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'Super Mario Maker 2' is the 'Mario' game to end all 'Mario' games

by Matthew Yapp The original Super Mario Maker hit Wii U's everywhere way back in 2015, and straight away it was a smashing success. The game offered players complete free reign to be as over-the-top and creative as they wanted in level design, as well as an ability to share their courses online with players across the globe. This game was a high point in the Wii U’s library and now, four years later, its successor has hit the Switch. While the core mechanics and ideas of the original game have remained the same, there have certainly been some tweaks that set this sequel apart. That being said, does Super Mario Maker 2 live up the excellence of its predecessor?

Building upon greatness

Without a doubt, the most fun thing to do in Mario Maker 2 is design levels. It feels incredibly intuitive and simple enough that a child can do it. Which is good, since that is the target audience here. Mario Maker laid fantastic groundwork, so I was very curious to see where the creators would go in terms of expanding on the level creation aspects of the sequel. Seeing as it’s not just a port, players are expecting new features and improved gameplay, and luckily, they received it. Nintendo was wise in the sense that they omitted very little from the original game but incorporated several new features that made gameplay even more fun. Ramps were something in high demand that breathed new life into speedruns and overall aesthetic. There is also a variety of new enemies so you can add to some new dangers to your courses. You can even add the angry sun that spits fire at you from Super Mario Bros 3 if you want to make a level with not-so-subtle allusions to our current climate situation! What I’m most pleased with, though, is the addition of the on/off switch, which will make red and blue tile blocks disappear and reappear when hit. This adds an incredibly fun mechanic to the game; in fact, I’d say after playing the online courses uploaded by other players, the on/off switch is incorporated to nearly all of the most popular levels in some capacity. While Nintendo did amazing building off the work they’d done in the previous game, there is sadly a glaring omission from the items catalogue. Despite being an amazing instrument of creativity, we tragically had to say goodbye to the mystery mushroom.
Image from MarioPartyLegacy
The mystery mushroom allowed the player to transform into a wide variety of Nintendo characters, even ones from outside of the Mario Brothers franchise. I won’t lie when I say I was incredibly sad to find out I couldn’t design a level based around me transforming into Link. It’s a rather strange item to take out since fans were so previously enamored by it. What's even more surprising is that Mario Maker 2 truly made the most groundbreaking achievement, which was finally having a feature in a game that actually worked better when it was used on the Wii U rather than on the Switch, and that would be the touch screen. I’ve honestly never used the Switch as a touch screen up to this point, and something just feels unnatural about it. Don’t get me wrong, designing levels this way is super easy. There is just something slightly off about doing it on my pristine Switch screen. That being said, you couldn’t pay me to go back to using that no-battery-life-having, waste-of-a-console generation Wii U, which is why I started using the controller-based input for level design. I was pleased to find that after a slight learning curve, I ended up liking it even more than the touch controls. It felt just as natural and it didn’t leave any finger smudges. 

An improved single-player experience

When I started playing Mario Maker 2, the last thing I thought about was a story mode. However, when I finally rolled around to giving it a shot, I found myself having a lot of fun with it. In terms of plot, it’s not really substantial, but that comes as no surprise. Essentially, just as you finish constructing Princess Peach’s new castle, an Undo Dog comes and destroys it. This leaves Mario responsible for collecting enough coins to rebuild the castle by completing a variety of “jobs” that come in the form of platforming levels.
Image from NintendoLife
I was really pleasantly surprised by how hard the levels started to get towards the end and found myself spending far more time than I thought I would in the story mode. Another fun aspect of this is the fact that unlike a typical Mario platform, not all of the levels are just about making it to the flag. A new mechanic in Mario Maker 2 is to set clear conditions like never jumping or finishing the level as Cat Mario. It’s a simple change that breathes some new life into the possibly oversaturated platforming market. That being said though, the 100 premade levels that are offered to you in story mode do feel pretty bland when compared to the wacky and creative levels made by players on online play, so if you stick to just story mode for too long it can get a little...meh. Even outside of story mode, the game is a ton of fun to play solo even though there is an emphasis on online and multiplayer mechanics. The Endless Challenge allows players to see how many levels they can get through on a limited number of lives, which if set on one of the higher difficulties proves to be immensely fun.

Bumpy but tremendously fun online play

In a game that is all about creation, it makes sense that a big aspect of this game should be sharing your work. Course World allows you to upload up to 32 of the levels you designed and offer them up for anyone in the world to beat. This is what really makes the game for me. There is literally a near limitless supply of incredible levels offered to you endlessly and each one is completely unique with its own gimmick and vision. There is a definite problem where, seeing as these courses are designed by mostly amateurs and there’s not really a good filtering process, you may have to slog through some pretty lame levels before you find the gems. There is an upvote/downvote system but the problem is, when you’re sorting by new levels or levels on the rise, the voting hasn’t really had time to take effect and you can end up getting a lot more misses than hits. Genuinely though, if you just sort by popularity you will end with incredibly entertaining and innovative levels that—without sounding too dramatic—makes me incredibly eager to see what this generation of game creators will make in the future.
Image from Twinfinite
There is also the brand-new online multiplayer feature, which allows you to try and compete against players to see who can complete a course the fastest and stomp your enemies. Or, you can be a coward and play cooperatively where you all try to finish together. Honestly though, without bloodshed, where is the fun? Any way to make something unnecessarily competitive is welcome in my book. You are given a letter rank starting at D, and given the ability to rise up in the ranks as you beat players and gain experience. This adds a real sense of achievement and fun that I love, but I must admit it is VERY laggy. There was more than one occasion that I couldn’t complete a level because the course was bugging out so bad, but even with that issue I really do think that the multiplayer mode is incredibly fun. Fun or not though, there is something really unforgivable about an online mode being destroyed by lag and next to unplayable when I’m paying 20 dollars for Nintendo Online, after I already paid 60 dollars for this game.
Images: MarioPartyLegacy, Twinfinite, NintendoLife Featured: Nintendo