'Super Mario Maker 2' Gives Aspiring Game Designers a Richer Canvas

"Super Mario Maker 2" (Nintendo)

The best art pushes people to create. Great works spark that desire to make music or put brush to canvas. With video games, that has been a little harder.

In the past, developers had to know a little of everything -- programming, visuals and design. It's as if an artist had to be able to make the brushes and paint along with having the talent to draw. Thankfully, technology has advanced far enough that game-making tools are more accessible.

The tools are so easy to use, in fact, that whole games have been made around them, and one of the best examples of the genre is "Super Mario Maker 2." The sequel to the 2015 hit carries over many of the features of the original and refines them in the Course Maker mode.

It performs a delicate balancing act that gives players more tools without making the creation process overwhelming. Nintendo has a built in advantage because gamers have a wealth of knowledge about how Mario titles work. They innately know how Goombas behave and that Question Blocks contain power-ups.

The developers expertly use that familiarity to design a user interface that's simple to understand and fun to use. They give players a palette of objects at the top and players use the Nintendo Switch touchscreen to pick and choose how they're laid out across the level. At times, the process can feel like drawing.

By experimenting with how objects are used, players can come up with interesting combinations. One of my favorite techniques is to super-size an enemy by giving it a mushroom. Another trick is the option to add wings to a question block, making the power-up inside harder to reach.

For veterans of the first game, Nintendo added slopes that vary the terrain and allows Mario to slide into enemies. "Super Mario Maker 2" also includes a wider array of enemies and gizmos. Players can also team up with friends to work on levels, adding a "Minecraft"-ish element to the sequel. There are even custom win conditions that require players to accomplish tasks like not jumping or avoiding damage in order to finish a course.

Every new tool expands the possibilities for each level. It allows "Super Mario Maker 2" to have broad range of content. Players can encounter speed-run stages that test their platforming skills as they quickly run and jump through obstacles. Others will require smarts as they deal with multiple doors and keys in puzzle levels.

The only issue is that the discovery process still needs work. Course World lets players choose from popular, hot and new levels, and though this lets players find good fare, it's still tough finding excellent stages or ones that suit a player's taste. It's also more difficult to have your own levels be discovered through the thousands of offerings online.

If players want higher-quality content, they can always check out Story Mode. The narrative isn't too complex. Mario and the toads finish Princess Peach's castle only to have Undodog destroy it by hitting the reset button. Players have to run through some of the 90 levels available. By doing that they can earn coins that pay for the castle reconstruction. Apparently, real estate in the Mushroom Kingdom is just as expensive as it is in the Bay Area.

Mario also has to tackle some side missions along the way, but the courses themselves offer inspiration for the type of stages players can build. "Super Mario Maker 2" offers a "Gradius"-type of shoot-'em up experience using a Koopa Clown Car that spits fire. Elsewhere, players can run across puzzle elements in the Ancient Seesaw Fortress.

Players can draw ideas from these levels and take a stab at being the next Shigeru Miyamoto. "Super Mario Maker 2" provides the right tools for the job. All players have to do is put in the time and dedicate themselves to the art.

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'Super Mario Maker 2'

3 1/2 stars out of 4

Platform: Nintendo Switch

Rating: Everyone

This article is written by Gieson Cacho from East Bay Times and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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