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Super Mario Maker 2 is coming out on the Nintendo Switch at the end of this week. Announced back in February in a Nintendo Direct online broadcast, SMM2 is primarily a construction set, meant to let users create, share, and collaborate on an endless number of custom-made levels for Mario.

Initial reviews published Wednesday are positive, with a few caveats. The most obvious is that Super Mario Maker 2 is primarily a construction set, which means the fun you can have with it is determined as much by the users as by anything Nintendo itself has done. Right now, as Patrick Klepek at Vice notes, the only people who are really making levels in Super Mario Maker 2 are game critics, so the title has yet to pick up any real steam. See a round-up of reviews below.

SMM2 lets gamers create new levels by using sprites, models, and tile sets from the original Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, New Super Mario Bros. U, and a new theme in SMM2 that’s patterned after 2013’s Super Mario 3D World for the Wii-U. Each game comes complete with its trademark enemies, power-ups, obstacles, and features, with none of the obnoxious gating practices that forced players to unlock the majority of the level creation tools. Nintendo Switch Online subscribers can upload their user-created levels to Nintendo’s servers for other players, as well as play through other users’ levels.

Super Mario Maker 2 also features the addition of multiplayer modes, which allows up to four players to simultaneously hop and bop through created levels NSMBU-style, as well as a Story Mode with over a hundred Nintendo-created custom levels.

The original Super Mario Maker came out in 2015 for the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS, and is arguably still the “killer app” for the former platform. While it came out relatively late in the Wii U’s run (and arguably might’ve saved the system if it had come out any earlier), SMM was popular enough to spur a community of creators, streamers, speedrunners, and challenge-addicted players that has persisted up until now. That community is at least half the draw for Super Mario Maker 2, as it’s been hotly anticipating the new game for four months.

Here’s what critics have to say so far about SMM2:

  • Super Mario Maker 2: The Kotaku Review (Chris Kohler, Kotaku, no score)
    Super Mario Maker 2 is almost here. While the improvements that Nintendo has made ensure it will likely have a much smoother launch than the first attempt, if that game’s trajectory is any indication, the game’s story is just beginning. We won’t truly know how Super Mario Maker 2 did until millions of fans are bashing away at it. For now, I can say that Nintendo has delivered a much more robust and feature-rich Mario maker, and hope players will use it well.”
  • ‘Mario Maker 2’ Is Brilliant, But I Hope Nintendo Doesn’t Fail the Community (Patrick Klepek, Vice, no score)
    “Without a robust and well-supported community, Mario Maker is nothing. In recent years, Nintendo has gotten better about listening to what its fans have asked for, like the ability to play as a person of color in an Animal Crossing game. But that’s not always true, and it often feels like the company has to be dragged in that direction with great reluctance. Nintendo is a company that craves control, and what makes Mario Maker so different from its other creations is how much control is put in the hands of players. That also means they need to trust those players. I hope they do.”
  • Super Mario Maker 2 Review (Mike Williams, US Gamer, 4.5 out of 5)
    Super Mario Maker 2 is a sequel, when all Nintendo really needed to do was port the original over. I’m glad it spent the time and effort though. It’s provided ways to help players build better levels, something I hope that some course-creators take to heart. Even if you don’t make your own courses, Super Mario Maker 2 provides a robust single-player experience and a gateway into an entire world of user-created levels. It’s a shame that the constraints of the platform mean that Super Mario Maker 2‘s Course Maker isn’t quite to the level of the superior Wii U format, but I’m not sure I can completely hold that against the game. New items, new themes, new styles, and multiplayer means that Mario Maker 2 is two steps forward against the one step back; at the very least that means Nintendo is moving the series in the correct direction.”
  • Super Mario Maker 2 Review (Seth G. Macy, IGN, 9.5 out of 10)
    “Better still, these lessons are entirely optional. It’s up to you how much, or how little, you want to learn from some of the most creative minds in video game creation. The broader lessons on pacing and respecting the player extend beyond just Super Mario Maker 2. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re now 10 years away from game designers citing Super Mario Maker 2 and its lessons on building competent and compelling levels as the catalyst that started their careers.”
  • Super Mario Maker 2 review: Infinite Mario (Asif Khan, Shacknews, no score)
    Super Mario Maker 2 cut me deep when they announced the game would not support Amiibo. The original game was full of all sorts of creative levels that featured a vast array of video game characters. While this is another feature that was removed, it is worth trying to understand Nintendo’s reasoning here. Super Mario Maker 2 is really a celebration of the Mario series, and while Amiibo were fun in the original game, the developers really focused on making this the ultimate Mario experience. Sadly, Amiibo were a casualty of this vision.”
  • Super Mario Maker 2 review – whether you’re building or not, this is a joy (Christian Donlan, Eurogamer, Recommended)
    Mario Maker 2 has a lot of stuff that other content creation games don’t. It has a pigeon that helps you through the tutorials. It has an undo button that is also a dog, and a clean-slate button that is a rocket. But the core thing it has, its unfair advantage in the marketplace… is this: you understand its world from the off. You know how things work. You know what Mario can do and you know how the creatures and objects around him behave. So when it comes to making things yourself, the gentlest of nudges is all you need.”
  • Super Mario Maker 2 review: A great sequel, playable on a better console (Kyle Orland, Ars Technica, Approved)
    “I’d also love to see the ability to put groups of courses together into precisely ordered collections. This would allow otherwise lonely individual courses to build and grow and flow into each other, transforming a disjointed set of “levels” into something that felt like a complete game to be worked through… Without these kinds of options, I worry that actually playing courses in Super Mario Maker 2 could end up feeling like digging through a random grab bag whose overall quality and consistency can vary widely. And while interesting and strange courses will no doubt surface over social media and the like, it would be nice if the game itself offered more options for such discovery.”

In addition to the reviewers, a handful of “influencers,” esports personalities, and streamers have gotten early-release copies of the game, and are currently poring over it for unadvertised changes and mechanical differences. While all early reports should be taken with a grain of salt — as with all major console releases these days, there’s likely to be a significant day-one patch that could fix or change many concerns — SMM2 does seem to have tamped down on many of the bizarre advanced techniques that many Super Mario Maker level creators built their stages around. This includes the ability to jump off of items you’re carrying in Super Mario World, a tricky move that was a hallmark of “Kaizo levels” (Japanese slang for any user-created stage that’s deliberately unfair) everywhere.

If you don’t know what any of that means, then you’re better off, and it probably isn’t relevant to you unless you’re a YouTuber. The thriving population of content creators who make a living off of getting through insanely difficult Mario Maker content might have a slightly easier time of things in Super Mario Maker 2 — but maybe until the creators adapt and forge ahead into a bold new era of Mario sadism.

Super Mario Maker 2 will be available on June 28 as both a physical disc and a digital release, for $59.99, exclusively on the Nintendo Switch. Nintendo also offers a $70 bundle that pairs SMM2 with a 12-month Nintendo Switch Online subscription, which is necessary to download other users’ levels or share your own via Nintendo’s servers.

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