Super Mario Maker 2 - Review

Author: Fabio "Kenobit" Bortolotti
Date: 2020-07-30 22:57:08
The announcement of Super Mario Maker 2 caught me off guard. It was not only a lightning bolt, but also marked a very rare case where Nintendo announced exactly what I wanted. Have I become a seer? Or maybe, after years of waiting for F-Zero, the gaming gods have decided to give me a treat? What matters is that Super Mario Maker 2 exists and is basically everything I wanted from a Mariesque editor on Switch.

The first, great feature of the game is the console itself. I loved the first Super Mario Maker, but had the huge flaw of being released on an unfortunate car. Let's face it: Wii U has sold very little (in its entire life it has placed just over a third of the current installed base of Switch) and above all it had a convenient online dimension like a pair of plasterboard underpants. Which, for a game based on online sharing of user-created content… well, we understand each other. Yet the Nintendo editor was and is a stroke of genius, because it gave players the keys to the best two-dimensional platforms ever, opening an "official" release valve to an already thriving scene of modders and romhackers. Suddenly everyone, from hexadecimal geeks to first-rate novices, had access to the Eldorado of level design.

Super Mario Maker 2, for the mere fact of existing on Switch, starts with an infinitely higher potential. Nintendo could have even just republished the same game on the new console: it is not only more widespread, but lives and breathes in a completely different ecosystem, in which the stream on platforms like Twitch has redefined the entire gaming landscape. Not surprisingly, despite all the above limitations, the first Super Mario Maker has an active and dedicated community on Twitch, which continues to churn out increasingly diabolical levels to be fed to the most skilled and fun streamers.

Far from being a chewed version of the original, Super Mario Maker 2 stunned me with a real tsunami of features and details. I have been playing and experimenting for this review for almost a month and I continue to discover new nuances, small and large. There are not only new elements to be placed, but also dozens of variations generated by game and scenario changes. Many effects that seemed merely aesthetic actually have small effects on the behavior of monsters, objects and platforms. To learn how to make a level, also thanks to the excellent tutorials, just a few minutes are enough, but knowing all the facets and potential of the editor will require days and days of practice and will give fans a learning curve that is almost a game in itself .

In this context, the 100 levels created by Nintendo are also precious, combined with a simple Story mode that orbits the reconstruction of the castle of Peach. They are in fact a demonstration of everything that can be done with the editor, a source of ideas and an example of Nintendo's design philosophy. I confess that, when I had heard of "one hundred new levels", I had dreamed of a more coherent and connected campaign, a bit like that of an official Mario and that his dispersive and sometimes didactic nature left me a little bitter in mouth, but the quality is not discussed. It will not be a new Super Mario World, but it is an excellent practical guide to the potential of the editor.

There are more monsters, crazy objects such as auto-koopas, options for clowns that pave the way to the shoot and escape levels, inclined planes, keys and special coins that will delight fans of ghost houses. And let's not talk about the possibility of setting goals such as "finish this level without jumping", which remix the rules of grammar and allow you to create challenges outside the box. The possibilities are endless and I am perfectly aware that I have seen them made less than 10%, because while I am writing these lines the game has not yet reached the hands of the community. At the moment there are nice levels created by editors like me, but if history is a teacher of life, great surprises await us as soon as Super Mario Maker 2 is officially released. I expect great things on the multiplayer front, a new feature that allows you to play four in any level, in a way similar to the recent episodes of the main series. It would not surprise me that the creators' ingenuity gave rise to new competitive gameplay variants, with new styles of levels designed specifically for the confusion, cooperation or war that ends friendships. Fortunately, there is also a valid tag system that allows you to easily search for levels marked as suitable for group play.

To complicate things delightfully there is also the addition of a new style, that of Super Mario 3D World, which despite not having all the functions of the original game (predictably "two-dimensional") gives further variety. The amount of features and content is such that the first Super Mario Maker seems to be an incomplete demo, and that's all to say. From my point of view, the only unjustified absence is the possibility of creating "worlds" or sequences of levels with a precise progression. It would have been nice and would have given further emphasis to the authorship of the individual creators, but Nintendo preferred to focus on the same model of the first episode, based on many single levels to be fished in an almost infinite bag of candy. The Wii U stylus also deserves special mention, which in my opinion was more practical and precise than the current touch interface. In any case, thanks to the new radial menus, everything is always at hand and creating levels is quick and fun.

Super Mario Maker 2 is a huge game, created by a Nintendo that has proven to know how to listen to its community and that manages to amaze even when it meets fans' expectations. I can't wait to see it explode on Twitch and have a perennial level generator. There will also be fun for those who, like me, prefer to play than to create.

I played Super Mario Maker 2 with a code received from Nintendo, focusing first on the story mode campaign, and then giving myself to the many tutorials. I created some very ugly levels, especially to try the various elements thoroughly, and then dive into the sea of levels created by other users. I tried to create both in docked mode (which I prefer, despite the absence of touch), and in portable mode.