We’ll sell you the whole tablet but you’re only gonna need the stylus


Super Mario Maker 2 (2019)

Call me a fanboy, but I always have to admire Nintendo’s testicular fortitude. They’ve sold us bathroom scales, knowing that we’d buy them in our droves. You almost never want to buy a DS, or a 3DS, or even a Switch, because you already know they’re going to throw out a Lite or XL version any day now. But with the Super Mario Maker duology of games, they’ve really done it this time – they’ve sold you a Mario game, except you have to make the levels yourself.

You might think a lazy sod like me would have barked and growled at that, but honestly, I was asking where the game had been all my life. When I was a young chavvy, I used to fill copybook after copybook, jotter after jotter, with amazing and wild Mario levels that I’d love to have been able to convert somehow into a playable Mario game. I was born at the wrong time, you see, because a few years after I grew out of this, I discovered ROMs, emulation and crucially the hugely impressive Lunar Magic software. You not heard of it? What, were you born on a farm? It makes editing Super Mario World in its entirety possible. It is, quite simply, the greatest invention since sliced bread.

Anyway, even if I’d wanted to go back and translate my fiendishly difficult handdrawn levels to the game, I’d be stuck. I don’t have them anymore, because in a move that seems to contradict her more recent tendency to hoard as many things as possible, my mother tracked down and destroyed as many of these precious copybooks as possible. I’m telling you, she threw them all in the bin.

We didn’t just have awful Mario levels and crudely laid out F-Zero tracks in there, you know, there were vital passwords for Super Soccer and Super Return of the Jedi as well. My brother and I used to have to write “MAM – DON’T THROW OUT” on the front of these copies, but it never stopped her. I’m being serious. So I could have been a creative type, you know, a true modern artist. I could’ve been Banksy. But in my 1940s Germany house, freedom of expression was banned and frowned upon.

Therefore, I’m angry at the world. Why couldn’t I have been born in, say, 2008? That way, I’d have been 7 when the original Super Mario Maker came out. I could’ve cut my teeth on that, and then graduated to the daddy in Super Mario Maker 2 at age 11. From there I could have gone really wild and tried my hand at the Command and Conquer or Age of Empires 2 map editors. But for now, it’s nice and simple 2D Mario.

If you didn’t know, the original Super Mario Maker allows you to create levels and insert all kinds of enemies and elements from the Mario games over the years. You can choose from four graphical and playstyles, those being Super Mario Bros 1, 3, World and the bah-bah New Super Mario Bros stuff. You can choose different level settings, choose the time limit, all that palaver.

Then you can upload them into the world wide Nintendo network, and from there you can also download some of the popular levels around the world and attempt to beat them yourself. You’ll see the collective clear rate of the level among all players as well, usually 0.61% or so since it’s mostly young kids playing this sort of stuff. Once you download the level, you can then impress people with your mad Mario skills. Sound good so far?

Well, if we had to pick out the faults from the original, it was that some of the building blocks were limited, in that you couldn’t make sloped terrain. This was such a desired feature that it became the very first new thing shown off to us when Super Mario Maker 2 was announced. Also, I’m estimating here but probably 97% of the uploaded levels on the first game were auto-play levels where you just sat there and watched this mad construction play out, a lot of things interacting with each other with Mario not able to move a muscle, placing his trust in the creator. You played one of those levels, you played them all, and it meant that the properly creative stuff was being stifled, much like me back in my Kristallnacht days.

But SMM2’s level rating algorithm and filtering system actually means you get the most creative levels. You can add custom clear conditions e.g. collect 100 coins, defeat x amount of monsters, even do handstands off trees. In terms of added themes, there’s only Super Mario 3D World, which adds a fair few new elements but it’s mostly just the same as New Super Mario Bros except you can be a cat this time. There seems to be room on the menu for a few more game styles to be added – I’m personally hoping for Mario 2, or better still, a Super Mario All Stars graphical and music filter for SMB1 and SMB3.

Once you’ve beaten the 120 inbuilt courses, you’ll want to get onto the nitty gritty of creating a Picasso level to troll the entire Mario-speaking world. The first step to note is that you’ll almost certainly need to use the Switch’s touchscreen to create levels (sorry, ‘courses’ – so where does that put Mario Golf Maker?). Using your fat Homer Simpson fingers to get Dorito dust all over your Switch screen obviously isn’t on, screen protector or no, so this calls for a stylus.

Now let me tell you, I take precious care of my belongings, especially my games and consoles. But I seem to have a bit of a blind spot for styluses (styli?). They are my Achilles heel. I lose them all the time, and I’m not sure if I have even a single one remaining between my various DSs and 3DSs these days. So if I want to play Trauma Centre, I have to smudge my way around a patient’s arteries with my podgy fingers instead.

But where I do have a stylus in reserve is in the back of the Wii U gamepad, so I decided to borrow that one and guess what? It doesn’t work on the Switch screen. And I’d thought that rubbish pile of hardware was finished disappointing me. Now it’s found ways to let me down that I wouldn’t have even dreamed of. Whoever heard of a stylus that doesn’t work?

For a game like this, you need a good few inbuilt levels to get your creative juices flowing and to throw a bone to those who don’t wish to just create, they’d like to play as well. What you don’t need is Luigi coming in after a mere two lives lost in any of the 120 1-player levels and begging you to accept that you’re a sub-standard Mario player and get help.

If you’ve ever used a Super Guide in the newer Mario games, or the Mega Donkey or whatever it is in Donkey Kong Country Returns, then please get off this site. I’m serious, I don’t wish to deal with you any longer. The 1-player levels are not tremendously hard, with the exception of the ones that don’t allow you to jump or leave the ground under any circumstances whatsoever, but the inbuilt levels will keep you going for a decent six or seven hours.

There is an online multiplayer mode too, another weak reason to get the Nintendo Switch Online subscription, but there’s lag like you’ve never seen it. I’ve been part of online F1 races where cars went back to the future and I’ve had players going into full body spasms on FIFA. But they’re usually fine, you can ride out a little bit of lag, or you might only be seeing these mental things happening, but you can’t feel them.

Well, Super Mario Maker 2 features a mode where you and three randoms (remember, Nintendo wants you to hate your friends) try and get through a randomly selected level, which is usually bobbins. Each level begins with a three-second countdown, but it seems to be seconds you’d get on planet Neptune because it can take half-a-minute before the word Go, and after that, it’s a slideshow.

There are plenty of tiny changes that make SMM2 a good sequel, even if you’re not much of a creator. Really, you can play a game like this infinitely – but you could’ve said the same of the first game as well. And making a level on the Wii U version, I have to say, worked quite nicely. I shall need to get myself a compatible stylus or learn the buttons, before I start making Super Burkey Hellworld 2. Once I do and I unleash my game on the online hordes, I’ll make everyone, patronising Luigi included, run for the slopes.

23 August 2019

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