With the first Super Mario Maker, I fell off the game pretty quickly, at launch there was not a lot of things to do, outside of making levels or playing the ones that others created, it did improve over time, but by then I was on other games, but part of me always wanted to go back, see what folks were creating and try and find some true gems of levels, but I never did, thankfully with Super Mario Maker 2, I can now do just that.
Super Mario Maker 2 is easily broken up into three distinct portions of the game, Story Mode, Maker Mode and Play Mode and each has a lot of things to enjoy about them, if you are new to the series or just want to play Mario levels, then hit up Story Mode first, it is what I did. The Story Mode contains a story, or more apt, a very loose reason for being and that is that the castle is destroyed, without any support from Bowser and in order for it to be rebuilt, Mario needs to collect coins to pay for it. Collecting coins is done by completing jobs that are posted on a board near the construction site, from various denizens of the Mushroom Kingdom, with more being unlock, the more you build on the castle. It is a simple story to be sure, but there are a host of missions that are mixed in throughout that will add a little variety to things, which is nice.
The levels themselves range from the simple, yet challenging to the complex and rewarding type, but they also have a secondary purpose and that is showing off, just what the games maker toolset is capable of. Each of the stages in story mode are rated one to four stars, with the number of stars indicating the difficulty, the reason for playing the harder ones is that the harder they are, the more coin you earn by completing it. You can also collect coins along the way in each stage, which you will bank with your completion reward as well, helping you build the castle up more and as there are a lot of parts to the castle, you will need a lot of coins. Some of the courses are provided by others, not found on the board and those can be quite the challenge, so exploring the area around the castle is also something that is recommended.
If you find that playing levels has gotten a bit much and you want to relax a little, then go ahead and bust out the Maker Mode, where you can, make your own levels. The toolset has changed quite a bit from the first game, and I am more a fan because of it, in the original game, each item was listed on a giant grid, which got quite large towards the end of unlocking things, now though, everything is grouped into one of four categories. Inside them, you will find wheels that contain items or enemies that match that particular section, once you select and item, it fills up the recently used section on your make screen and while you can only have so many, it does save having to constantly go back into the menu to select an item again. The second big change is that the game now supports more control inputs, thanks to you being able to dock the Switch.
If you are playing in handheld mode though, things are a little awkward, as the game requires you to use touch controls more than buttons, though buttons are options for somethings. The problem with this is if you are holding the Switch, you then have only one hand on it, while the other is tapping on the screen, this means your hand and fingers are blocking most of the screen while you attempt to place items down. It would not be a problem if you used a very small stylus, but with a finger and hand, it is a problem. In addition to that, the game does not allow full button control when in handheld, which is the only option when docked, so the game has it, just does not allow it and I found myself preferring that to the touch. I was always worried that I would touch the screen and accidently drop the Switch.
Once you have adjusted to the controls, depending on your playstyle, you will find that there is a lot more options, under the hood, then before, giving you more creative freedom to craft levels like you have not been able to before. Like the first game you can simply place an item in almost any spot, some enemies will still let you drop a mushroom on them to make them larger and if you select them once placed, you can see other options like adding wings or a parachute. You can stack enemies as well, hide them in blocks and even have them emerge from pipes, if you feel you want to do that, but the new options are where things can get really exciting. If you place an enemy down, you can now add a clear condition for it to your stage, on the left hand navigation, you can simple chose the option and the game will provide a list of options, if you have 10 Goomba’s you can state that 5 must be defeated before the goal becomes available to you. There is no coding required for this, the game knows what you have placed and will provide the options accordingly, it really is something that I enjoyed, and I am sure that younger players will as well.
If you tire of making you can jump into Play Mode, where you can enjoy the countless courses made by other players, either one at a time or in the endless mode, where you can play a heap in a row. Discovering courses is a lot easier this time around, as the search has tags, which alone makes it so much more accessible, but more than that, it helps clear away anything that is outside of your preference. The best thing is that it allows you to find courses that are multiplayer focused, which is now an addition to the game, about the only way the course look up could be better, was if it had a section of the Nintendo Switch Online app, where you could search and trigger downloads to your Switch.
When it comes to presentation, there is not a lot different here than there was in the first game, the same four art styles are present, as well as the excellent 3D World style and as before, all of the items have a representation for their unique theme. The new items, which are making their Mario Maker debut have all been added in without issue, unless of course you count the Angry Sun, it looks odd in any style that is not Mario 3. While the addition of the new style in 3D World is nice and has the gameplay mechanics to back it up, I would have preferred that something completely fresh be added, because in a lot of aspects, the games menus, sounds and layout are the same as they were in the first game. They have added a lot of new content yes, but it is everything we have seen before and nothing really new or special.
The audio side is wonderful, because it contains some of the classic tunes we know and love, but also a host of new tunes, that work in concert with their original art styles and elements. The snow theme for example in Mario 1 is amazing and had it been released back with the first game in 1985, there is no doubt in my mind, it would be a timeless classic, like most of that games music is. I do wish that they gave more control over the custom sound effects, I don’t want recording sounds, but with the few options to place some specific tunes down, from other Mario games, adding more options would have been great, in fact a music player alone would be very welcome indeed.
Super Mario Maker 2 adds more content to what was already a packed experience, while the addition of a story mode does not change up the overall experience, it does feel well suited for playing a host of different themed levels. The new elements and styles in the maker section, provide a wealth of possibilities, to what people can create, but with the ease of access toolset in creating custom scrolling levels, conditions and more, it won’t take long for people to make some truly wonderful things. The controls are a bit of a weird mess and I would have preferred for multiple options, especially in handheld mode, but they work and work well enough. If you were on the fence about this one, the amount of content should tip you in favour of it, but the ability to discover new content with ease, thanks to redesigned searching tools, means that you will always be able to find great new levels to play and that is what the game is all about.
Review copy provided by Nintendo