TORONTO — “Super Mario” games have taken Nintendo’s signature character through some memorable adventures over the past few decades — racing across the sky on a cloud, swimming through perilous underwater caverns or tackling dungeons filled with fiery deathtraps.
But when given a chance to design their own Mario world, can players match the previous games’ brilliant stage design? More importantly, do they enjoy creating it?
Gamers showed that they could flex their creative muscles in 2015’s “Super Mario Maker,” and Nintendo is betting that the expanded tool kit in the new sequel for the Switch console will bring aspiring architects back for more.
For those who are interested in “Super Mario Maker 2” for its bread-and-butter purpose of designing game levels, the sense of fun has to be there too. Games where building and design is a key component — “Minecraft” for example — need to find the right balance of work and play. It’s something veteran producer Takashi Tezuka says the development team had in mind when creating “Super Mario Maker 2.”
“This project is best characterized by the attitude of, ‘so long as we ensure that making feels like playing, anything goes,’” Japan-based Tezuka said in an interview with The Canadian Press through a translator.
“I tried to include as many of the ideas our staff came up with as time would allow, so long as they continued to expand the definition of what felt like play.”
And before development even started, Tezuka said the team set the game’s foundation on player feedback.
“It had a huge influence,” he said. ”The first conversation we had in working on this title was about how to deliver on all of the expectations and requests from our players. We then talked about how to go even a little further beyond what players might expect, then we started on development.”
Even if creating devious puzzles and diabolical traps for the intrepid plumber isn’t your cup of tea, Tezuka says “Super Mario Maker 2” has you covered. The new title includes a story mode that includes 100 Nintendo-created courses to play through.
“We put a lot of effort into creating this mode because we wanted it to be something that players would feel a real sense of value in purchasing the title for, even if it was the only mode in the game they played,” Tezuka said.
“Our goal was to make it especially appealing to people who weren’t as interested in making courses, while still serving as an interesting reference for those who do make courses.”
The story mode sees Mario help to rebuild the recently demolished castle of his friend Princess Peach by undertaking jobs, which entail completing a course made to showcase an aspect of the “Super Mario Maker 2” tool kit.
While the levels don’t serve as design tutorials, they highlight what can be done with the tool kit. New features such as the 3D mode, which uses the assets and a course theme based on the “Super Mario 3D World” game, and new perils, like the “angry sun” that glowers in the distance before swooping down at Mario, are prominently featured.
If playing through the Nintendo-created levels gives a player an itch to make a course, the tool kit is designed to be intuitive to use in both docked and handheld mode on the Switch. Players can upload their creations online and try out courses designed by other players, though a subscription to Nintendo’s online service is required.
Tezuka said he has been impressed with some of the player creations from the original “Super Mario Maker,” citing the “The Cluttered-Chaos Calculator” level as a personal favourite. The level, which can be found on YouTube and is worth a look, can add two numbers together using an utterly chaotic system of bouncing shells, floating blocks and other elements.
Tezuka said he hopes to see games flex their creative muscles with the new design elements in “Super Mario Maker 2,” with particular enthusiasm for the swinging crane.
“You can use (the crane) to grab Mario and throw him pretty far, but you can also use it to carry some smaller enemies as if they were in a crane game. That makes it possible to do things like having a crane carry an enemy to a spot that Mario can’t reach to retrieve an item.
“I hope people discover lots of novel uses for course elements like that.”