You Can Enjoy ‘Super Mario Maker 2’ Selfishly, But You Shouldn't
Super Mario Maker 2 is designed to be enjoyed with friends - and strangers, for that matter. Nintendo's new do-it-yourself Mario platformer for Switch packs a fantastically powerful construction tool, building upon its 2015 predecessor by adding Super Mario 3D World elements to the mix of course-crafting ingredients, and it encourages you to use its editing tools to realise imaginative results entirely of your own making. And then share them online, for others to play, enjoy, and rate accordingly.
The making of said stages can take a few moments to get used to, if you're well-practiced in the ways of the original Super Mario Maker, one of the Wii U's very best releases (and, seriously now, that console had a lot of great games... that not nearly enough people played). New radial menus are designed for speedy navigating but take a tick to click, and designing your layouts with the Switch docked, using the Joy-Cons or a Pro Controller, is undeniably less-intuitive than simply prodding and dragging with a fingertip.
But what if you're not the sharing type? Is there anything here for selfish, solo players with zero intent of shaping their own challenges, let alone putting them out there for the world to play? Turns out, unlike the Wii U game: yes, there's plenty to keep you busy. But it still needs stressing that Super Mario Maker 2 shines as a creative experience, and it's in its toolbox of environmental assets and enemy types, win conditions and wild expressions of originality.
First and foremost, there's a story mode in Super Mario Maker 2 - an absorbing, extensive feature that didn't factor into the 2015 game. The actual story side of it is super simplistic: Peach's castle has been erased from existence thanks to a reset rocket going off in its vicinity, so Mario is charged with completing levels to earn coins enough to rebuild it.
Initially, these levels, these jobs, are given to Nintendo's mascot by Toad, while Toadette will spend the money on labour and materials (and complain when the worker toads all take a nap). Later, Undodog will also chuck some work Mario's way, leading to one of the most pertinent questions, here: Undodog for Smash Bros, when? Seriously though, Undodog has a 3D model now, so it's a natural next step for the rubber-masked canine to leap into the cross-franchise fighter.
There's no connective tissue, no thematic coherence, between these story mode levels. Rather, they're designed to show off the wide array of features available to Super Mario Maker 2 creators, from the widely trailered slopes to the not-so-angry-on-every-skin sun that swoops down to burn your behind, and other elements like customisable snake-block paths and night-time themes. It's a world away from the old-school format of playing a select number of levels all set in a single world, before moving onto the next. Super Mario Maker 2 exists to celebrate the multicoloured magnificence of the overall Mario experience, from 8-bit beginnings to high-def catsuits and Meowser boss battles.
And these levels get tricky, quickly. Toad is a mean taskmaster, and after a handful of one- and two-star levels, he'll toss in a three-star option or two, and the difficulty rockets. Not to the extent where you'll put your Switch down, switch it off and that's that - but where you're forced to really think about the design side of the levels, how they've been constructed, rather than simply focusing on getting to the end flag (or door, spinning thing, Bowser fight, and so forth).
It's through understanding the concept of these smarter, crueler courses, that you'll see Super Mario Maker 2 with new eyes - like Neo seeing inside the Matrix, if you like. You'll begin to see the lines that claws move on, as well as the claws themselves, spots on the level where hidden blocks are certain to be. You'll see the science behind the style, and then any goal becomes achievable. Well, most of them. You'll still lose all your five starting lives more than once, on a single stage. This is Super Mario Maker 2 - it's supposed to hurt while it makes you smile.
If you're done with story mode - and any stage can be beaten if you choose to cheat a little, using Luigi to automatically finish stages that your Mario simply cannot master (hands up, I've done that once - for research purposes, of course) - there's also Course World to explore. For this, you'll need to connect to the internet, which may be all you need to actually upload a few creations of your own. But if not, Course World is where you'll find player-made levels from around the globe.
There are just as haphazardly varied as story mode - more so, indeed, as players get creative with their win conditions. Beat three bowsers for the flag to appear, or collect 150 coins before you can exit, or find five keys to unlock your way to freedom before the clock runs out, et cetera. The sheer cleverness of some of these handcrafted courses is enough to make a Wii U-weaned Mario Maker like myself - not inexperienced by any means - feel like an absolute beginner. But in a brilliant way: it's easy to lose hours to picking through Course World, spying world record finish times and thinking, just for a second, that you can get close to them. It's the hope that kills you - five, ten, 15 times over, but still you keep trying, because if a course is online, it can be done.
Is Super Mario Maker 2 worth the money if you're only in it for yourself? Depends on your love for 2D Marios. If you can't get enough of them, yes, you need this in your life. But then, if you are such a fan, why wouldn't you want to build your own adventures and share them with like-minded players? What kind of monster are you?
Super Mario Maker 2 is released for Nintendo Switch on June 28.
Featured Image Credit: Nintendo