The original "Super Mario Maker" made the most — and then some — from Nintendo's poor-selling Wii U hardware. Does this sequel, coming to the widely loved Switch on June 28th, translate and improve upon the wild creativity that made the original such a success? Here's what the reviews have to say:
This Time There's A Story Mode, Populated With Memorable Levels And Peppered With Odd Humor
These levels were created using the same toolset that players have access to, but thanks to the Nintendo team being, well, good at its job, they are consistently excellent. While not quite enough to be its own stand-alone Mario game, Story Mode comes surprisingly close, with around eight hours worth of levels to plow through.
The levels are so wonderfully creative, each one using the many varied tools of Super Mario Maker 2's maker mode to create something never seen before. It's almost like a chef tasting: each artist has created a small dish, unfettered from the constraints of their nightly menus, and you're lucky enough to sample the fruits of their creativity.
Mario has conversations with all of the characters that live near the castle. The Toads themselves are fine, but the standouts are the weird Mario Maker crew, like Mr. Eraser, Undodog, and Partrick. Listening to Mr. Eraser talking about cleaning my sins before he rubs off his eraser head in mid-air is… a surreal experience.
The Two Big Additions To The Already Feature-Rich Level Editor Are A New Game Style And Special Win Conditions
Super Mario Maker also allows players to save levels in five unique Mario styles (Super Mario, Mario 3, Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros, and Mario 3D World), all of which have different graphics and different Mario moves/mechanics. This means you could build a level, change it from one style to another and potentially give your level a whole new aesthetic with the push of a button.
Super Mario Maker 2's editor has a few major new options that let you create courses that are fundamentally impossible in the first game. You can add conditions for clearing a course, requiring a player to do such things as defeat a boss, collect a number of coins, or play the entire level without jumping. You can do vertical levels. You can customize the direction of the automatic scrolling, creating a course that winds up and down. You can have a level half-full of water, lava, or poison, letting the levels rise and drop arbitrarily, either permanently or looping back and forth.
There Are Video Tutorials On All Manner Of Mario Design Subjects… All Hosted By A Talking Cartoon Bird
Yamamura is a sentient pigeon who runs a tutorial mode with the help of Nina, a human, but I feel like calling it a tutorial mode does it a real injustice. The Dojo is a game-design boot camp. Yes, there are lessons showing you the basics -how to test your levels, what to do if you mess up, and how to use the various parts and pieces – but there are also lessons on drawing inspiration for your works, giving directions to your players, and even a lesson called "Treating the Player Fairly," where the ultimate take-away is "no one likes a troll." Well said, Nina. Well said.
His catalog of 45 lessons (divided into Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced sets) walk you through everything from laying tracts of land and placing Goombas to the more philosophical side of level creation, even navigating the meta side of being a creator unleashing their work for others to judge.
You May Adapt Quickly To Using The Controller For Level Creation, But You Won't Regret Getting A Cheap Stylus
I actually grew to prefer using the controller to build levels over handheld's touch input – not because touch is bad, but because using the controller is so good. There is a gentle learning curve, one that's easy to overcome, and once I got the hang of it, I couldn't go back. My one complaint is that handheld mode forces you to use touch for most things, with no option to use a controller at all.
Although the controller option is designed about as well as it could be, I found touch to be vastly preferable (and using a nice pen-sized stylus to be vastly preferable to jabbing the screen with my finger for hours).
The Switch doesn't have a stylus, but you could (and should) use a capacitive stylus like the kind you can buy for phones and tablets. It'll help.
Apart From Lacking The Option To Switch Themes On The Fly, The 'Mario 3D World' Theme Is Fun To Play With/In
Mario 3D World is labeled as an "Extra" theme. Unlike the other four course styles, which function more like skins that you can switch around at any time during creation, Mario 3D World stands on its own. It has enemies and functions that aren't replicated in the other themes, like Bullet Bills that fly from the background into the foreground. Mario has a few extra moves from the 3D games, like a long jump. The course creation, and thus the gameplay, is still all on a 2D plane, though. It's a nice extra addition, but it doesn't radically change things.
I was enamored with this course theme's new creation options, including clear pipes (which can send Mario and enemies twisting to a new location), blinking blocks (which flip on and off on a set timer), and an ! block (which grows a temporary path as you hit it repeatedly). I was the least interested in the Koopa Car, which sends Mario moving unstoppably in a single direction and seems most useful for courses that mostly play themselves.
The Move To One Screen Makes Menus A Bit Cramped
One thing you will find slightly frustrating though is that the UI is quite cramped. Whereas the Wii U and 3DS versions could spread all the assets across two screens, the Switch has to squeeze all the various menus onto just one screen. There's a lot to poke, prod and generally interact with, from dragging and dropping new elements onto a screen, hiding coins away in question mark boxes, adding wings to foes, changing the size of a platform, or simply getting the positioning of that Goomba just right.
Finding Popular Levels Shouldn't Be Too Hard, But The Game Could Always Benefit From Better Search Tools
The game does a solid job of surfacing new and popular entries, which you can play almost instantly or download to your system to edit (think of it like the Mario equivalent of a web browser's View Source option). There's also a new endless mode, which throws stage after stage at you until you run out of lives. It sounds simple, but in practice it's genuinely exciting because you never know what sort of level you'll get.
If you want to discover deeper cuts, though, or courses grouped by different themes, the search options are extremely limited. You can pick randomly through the in-game list of new courses, I guess, or you can try your luck in a random selection of courses in the "Endless Challenge" until you run out of lives. Neither seems likely to have a very high "hit rate" of good courses.
With Random Online Matchmaking And No Guarantee Of Levels Intended For 2+ Players, The Multiplayer Offerings Feel Like Works-In-Progress Across The Board
Nintendo's initial plans to limit these modes to random matchmaking drew the ire of some fans who quite reasonably expected to be able to play with their friends. Nintendo has since made it clear that feature will come, just not in time for launch.
Locally, you can't enjoy multiplayer in Story Mode or from the Course World. Instead, you have to download courses to Coursebot, and then access local multiplayer there. You can also work together with another player to make a course. There is an option to engage with local multiplayer in Course World, but it requires that every player has their own Switch and copy of the game[…] I should also note that the matchmaking in multiplayer can occasionally lead you to levels where multiple players can't actually progress. Any level that's based on a single item for traversal, whether that's a Clown Car, Koopa Troopa Car, or Dry Bones Shell? Those actually break multiplayer a bit, because they boil down to one player getting through everything alone, while the other players just die.
We won't truly know how Super Mario Maker 2 did until millions of fans are bashing away at it. For now, I can say that Nintendo has delivered a much more robust and feature-rich Mario maker, and hope players will use it well.
You can pre-order it here.
Watch The Trailer