The original Super Mario Maker - on the Wii U, at least - was a delightful surprise. Mario’s platforming gameplay has been pixel-perfect for decades, and the idea of being able to leverage that perfection on levels of your own creation was almost as delectably enticing as the game itself turned out to be; add in the fact that you can play creations from other people playing the game around the world and, well, it should come as no surprise that the game was near-universally acclaimed.
The Wii U is, of course, dead and buried, taking to its grave one of the technologies that arguably supported Super Mario Maker like few - if any - other titles on the platform: dual screens, one of which was touch enabled. In fact, the Wii U suited Super Mario Maker so well it’s reasonable to assume that games of its type are exactly what Nintendo had in mind when they created the console. The Switch, on the other hand, while superior in arguably every way to the Wii U (not least of which in terms of success - the Switch is one, the Wii U wasn’t), doesn’t have dual screens and must support a controller for input (rather than touch alone) while docked.
Fortunately, this doesn’t seem to hold the sequel back in any way whatsoever; touch is an option in handheld mode, and the controls are so cleverly thought out it’s as if the wizards at Nintendo wield actual magic. There’s a bit of a learning curve at the start, but once you crack it, you’ll find yourself as adept in controller mode as you would be in touch - more so, possibly, as you won’t be blocking the screen with your hand as you work.
Speaking of learning curves - the game does seem to assume you’re already skilled at building levels; there’s not much assistance on offer and what little there is can easily - and, in my case at least, accidentally - be dismissed. Further, I couldn’t actually find it again once it was gone. Fortunately, the game is relatively intuitive, and the levels you play from others will give you an unending source of inspiration as to how you can combine simple mechanics to achieve mind-boggling results.
One significant departure from the first game is that you can’t open other people’s levels in the editor. The previous game was plagued with people downloading levels, making minor changes, and uploading them as their own - it’s possible this reduced feature set is in response to that. This will make learning complicated interactions more possible than it was last time around, but at the same time it will give the truly creative level builders longer in the spotlight - exactly how this plays out in the long term compared to the first game is anyone’s guess, but it feels like a positive change.
The singleplayer experience this time around is much more robust. Playing as Mario (duh), you need to play through a curated set of levels to earn coins that the toads can use to rebuild Princess Peach’s castle. Levels randomly alternate in style and type as you unlock them, and are presented in much the same way as levels other players might have built. In addition to being (mostly) fun to play, they’re a great way to learn about the various mechanics, styles, and options you have available to you in the editor. Fear not builder fans - you don’t have to play it to unlock anything (that I could tell) for the build mode; everything appears to be available right from the start.
The community is already off to a flying start; pre-release, the build I was playing only let me play levels from other reviewers - post-release, the quality of levels available has arguably increased much more than the quantity, which is also - and more obviously - enormous. There are already some incredible levels available to play, with simply genius combinations of the simple mechanics most of us are already familiar with from previous Mario platforming experience.
Ultimately, Super Mario Maker 2 is pretty upfront about explaining why it exists - it’s right there in the title. If you want to make Mario levels or play levels created by a massive pool of other players, this is absolutely the game for you. It does exactly that with such precision and aplomb, it’s hard to fault it. The only thing it could do slightly better, in my opinion, is onboard newbies to the build mode. Other than that, it’s perfect - if this is your cup of tea, this might be the last game you ever need to buy, and if you’re a budding level designer, there’s arguably no better toolset available to help you practice your craft.