The second entry in the "Super Mario" course-creating franchise released late last month on the Nintendo Switch and has been met with a generally favorable, albeit somewhat tepid response. A bevy of issues with the title - such as the lack of online multiplayer with friends or the limited number of upload slots - aside, "Super Mario Maker 2" is seen as a worthy sequel to its predecessor and a solid $60 purchase for Switch fans. But why is there so little enthusiasm for another high-rated Nintendo first-party release on a system starved for content during these long summer months?
Perhaps, it's the style of game. I hesitated to purchase "Super Mario Maker 2" when it first released. I have a backlog worthy of a gaming fan who spends more time discussing and writing about games than actually playing them these days. I've honestly spent more time playing "Tetris 99" before bed - to the dismay of my wife who would rather actually go to sleep - than anything else on the Switch. That doesn't mean the system lacks a solid library of quality titles - quite to the contrary, actually. I'm a huge "Mario," but just could not muster the energy or care for "Super Mario Maker 2." Many others share the same sentiment.
My initial reservations with the game lay in perhaps the foundation of the game itself. I'm not a creative designer. The "Forge" mode in the "Halo" series always bored me - though others created some very captivating maps. Map makers in general frustrate and confound me. So an entire game dedicated to creating courses seemed antithetical to what I want out of a game - especially with how little time I have to play these days.
The closest approximation to "Super Mario Maker" is the "Little Big Planet" series from Media Molecule. Each game was about designing courses using different physics and platforming elements. I hated them. So I knew I would hate "Super Mario Maker."
The more I read about "Super Mario Maker 2," the more I began to second guess my own thoughts and feelings about it. While it's not a true side-scrolling "Super Mario" platformer, Nintendo has designed 90 jobs and tasks for Mario to complete. These tasks combine the great "Super Mario" platforming across multiple generations of games and puzzle elements to create a unique and fun experience not found in a more traditional "Mario" platformer. The idea of combining physics and aesthetics from "Super Mario" titles ranging from the original 8-bit classic to the modern "New Super Mario Bros." titles is inspiring.
And then there are the player-created courses that can be downloaded - if you have a $20 a year Nintendo Online subscription. While there is a lot of junk out there - as with any crowdsourced creative endeavor - many of the highly rated courses feature creative designs and mind-bending platforming elements that can't be found in any other game. There are some very talented people making courses using the fairly in-depth tool kit that Nintendo provides.
"Super Mario Maker 2" features one of the deepest, albeit more simple course creators available today. It's a step up from the "Little Big Planet" series, though not as deep as something like "Dreams." For those that really want to dive in to creating courses and going all-out with design, you'll find plenty of options. It takes what was established in the original "Super Mario Maker" and expands upon it with more intuitive features.
But, for those like me, who simply do not have the creative capabilities to design even a basic course, "Super Mario Maker 2" offers plenty to do. One can certainly get their money's worth out of the game without ever dropping a warp tube or goomba anywhere on a created course. There's no need. Nintendo has already done it for us with more than 90 jobs in a story mode with endless possibilities of courses created by other users.
So don't feel overwhelmed or put off by the creative nature of the game. That aspect is there for those who want to deep dive into map making. For those of us who lack the time or are averse to such components, "Super Mario Maker 2" still has plenty to do. And, as long as you have a Nintendo Online subscription, there will be plenty more to do, once you've completed the story mode.