Super Mario Maker 2 is a whale of a video game. That made for some initial intimidation when I was starting this review. However, with two prior (and very successful) entries in the series already, I can spend less time focusing on the general gameplay, and more on how I feel about what’s been added (and subtracted). There’s a sizable amount I want to talk about, so let’s get started.

The first thing that many players will want to do is jump into the story mode (single player only, sadly) and check out all of the new courses. I quite appreciate the non-linear approach in course selection and, far more often than not, the courses are enjoyable. Even the few that I didn’t find all that fun still largely succeed in showing off the game’s many new features. I do wish Nintendo had a bit more confidence in its players, though. Having Luigi interrupt after just two fails (“use some assist parts!”) is premature and, honestly, can come off a bit patronizing. Also, why were the 3DS medals eliminated?

After cutting their teeth in story mode, the majority of players will probably want to try making their own courses. But what about those who have no interest in design? I’ve been surprised when reading Super Mario Maker 2 chatter on Twitter that some simply ignore this element. In cases like that, is this game for you based on the disjointed story mode alone? I wouldn’t say so, not at $59.99. You’d be missing the game’s titular feature.

Most will want to have fun creating, though, and Mario Maker veterans should be able to jump in with relative ease. Helpful tutorials open up the game for new players as well. Now, I should be clear that the rotary setup on the Switch is not as intuitive or smooth as prior entries were on the Wii U and 3DS. But in handheld mode, it’s easily acceptable on the large HD screen. Just make sure you have a capacitive stylus – why did Nintendo limit those bundles to the UK? The lack of an “idea booklet” also stings, as it was such an impressive creative aid when the game launched on Wii U.

How is creating courses with a friend? A limited novelty, nothing more, despite the advertising. Using Joy-Cons on the television just can’t compare to touch controls. I’m a big fan of co-op gaming, but it’s just not a great fit in Super Mario Maker 2, at least when it comes to the design part. Now, actually playing courses in co-op is quite a bit of fun, but Nintendo was sloppy in how this was implemented. Having to download individual courses into Coursebot first makes local co-op feel like an afterthought. Waiting for an update to play with friends online confirms co-op as an afterthought.

Of course, any online activity needs a paid membership. You can buy the Super Mario Maker 2 + Nintendo Switch Online Bundle for $69.99, ultimately saving $10 in the process. Given that the game recently launched, the overall quality of player-created courses is suspect at the moment, though ‘Detailed Search’ allows filtering by preferences. I’m also not sure how much the limited leaderboards add to a game of this nature, though they’re no detraction. I do like how you can customize your Mii character with clothes that you unlock. However, remember my co-op complaints? Try playing the laggy co-op (or versus) online. The slowdown is… beyond words. It’s embarrassingly bad!

Let’s change gears towards just one of this game’s many positives. If you read our 8-page cover story from the Feb/March issue of PNM, you know there were several new features I was especially excited about. I’m not going to recap the full-scale list, but having the Super Mario 3D World style was definitely key. Unsurprisingly, the first course I designed used this style (with the new reader-favorite snow theme). Super Mario 3D World, by itself, could be enough to attract players to Super Mario Maker 2 as it’s so different. Long live Cat Mario.

If you want to play friends’ designs, be prepared for some needless frustration. Super Mario Maker 2 doesn’t access your existing friend list. Instead, you’ll need to find them by a 9-digit ID code, not their name. And have fun when you can’t post a perfectly innocent comment because it “contains a word that can’t be used in the game” – a well-meaning limit, but one that’s clearly implemented in flawed fashion at the moment. It’s yet another way Nintendo demonstrates its real struggles with online, struggles you’ll now be paying money for.

Super Mario Maker 2 is a real time sink, but not necessarily in an intense way. On the contrary, if you have fun creating levels at your leisure, this will prove to be a first-rate value! Inevitable updates will only increase this in the months ahead. I hope to see one that incorporates amiibo. The mystery mushroom costumes are certainly missed, even amidst all the new additions.

I expected Super Mario Maker 2 to be an outstanding sequel but instead, it’s simply good. It takes steps forward and back in near equal measure, having significant post-launch shortcomings that go beyond mere nitpicking. Namely, the inferior online implementation at present, especially the, at times, borderline-unplayable online multiplayer. I certainly don’t expect perfect, but I also don’t expect a selling point this flawed from the Big N. It forfeits the right to a higher score, but I’m absolutely confident the game will continue to improve with updates. Meanwhile, it still offers a ton of creative potential and courses to play, representing good value for the cost.