany various atmospheres and environments too, another addition to the list of things in this game that captivated me.

Controlling Mario, Luigi, Toad, or Toadette is a breeze- newer moves and interactions are integrated smoothly, and navigating menus felt responsive. Making a course can be done in handheld or docked mode, utilising the touchscreen in the former if you choose, but without a stylus, be prepared to smear your screen a lot. Button controls are surprisingly user-friendly, given how much there is to do, it’s very possible to make in either mode and get along with the control input you choose. Furthermore, this is actually something Super Mario Maker 2 does a lot, and does well. There’s an abundance of information to be displayed and interacted with in nearly every aspect of this game, and somehow the user interfaces manage to deliver tremendous amounts of information in a neat and tidy fashion- looking stylish while doing so. I’ve found a bit of confusion in a few places, mostly a few sections in online menus not being as clear as I’d like, and there’s a big stagger on switching between tabs in some areas, which feels needless. Speaking of laggy experiences, the worst thing I’ve found to control in this game by far is the car, which has horrible momentum cuts. As amusing as it is to ride around as Toadette in a little wagon, it feels a little tedious sometimes because of how much it drags. Back to the online, there’s also a huge amount of costumes and other customisations to unlock for your avatar. Alongside your tracked stats and medals users can don animated apparel which don’t seem to hold much significance other than being cosmetic, but are a nice addition regardless, giving players extra rewards as they explore the vast online space of the game. As a final note on that, the clothes aren’t gender locked, which I’m thankful for, because I want to wear the denim Blooper skirt too, thank you very much.

Some of the avatar customisation options; featuring a hat with a name I relate to for personal reasons

Super Mario Maker 2 has shattered my expectations. I’m such a fan of the series and utterly delighted to experience this sequel. It truly feels like this had a lot of passion put into it, and the game feels like a fully complete Mario game. While the experience certainly hasn’t lost that bizarre Mario Maker quirkiness, it does feel a little more serious- no sign of those beautiful amiibo costumes. Super Mario Maker has put on its big boy hard hat, and I hope the userbase will be as inspired as they were when this concept first came around. I eagerly await experiencing the creative passion this game assists players with bringing to life.
Thank you to Nintendo for providing this copy of Super Mario Maker 2 for me to review. The game will launch June 28th 2019 on Nintendo Switch. Comments can be sent to my Twitter or below, and thank you for reading!

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