This is not a review of Mario Maker 2
I've realised now that I'm not qualified enough to properly review it; I don't create enough courses to truly say I understand everything about the game, and even the ones I have made have been far out-shone by the ones made by pals and strangers online.
What I want to talk about today is how Mario Maker 2 can be one of the purest, most joyful things Nintendo has made for the Switch so far and also, at times, a deeply frustrating experience. In fact I'd even say it's designed that way.
Nintendo took a brave step releasing the first Mario Maker; they essentially laid bare the mechanics of gaming's greatest icon. Since then some master creators have made mario levels that almost (but not quite) match the genius of Nintendo's own creations. Mario Maker 2 only increases the scope in very small ways, but with deep consequences. Seriously, even just having slopes available has added like a million course ideas to my already crowded mind.
Mario Maker 2's new story mode, where Mario has to rebuild Peach's castle, is a great way to slowly introduce mechanics and give ideas to the player. It's also a great reminder that no matter how smart you think you are, Nintendo are smarter.
The real highs of Mario Maker 2 are when you have an idea in your mind and can't wait to get it working. I was on the train the other day and had the idea to use koopa shells to automatically switch platforms on and off through a course, and increase the intensity of the switching as time goes on. What a great idea!
The crushing lows are when you take that idea and spend ages trying to get it to work, and then realise you have to come up with loads of clever ways to make your idea stay interesting for an entire course. My shell switching idea took me forever to make work in a way that was even slightly fun. Days later, I finally hammered out a tricky wee level that I thought was pretty good, but the ratios have not been kind so far; not many folk have bothered their arse to play it, and even fewer have completed and liked the damn thing.
No matter, there's always the next idea. Except, I've got real trouble with throwing ideas down and just churning our good levels. Course creation in Mario Maker 2 is torture for me. When the Beatles were active it was often said that Paul McCartney could wake up in the morning with a melody in his head and straight away he'd have a hit song on his hands, while John Lennon took ages to slowly piece together whatever crazy idea he had and painstakingly craft it into something audible.
I always hoped I'd be a Paul, but I'm definitely a John; course-making is a long, arduous process for folk like me.
The good thing is, even without the ability to make great courses with no effort, Mario Maker 2 is essentially an endless Mario game. Every time I turn it on, I have new creations to play. Some are clever, some are hard, some are a but rubbish but all are fun because the core ingredients are Mario. I don't know how many more courses I'll bother making, but it's clear to me that Mario Maker 2 is a wonderful tool and my Switch would feel incomplete without it.