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With Mario Maker 2, Nintendo is handing over the tools to help players engineer the ultimate 2D Mario game.
At its core, the sequel offers a far deeper level creation package than its predecessor, which should result in an incredible variety of creations once it’s unleashed on the community.
But the sequel’s biggest surprise is that it also offers a similarly imaginative and well-stocked experience for those planning to play, rather than create. Its story mode features over 100 Nintendo-made courses that even the biggest Mario stalwarts will find in equal parts surprising and familiar.
You’ll play levels in which Mario’s most famous ability – his jump – causes an instant fail, or courses in which you’re pursued by a relentless, evil mushroom. There are even Mario Galaxy-esque zero gravity challenges, Toad escort missions and makeshift crane toys.
While the first Mario Maker’s constraints were quickly exposed by the community, the sequel feels like it will continue surprising and entertaining players well into the future.
The Mario Maker 2 package is made up of three core modes; Course Bot, which is where players create levels (this time with the option of doing so in the – admittedly gimmicky – co-op mode); Course World, which includes the online level sharing and multiplayer options; and the new Story Mode.
While the creative and online tools are clearly Mario Maker ‘s core offerings, Story Mode is the real surprise for fans of Mario side-scrollers. Clocking in at around 7-hours, the campaign features some of the most inventive and enjoyable 2D Mario levels in years – and that’s saying something, considering how generous these games have been in recent years.
In comparison to the recent polished-but-predictable 2D instalments, Mario Maker 2’s solo offering is chock-full of surprises. The story levels already boast a roster of wildly unconventional platforming courses and we can only imagine the unpredictable oddities players will come up with when they dig deeper into the sequel’s arsenal of creation tools.
“Story Mode’s delivered with panache compared to the first game’s simple menu screen of levels, and it also helps that the courses themselves are unpredictable and fun.”
Story Mode plays out in a Mushroom Kingdom hub world, in which players interact with various NPCs in their mission to rebuild Princess Peach’s castle. The hub’s main quest giver, Taskmaster Toad, offers access to up to 100 Nintendo-created levels, across a range of difficulties.
The tougher the course, the more coins you’ll receive for successfully clearing its end-level flagpole. Coins are then handed over to another NPC, Chief Toadette, who in return allows the player to choose which section of Peach’s castle they’d like to rebuild next, which unlocks a new selection of Taskmaster Toad levels.
Story Mode’s delivered with panache compared to the first game’s simple menu screen of levels, and it also helps that the courses themselves are unpredictable and fun. The opening few demonstrate the new mechanics, such as a level featuring Mario Bros. 3’s Angry Sun, or dry bone shells Mario can jump inside and use to traverse lava.
Then there’s the welcome introduction of 3D World themed courses, complete with Cat Mario power ups, translucent pipes and entirely new enemies, moves and mechanics. In fact, 3D World introduces so much that the theme isn’t compatible with other Mario game themes – which is totally justified.
Even if you never touch Mario Maker 2’s creation tools, the single-player levels are consistently surprising and clever enough to give you a thoroughly good time. But it’s with the introduction of some of Mario Maker 2’s more advanced level creation tools that the game really starts to impress.
In Create, the interface has been slightly rejigged from the Wii U original to accommodate building when using Switch in both portable and docked modes. The focal point is a bar at the top of the screen, which displays your most recently used items and can also be used to pin objects for frequent use. To access the full selection of tools, you’ll need to navigate a series of radial menus sorted into various categories.
“When played in portable mode, the Create interface can feel a tad clumsy compared to the Wii U’s duals-screen and stylus setup, but it’s nothing that can’t be solved with a cheap capacitive stylus.”
Creating levels is still far more enjoyable than it ought to be, with tons of personality in both the remixed Mario audio and oddball characters who helm the various functions. However, when played in portable mode, the Create interface can feel a tad clumsy compared to the Wii U’s duals-screen and stylus setup, but it’s nothing that can’t be solved with a cheap capacitive stylus.
Mario Maker 2’s most significant toolset addition is Clear Conditions, which allow players to turn their platforming creations into full-on Mario missions. You can, for example, require players to collect a certain number of coins, defeat a certain number of enemies or find a certain collectible before reaching the end flagpole. Creators can even require players to carry an item throughout the level, finish with a certain power-up or not take any damage.
Clear Conditions also finally allow for proper boss battles, complete with boss level music triggers from dozens of Mario games including 3D entries like Super Mario 64 and Sunshine, rather than the taped-together encounters seen in the previous Maker game.
Nintendo has real fun with Clear Conditions in its Story Mode courses, including one castle level which instantly fails players if they use the jump button. This results in a memorable and challenging set of puzzles, in which Mario has to manoeuvre past buzz saws and balance on enemies’ heads without the use of his most famous ability. It’s a great example of how Mario Maker 2’s toolset can be used to create unconventional Mario levels that totally break away from the regular formula.
Another powerful new mechanic is the introduction of On/Off Switches, which are used to trigger certain elements in the level such as swapping red and blue blocks, switching tracks on a moving platform or changing the direction of conveyor belts.
“Nintendo has real fun with Clear Conditions in its Story Mode courses, including one castle level which instantly fails players if they use the jump button.”
Finally, another significant addition comes in the form of night-time themes, which fundamentally change the way in which a level plays. By adding zero gravity, flipping the course upside down, or making the screen pitch black apart from a small spotlight around Mario, Nintendo’s creation package offers impressive layers of depth for players to explore.
Combined, it’s easy to imagine these key mechanics leading to some truly astounding creations in the future, with players hacking together wildly unexpected game types and even new genres.
Mario Maker 2’s tool bag contains too many individual additions to mention (watch the video in this article for a useful summary) and there is of course the ability to play levels in four-player multiplayer. This can only be done locally at launch, but Nintendo has promised to enable online multiplayer between friends via a post-launch update. Assuming the online features hold up in a real-world environment (we’ll update this review if retail servers introduce any issues), this could prove to be the game’s standout feature.
For 2D Mario fans, Super Mario Maker 2 is a classic in the making. There’s already a consistently surprising and delightful offering at launch for creators and non-creators alike, but we suspect this sequel will continue to impress – and improve – well into the future.
- Game Director
- Yosuke Oshino
Mario Maker 2 offers a fun and more dynamic package than the original game. A surprising and enjoyable Mario classic in the making, with plenty to offer creators and non-creators alike.
- A deeper, more dynamic toolset
- Surprising and enjoyable story campaign
- Clear Conditions allow totally unique Mario levels
- Create interface can feel clumsy without a stylus