Mick Jagger once crooned the phrase “you can’t always get what you want”, but in 1969 he didn’t even have pong, so frankly I don’t think he had any idea what he was talking about. 2019, however, is a time of unrivalled and instant gratification, and none have shown such modern decadence as Nintendo, paying tribute to these heady times by allowing bizarre combos like Rabbids and Mario, or allowing someone else to make a Zelda game. These are things we thought we’d never see, yet for the longest time I never thought Super Mario Maker 2 was coming.
This is the part of the review where we talk about the Wii U’s failings. We’re duty bound to mention how it had some amazing games (it did!) and how most of them have now made it over to the Switch. Let’s quickly indulge ourselves, reader, and think about how those games deserved a second chance and how, really, it is only The Wonderful 101 that needs a port, although maybe a few of you will quickly point out the Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE probably should come over to Switch as well (to which I’ll simply say: why not?).
But Super Mario Maker 2 is a sequel, it isn’t a re-up: this is a new game, with new things, a whole new way to play levels (Super Mario 3D World), and one would hope, a stronger, more vibrant community now the game is on a hugely successful platform in the Switch (discounting the 3DS version of the original game because it had stupid flaws). Mario Maker 2 is still brilliant, it’s still ridiculous that it exists, and I remain compelled to boot it up almost daily to see how people are contorting my favourite platform game in new and disgustingly ingenious ways.
Yet there’s more to it than that. I want to see how my own levels are doing. A paltry 4% of those who played my first design actually finished it, which suggests that some people playing right now are going to severely struggle when the wider community gets hold of the tools. Everything about the game screams “more”, with so many devious ways in which the player can be tricked.
This game sees Mario continue on his journey from platforming revolutionary to a series that can be almost anything. On/off switches mean you can craft full on puzzle levels. The introduction of the Koopa Kart allows people to make speed-run levels that are literally about getting in a kart and speeding to the finish line. Course-clear requirements (kill 20 koopa troopers, finish as Super Mario, etc) even make some levels feel like little adventures. Rising water, the sun (!), and even the option to make people play upside down in the starry night, or swing from grapple-to-grapple just make levels that much more interesting, more Mario-like, and frankly, more bootleg than ever.
These tools turn 60 second levels into twenty minute play sessions because God damn I want that world record. I want to get more points, and I want more stupid clothes for my terrible avatar. I want my courses to appear in the “hot” section, and I want people to curse me, bending their Switch to within an inch of its life because they can’t make that jump which… honestly, come on lads, use wall-jumps, ok?
You might find you get what you need from the single player story mode if you’re not into making levels yourself. It’s very much the LittleBigPlanet conundrum, but there are a bounty of levels here and they all show off new aspects of the game, while reminding you of the mechanics which, in fairness, have changed from that first Super Mario Bros. game right up to date.
There are some curious decisions within Mario Maker 2, because of course there are. The first, and one of the most disappointing, is that you can’t create levels that require co-op. The addition of multiplayer had my mind in a spin: what if you could make levels that require teamwork to actually complete? A while later, my children and I had designed a Super Mario World level that required you to bounce upon each other’s heads to make a jump. This jump (only possible via teamwork) led to an ON switch which created a platform for Green Mario and Toad to make it across to you. Repeat this idea, and you got into a pipe, and you could progress onward. We were pleased with this. The head-bounce-jump is tricky as it’s akin to perfectly jumping from a spring or note-block, so imagine how difficult it could be when the “spring” is a player controlled character.
All that work, sadly, was for naught. Before any level can be uploaded for the wider community, it must be completed locally to ensure no impossible levels make their way online. No problem, I figured, we can do this together. Unfortunately, you can’t. There is no way to play the “upload test” level in multiplayer, so the choice was either ruin the entire idea and make it possible solo, or just give up and move on. It’s not a deal-breaker, but the feeling I had was one of it being a missed opportunity. The inability to play with anyone you choose online (matchmaking is random) adds to the sense that multiplayer came late to the ideas table, and my hope is that they add to it, improving it, and enabling co-op-only levels, because I want to see what the community can come up with in this respect.
Another strange choice is that in handheld mode you can only create with touch controls. While clicking the sticks changes the camera zoom, and the triggers toggle between the multi-copy and move tools, you have to use the touch screen to place items, move them, etc. It’s not a deal breaker, but it’s strange given that there isn’t a lot of real estate on that small screen, most people won’t have a stylus, and it just works fine on the big screen. Co-op creation is fine, too, but again, I’m not entirely convinced it’s the ideal way to do things.
There’s enough here to warrant the “2” in the title. This feels a more complete package overall. Super Mario 3D World’s inclusion genuinely gives an almost entirely new way to create (and play), because the mechanics and items, enemies, and everything else that more modern game brings is a lot more than you might remember. Whether it’s a simple level, a kart-racer, a shoot ‘em up, a puzzle course, or whatever else your imagination can come up with, Super Mario Maker 2 is a delight. It’s exactly what I wanted bar a few things, and the lack of Mario Bros. 2 still hurts (but is, I guess, understandable).
Jagger was wrong, then, because although it’s not perfect, I got what I wanted: a deeper dive into the machinations of Mario-course creation, a single player, and the chance to sit on the toilet doing it all. Whether you want to create your own levels or not, and at the risk of repeating myself or aping others, SMM2 amounts to “infinite Mario World” courses, as long as the game is supported. It doesn’t have quite the startling impact of the original game, and there’s a way to go in terms of improving the online aspects, but Maker 2 is still absolutely fantastic.
New course making tools are great
Online additions are a nice touch
It's infinite Mario levels
Multiplayer is a bit underwhelming
Handheld mode requires touch