Nintendo makes game design look easy in Super Mario Maker 2.
The first game in the series, Super Mario Maker, simplified game creation to the point where staples such as bouncy bricks and wobbly mushroom characters became not just obstacles but creative tools of expression.
But what I wasn’t expecting to find in Super Mario Maker 2 were lessons in time and wealth management, not to mention a treatise on corporate life.
Sprung initially from the mind of legendary gamemaker Shigeru Miyamoto, the Super Mario Bros games turned modern life into a fairy tale, where a plump plumber, Mario, could become the hero of a nonsensical kingdom that made perfect sense to those wiling to abandon all reason.
While Super Mario Maker 2 is ultimately a toolbox for players to create their own levels from the Super Mario Bros era of their choosing, and then share them with friends and strangers online, a surprisingly extensive story mode ignores the old-timey fable-like quest – rescue the princess – in favour of a sharp critique of our work-obsessed lives.
While the Nintendo-designed levels here are short, each heightens the challenge by focusing on one particular responsibility: complete it without jumping, reach the end while carrying a block, avoid an angry sun. This is Nintendo game design at its most distilled and economical.
The play-one-way-at-a-time approach of Nintendo’s pre-built levels also makes them feel like little jobs. Throughout, plenty of construction-worker Toads are there to offer sympathy for Mario’s plight: “Management, am I right?”
Each level is presented as an assignment from an anonymous client. The Toads don’t care that someone named “Goomba lover” may not have Mario’s best interest in mind; they just want there to be cash so Mario can hire them to rebuild the castle.
All told, these 100 or so levels add some new depth to the Super Mario Bros canon. Mario isn’t a happy-go-lucky-plumber who approaches life’s challenges with a can-do optimism; he’s an employee.
Just when we’ve grasped how to defy gravity, the next level completely rewrites the playbook and forces us to learn a new set of rules. Management, am I right? – Los Angeles Times/Tribune News Service