If you take a little bit of Mario magic, add some slopes, seesaws and swinging claws, then sprinkle it with Banzai Bills and Parachutes, you’ll discover a Super Mario Maker sequel that’s worthy of the extra wait. With a new overworld, backgrounds and a bucket load of items available, there’s more than enough to do for content creators and players. Take one for the team in multiplayer co-op, compete together in versus, or go it alone in story mode, the choice is down to you.
It’s almost been four years since Super Mario Maker was released on the Wii U, roughly 2.5 years since the 3DS port – and fans of the course creator are still making (and playing) levels. Over the years, there’s been some incredibly creative courses made by the fanbase including Super Mario vs. Mecha Bowzilla, the Mario Puzzle series, Mission: Impossible, the variety of ‘Kaizo’ aka extremely difficult levels involving advanced techniques to enable completion, amongst others. There’s even one level that has never been beaten – though it’s been played by the Mario Maker community upwards of 2 million times. In fact, there are numerous Twitch streams broadcasting ‘Lucky Draw’, an infamous level made by creator Phenotype, that’s drawn thousands of fans across the world to see if it can be beaten. With a one in 7.5 million chance – the odds may not be in your favour.
With Super Mario Maker 2, Nintendo hopes to emulate the success seen from the first game. Everything that was made available to creators in Super Mario Maker, including updated content, is available from the get-go in the sequel. Tutorials are optional and can be skipped as and when required, though can be found later in Yamamura’s Dojo, and creators can get straight into making the content they desire. There are also a variety of ways to make levels this time, either by using the Switch in touchscreen mode, using the Joy-Cons or a Pro Controller in docked mode, or by handling one Joy-Con each in co-op maker mode. And while there are unlockable items to be obtained, all previously announced new items (such as Boom Boom, Dry Bones Shell, rising water and lava, night mode, etc.) are available from the moment the game’s fired up.
For creators, the Course Maker’s user interface has had some significant design changes. While the top ‘creator’ bar full of level parts remains, a handy magnifying glass in the top-right corner makes way for itemised colour wheels, which can be flicked through at leisure by tapping the L/R shoulder buttons. You’ll also be able to pin frequently used parts to the toolbar, something that was sorely needed in the first. On the left, you’ll find the course world, theme, timer and autoscroll selections, alongside drop-in, drop-out maker co-op. While on the right, Mr. Eraser, Coursebot, Undodog and Reset Rocket appear. And all of this can be removed from display by pressing the ‘X’ button. Not only do the changes make sense for creators, it’s incredibly easy to adapt to for those less experienced.
There is, however, something the Switch lacks that the Wii U and 3DS required; a stylus. Creating courses with the touchscreen is superb, but for the most fastidious courses you’ll want to invest in a soft-point touchscreen pen. For fans, there’s an option to purchase the official Super Mario Maker stylus, but any soft-point touchscreen pen used for tablets or phones will do the job. It’s clear that using your fingers will only take you so far.
In docked mode, level creation doesn’t feel quite as fluid but it’s certainly far easier to see the bigger picture. Use the D-pad to select your parts around the edges, the X button to switch between tool selection and placement, and the shoulder buttons for erasing, multi-grab and copy/paste. The latter is incredibly useful for placing an enemy or coin formation. In co-op maker, however, things start to get a bit trickier. While Player One uses the right Joy-Con and controls the outer icons, itemised wheel selection and can switch between tool or sound effects seamlessly, Player Two pulls the short straw and is only able to select parts with ‘Y’ (on the left Joy-Con) from a small horizontal windowpane, place and erase them. It’s a neat idea, especially if you’re working alongside a youngster, but its limitations are readily apparent.
If, like me, you prefer to play courses made by others (seen as the best I could come up with was an Underwater Maze named Dizzy Depths and a snow-themed Goomba slip ‘n’ slide), then Course World and Story Mode is the place to build up your Mario death to clear ratio. Of course, lingering too long in any area with Meowser, Boom Boom and several Koopa Clown Cars is bound to increase your heart rate, let alone your death toll. But let’s leave Course World to one side for a moment.
With more than 100 levels to play, Story Mode in Super Mario Maker 2 will take you roughly 8-10 hours to complete, depending on how good of a player you are. Unlike the first game, which lacked a story mode and entirely randomised 70 levels in order to rescue Princess Peach, the sequel’s story mode makes logical sense and supplies comedy on demand, in true Mario-esque style.
After Undodog horrifyingly presses the Reset Rocket pad, Princess Peach’s Castle must be rebuilt from the ground up by the hard-working Toads who pour their blood, sweat and tears into the project. Thankfully, they call upon the ever-reliable Mario to take on a series of jobs. In exchange for completing ingeniously designed levels, you’ll be rewarded handsomely (between 100-300 gold coins) depending on the degree of difficulty undertaken and can then fork out your hard-earned coin to pay for the repairs. Honestly, we’re expecting Tom Nook to appear at any moment with a ‘free’ aesthetic upgrade.
For the most part, Story Mode is a relatively easy build-a-castle project with no grinding in sight. Each level offers something different to challenge the way you think when playing a conventional Mario game. For instance, the no jumping allowed levels are particularly fun. It’s all about timing here and that impatient itch that begs to be scratched needs to be kept in check. Other levels such as, ‘Begone Rotten Mushroom’ uses night mode to full effect, creating a creepy spirited mushroom that follows your every move. You’ll have to outrun it if you want to survive. If you like puzzles, though, Story Mode has them in droves. Playing, ‘The Way of the Shell’ is a real treat as you’ll need to throw shells and press the on/off switch at just the right moments to capture keys.
This level of creativity certainly inspires makers to go that one step further in Course World, though we draw the line at troll levels. But that’s why Super Mario Maker 2 has the brand new ‘Boo’ feature. Don’t like a course? Hit that Boo button. And if you really enjoyed a course, you can easily post a stamp, hit the like button and write your own comment to the creator which will appear in their notifications. It’s a nice personalised touch.
In the main hub, Course World is segmented into four areas; Courses, Leaderboards, Network Play and Endless Challenge. The latter now lets you skip levels across all difficulty levels (Easy, Normal, Expert and Super Expert) – possibly ones you’ve already played before, or simply feel are too tough to beat. While Network Play offers you Multiplayer Co-op and Multiplayer Versus options, alongside making or joining a room with local Switch players. Though we haven’t had much chance to play in either multiplayer modes, Nintendo are looking to add an option so you can play with friends, rather than just random matchmaker. A smart move, nevertheless, as Multiplayer Co-op isn’t the most intuitive process, nor as enjoyable as it has the potential to be. For now, the jury is still out on that one.
Elsewhere in Course World, Super Mario Maker 2 introduces a new interface for the Maker Profile. You can now unlock cool outfits – such as hats, t-shirts, trousers/skirts, onesies – for your Mii to express your own creativity as you play through online creator courses. It’s a fun addition, reminiscent of Tomodachi Life or the ill-fated Miitomo.
With several ways to make and play, Super Mario Maker 2 is a stunning sequel for the Nintendo Switch. Create courses on the go or in co-op, try your hand at beating a level in the fastest time, or take inspiration from the developers themselves by playing the inventive levels seen in Story Mode. We just wish it had one more overworld to make those slots even. Super Mario Galaxy, anyone? After all, the sequel has the music and the Sky theme’s night effect makes things float. We’re already halfway there.
A review copy of Super Mario Maker was provided to My Nintendo News by Nintendo UK.