You would think that someone who spent the majority of their childhood building houses and neighbourhoods on sandbox games like The Sims and Zoo Tycoon would know a thing or two about how to create a fun, playable environment. Well the thing is... apparently not. I'm barely a decent game player, let alone an anywhere near decent game designer, so why is it I can't seem to put down Mario Maker 2 when that's pretty much what the game is?
I was briefly introduced to Mario Maker on the WiiU when my interest in games was taking off, but never really picked it up much. I found it quite an isolating job working away on a level and at the time I wanted to play socially and freely. Everyone has had their experiences with Mario in one way or another, but as someone who had no real experience past the first level of the first game (only with the platformers! Don't kill me...) a lot of the building elements meant nothing to me and I couldn't really figure out how to use them. It felt all too easy to get a creative block when trying to make. Either I'd run out of ideas far too quickly or become so overwhelmed with the possibilities that it freaked me out. I tried to build a few times but wasn't really fussed, so I left it.
MM2 came through the letterbox the other day, but this time I was ready for it. I've been playing games for a few years now, I have more experience, this game can be played on the Switch - a console I know back to front - and I was excited. After loading up I sat there with the new stylus in hand, ready to unleash the creative flow and make some awesome levels. So I sat there... and I sat there... and I sat there. Nothing. Suddenly I felt like I'd gone back 4 years to the novice that hardly knew her koopa from her blooper. But I persevered and created a level which I thought was actually pretty cool - I was proud of it and couldn't wait to show Reece.
He beat it without even trying.
Oddly, I was crushed.
My whole life revolves around making things, so why couldn't I make one half-decent level that actually felt like a challenge? Is it really that hard?
Bit of a RANDOM FACT interlude here:
The main thing I am thankful for about Mario Maker is that it introduced me to what is now one of my favourite things - Game Grumps!
I have this memory of coming home from University and Reece was watching them on the TV. They were playing some super cruel Mario Maker levels and just from their humour, chemistry and dumb jokes I was instantly hooked. I'll never forget that first episode (if you've seen it, it's the one with the my name is Laurennnnnnn skit) and it still makes me laugh to this day.
I'm already excited for their new MM instalments (once Ross is finished making some awful levels) as watching them play this game brings me back to a really good time in my life. So yeah, thanks Mario Maker?!
As with many of the games I play, my skill level does not affect how I feel about it. Mario Maker 2 is a WONDERFUL game and despite making me feel useless I really do love it! Occasionally I have a go at the online levels but often I find a lot of people make them hard for hards sake, which puts me off. There is a lot of inspiration to be gained however, so maybe I should invest more time into this side of the game. Although it may take a good fair while before I attempt any of Ross' levels...
Similarly, MM2 has a story mode, allowing you to play levels designed by the actual developers of the game - a great starting point as, of course, they have a lot more experience of actual level design making it much more coherent. The story is super adorable as well. Seeing Toad and Toadette done up in their little construction gear really brings a smile to my face. One of my favourite things Mario games does is creating custom outfits for its characters depending on the game - sports wear for the Olympics, explorer gear in Mario Odyssey, and now construction gear for MM2. As somebody who essentially gains their life force from aesthetics this is perfect.
Overall I've had a fairly decent experience with MM2 so far, but I know in my heart of hearts that I am not using it to it's full potential. What happened to the ultra creative Gemma that would spend hours making palaces from scratch with every detail covered? I suppose because we all know and love Mario's preset standard so much that it can be hard to break away from that mould - at least that's the process going on in my head. Also when you're surrounded by so many amazing (and I mean AMAZING) levels that others have made too then there can be the worry that yours isn't going to be as good... which is totally STUPID.
MM2 gives the player so many more options and I feel that if you're not going to rinse those options for all they're worth then you're never going to have a full game. Who CARES if your level never makes it on to the best ranked! That's not, nor has it ever been, the idea! I guess it can be all too easy to be hard on myself based on past experiences of playing - sure, I'm allowed to play games with more leniency, but I should apply those rules to creating in games as well. Just because it's not like how I saw someone else do it, doesn't mean it isn't good.
Except for when someone beats your level without breaking a sweat. Reece.
This game is fab. All Mario games are fab. Treat yourself to something a little different and a little challenging. It may be a struggle to start with but you're sure to find your feet after a while. Building. Playing. Whatever. Just go have fun and make some shit.