Review by Matt S.
Super Mario Maker was a brilliant idea. Of course it was. Giving fans the exact same building blocks that were used to make the Mario games, and encouraging them to get out there and create is healthy, in the same way that the likes of Minecraft or RPG Maker is healthy. Rather than passively consume, give people a chance to get hands on, and gaming becomes both hobby and learning experience. Super Mario Maker doesn’t do anywhere near enough to build on the concept of the first game, but having it on Switch is worthwhile in its own right.
With Super Mario Marker 2, Nintendo has given you the tools to make levels based on the original Super Mario Bros, Super Mario Bros 3, Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros. U and Super Mario 3D World (though you’ll only be able to make 2D levels using that game’s aesthetic). This is, disappointingly, just one more “setting” than was the case with the original Super Mario Maker. There’s so much potential in there for Nintendo to let us play around with a broader range of Mario aesthetics – imagine if we could make Super Mario Land black-and-white levels, for example.
Nonetheless, the full toolset is there, and you can make some pretty complex and nuanced platforming levels with them. This isn’t immediately evident, as the interface is deceptively clean, but it took all of a day for creators to start uploading some truly fascinating examples of levels to the media review version of Super Mario Maker 2, and I know that will be the case with the full release too. Mario Maker 1 on the Wii U was well supported throughout, and honestly, the community is coming up with levels that modern Nintendo is struggling to meet with its own Mario titles.
— Digisexual for Hatsune Miku 🇯🇵 (@DigitallyDownld) June 19, 2019
Even if you’re the very first person to play the game in the entire world, the good news is that you won’t be stuck with having to make a level before you can play anything. Nintendo has provided an mammoth amount of stuff to get the creative ideas flowing. There’s a full single player mode, with something like 100 levels, and a basic, Mario-standard narrative to go with it (you need to collect coins in order to re-build a special castle). It’s not the point of the game to spend much time in this mode, but that’s still a lot of stuff to do, and coming out from it you should have a firm idea of what kind of courses that you’ll be able to build yourself.
In comparison to many other creator titles out there, Super Mario Maker isn’t too demanding on the technical skills of the players. It’s very drag-and-drop, what-you-see-is-what-you-get, but nonetheless if you are new to all of this then it might feel a little overwhelming at first. Not to worry, though! Nintendo has provided a library of useful tutorials and guides on how to think about level design, and then how to then execute on your ideas. And, of course, you can always play community creations to get a sense of what other people are doing, and crib some ideas from them.
For returning players, there are a couple of new features to Super Mario Maker 2 that add quite a lot to the experience. Most notably, there’s the ability to set clear conditions, and challenge players to achieve things beyond simply getting to the end of the course. There’s a good range of objectives, too, such as defeating a certain number of enemies first, or not touching the ground after getting off it – a clever objective if you want to challenge players to make their way across narrow platforms in the sky, rather than cruise by on the safe ground underneath. Each of those objectives will challenge creators to come up with unique level design to suit the challenge, which is a really clever way for Nintendo to encourage a greater variety in the community creations.
There are also features like day/night transitions, all kinds of fun costumes to dress Mario up in, and the ability to get together with another person to build together. The latter is a great feature for parents to get some quality time playing virtual LEGO bricks with their kids, for example. Once you finally have that level finalised, it’s time to play it through once to “prove” that it can be beaten, and then send it online to challenge other people to take it on.
The online environment with Super Mario Maker is pretty robust, with a dedicated section showing off the most popular and well-liked creations, and then plenty of other options to help you dig up more gems, or track down the works of a particular creator if you come across them on social media. If you’re able to complete a level created by another player, you can leave ratings and little comments to let them know what you liked about the course. My favourite feature of all however is that every time you fail at a stage, little icons will pop up to show where other people struggled too. It’s nice to know that you’re not the only one that a creator has stumped… and I can assure you there are some creators out there that clearly think they’re making a Mario Soulsborne. As to whether this community will turn toxic, that remains to be seen, but of course it is Nintendo and Nintendo is generally known for creating some pretty positive online sharing environments.
Sadly you are limited in how many courses you can upload. Practically, this makes sense, since the reviewer’s build of the game alone is filled with people throwing up silly, hastily-designed courses (and we’re just talking about me there), but a limit of 32 courses seems a little harsh to penalise the most dedicated creators with – after all, Nintendo itself shoved over 100 courses on the game.
I really wanted to see a bigger improvement from the original Super Mario Maker to this sequel. The features that Nintendo has added in are nice, but with only one additional game environment to play around with in Super Mario 3D World, Nintendo is underselling the own rich heritage that it has to work with. With that being said, anything that encourages people to create, rather than just consume, is a noble cause, and Nintendo has managed to build something completely accessible despite giving users absolutely everything they need to recreate any Mario level. That’s surely the holy grail of the creator genre.
– Matt S.
Find me on Twitter: @digitallydownld
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