Super Mario Maker 2 Review
Welcome to the latest installment in “Games I Never Played on the Wii U.” Today’s episode is all about Super Mario Maker 2, a toybox/platformer so good it’s giving me retroactive regrets about my life choices up to this point. All this time, I could have been making weird, dumb Mario levels! It feels like a tiny crime that more of my spare moments haven’t been dedicated to this calming, enlightening hobby. If you’ve never played Maker before, you’d be a fool to pass this up.
At its core, Maker 2 is all about either making or playing custom stages. There’s a brand new story mode to swim around in, but this is still a set of hors d’oeuvres before the main course. Don’t skip said story mode, however. Especially if you’re new to the game, the single player campaign is an essential source of inspiration for learning the language of creation. Playing the whole thing gives you a showcase of stage mechanics and design ideas. It’s also a good warmup for when you graduate to Course World.
A Cavalcade of Colorful Chaos
Getting an early review copy of an online game can be a hampering experience in many ways. Certain segments of the game are always ghost towns, lying dormant until a real player base is assembled. In the case of Super Mario Maker 2, it seems like all of my fellow reviewers and influencers are already hard at work designing stages. I’ve even beaten a few of them! Of course, some of these levels are pure sadism spread like butter over a handful of screens. Others are merely fun and engaging. I can scarcely imagine what the level select screen is going to look like once the game launches for real. What wondrous terrors will we witness, bolstered to new heights by things like multiplayer and clear conditions?
Fiendish imaginings are a clear through-line common to my entire playthrough. Every time I see something new, amazing, or awful, I wonder how that could be used in my own clumsy creations. Make no mistake, my stages are baby steps into the larger world of level design. I ‘m grappling with ideas that other creators mastered moments after the first game was released. It will be ages before this buffet of new tools makes any real sense to me. This hasn’t impeded my enjoyment in the slightest, though.
There is something truly zen about making your own levels. Never mind your degree of talent or ambition. Nintendo has made it a calming, joyous exercise to place blocks and build worlds. I’ve already sunk hours into an ill-fated airship adventure destined for casual engagement and momentary disdain. I could care less! Just the exercise of choosing what goes where is a window to my mis-spent youth. I used up countless hours drawing crude recreations of Mario stages, complete with enemies and hazards. I was so engrossed by those worlds, I dreamed up dozens more. If I wasn’t playing, crafting stages felt like the next best thing. At last, a new outlet for these long-buried impulses has arisen.
From the Notepad to the Newest Stage
Like the previous game, Maker 2 isn’t right for absolutely everyone. If you’re hoping for another polished set of escapades with Mario and pals, you’ve got some time to wait. For all its trappings, this is still a tool kit. It may be more robust and feature complete than the last iteration, but the impetus is still in the hands of the player to find that glittering core of compulsive engagement. On that same note, veterans of the last game may find themselves hesitant to dive back in. Perhaps you squeezed all you could out of this idea. Maybe you’ve built all you can, and have no more to say on the matter. On the other hand, perhaps those trailers sparked a new blistered wick of curiosity.
After all, there’s so many new tools! The slopes can send players on deadly trips towards unseen hazards. The multiplayer element means new, cooperative challenges can be cooked up. The clear conditions ramp up the stakes, forcing players to do more than just survive your carnival of horrors. It’s no longer an easy choice to leave all those coins behind, to sacrifice that Yoshi, to take that huge risk. Even the switch blocks can transform the simplest layouts into devious labyrinths with no hope of escape. Hell, even completing this review has me simmering with new ideas. That’s the curious power of the Mario Maker games. They can transform a passive audience member into an active participant. I’m dissecting stages and layouts with brand new vigor. Every design choice is something to be absorbed and digested for later use. Even if you don’t fancy yourself a creator, I highly recommend Super Mario Maker 2. You’ll be shocked at the subtle yet significant shift in your mindset.
***A Nintendo Switch code was provided by the publisher***
- Tons of new mechanics
- Touchscreen functionality works great
- Story mode is proper robust
- Not enough new content for veterans
- Still requires a certain headspace
- Your mileage may vary