developed & published by Nintendo/2010.05.23
1-2 players/1 DVD/Nintendo Wii
The first Super Mario Galaxy recaptured the old magic that started it all while reinventing the 3D platformer with fun new gravity physics and power suits. The sequel picks up right where the first ended, and in some ways it may feel a bit like more of the same. In this case, however, that’s certainly not a bad thing. Super Mario Galaxy was one of the most refined, polished video games I have ever played, and a second dose of that kind of fun is exactly what the doctor ordered.
Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES) was really the first game that introduced the idea of Power Suits, which included such bizarre powers as the flying racoon suit, the swimming frog suit, and the bouncy giant boot. Nintendo sort of forgot how much fun these power-ups could be for awhile, but thankfully they’re back and Mario Galaxy 2 adds a few more for good measure.
The rock suit turns Mario into a boulder that can spin dash to flatten enemies or pulverize objects. The cloud suit gives Mario the ability to create up to three clouds out of thin air which act as momentary platforms, simply by shaking the Wii remote. A giant drill can be used to push your way through an entire planet’s core and come out safely on the other side. These add dramatically to an already impressive list of abilities and bring new possibilities for fun in each of the game’s many levels.
Yoshi, the friendly dinosaur from Super Mario World (Super Nintendo), returns with some unique abilities of his own. His characteristic long sticky tongue can grab most enemies by simply pointing at them with the Wii remote and pressing the B button. This gives the player a great deal of accuracy in devouring pesky foes as well as fruits which sometimes affect Yoshi in strange ways.
For example, yellow fruits cause Yoshi to illuminate invisible platforms while blue fruits cause him to swell up and fly like a balloon. Red hot peppers cause him to sprint at top speed, allowing you to run up insane inclines or on water. These short-lived effects must be used strategically in order to reach otherwise inaccessible areas.
Level Design & Bosses
If there’s one thing that stands out about the Super Mario Galaxy games, it’s the inventive level designs. Some levels are a series of small “planetoids”, each with their own bite-sized challenges, that Mario catapults to from one to the next. It’s the cumulative effect of planet hopping between half a dozen of these in a row that creates the level. Others play out more like a typical game level where you have one large planet filled with obstacles that must be overcome, all in the hopes of snatching that golden star.
The game’s many bosses don’t disappoint. You’ll face a number of baddies that dwarf the planet that serves as the arena for the fight, and each requires a new strategy. As usual, three or four correctly-timed attacks can knock out your opponent, but don’t be surprised when they get flustered and double their efforts mid-battle. Not only are these bouts fun to play and figure out, they represent some of the game’s most striking graphics.
Graphically the game is virtually identical to its predecessor, which was already one of the Wii’s best looking titles. More colorful than a rainbow and packed with character, the visual buffet on offer is a feast for the eyes. The music is once again orchestrated and contains a handful of intense tracks which really up the ante in certain scenarios.
Stars punctuate the end of each level, but the actual reward is the play itself. The sheer variety in the levels is simply staggering. The game is practically an amusement park, swimming pool, sandbox, skating rink, and play set in digital form, always tempting the player to continue around the bend for “just one more star”.
Players can trigger additional challenges by collecting Comet Coins, one of which is hidden in each level. Prankster comets, for example, challenge the player to beat a boss without being hit, collect 100 purple coins within an obnoxious time limit, or complete a task while being chased by multiplying shadowy clones who retrace your every move and will hurt you when touched. These extra challenges can be extremely difficult, often requiring near-perfect execution to succeed. That said, the game isn’t too stingy when it comes to extra lives, even if it doesn’t save the extras you earn during any given session, and the really hard challenges are always optional.
Some improvements to the overall game structure help smooth out some minor annoyances from the first Mario Galaxy. Instead of having to find your way around a fairly large hub to access levels, you now have the ability to jump to any of the game’s worlds from the map screen via Starship Mario. A handy signpost next to Starship Mario’s steering wheel lists all the available levels and what stars or coins you’ve collected. Together, these additions make it easy to quickly get to work on any given challenge.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is more than just an expansion pack for the first game, and may even be its better despite lacking the former’s freshness. The dozens of levels are completely new, and the addition of new power-ups and Yoshi alter the underlying play in profound ways. Clearly the designers had plenty of ideas after the first game that they wanted to implement, and I’m glad they did. While the Mario series may have suffered some less than spectacular installments in the past, the current crop represent a level of spit and polish that is simply unmatched. In a world of game sequels, this is one that I would urge you to pick up.
Quick Run Down
- Great for short bursts of addictive fun
- Top-notch production values
- Insane variety of play
- 120 main missions, +120 more after that!
- Story offers nothing new to the Mario Universe
- Some levels can be frustratingly difficult
One Sentence Review: With its colorful graphics, orchestrated score, and dozens upon dozens of inventive levels, it’s difficult to find fault in such a polished game.
One Word Review: Glorious!
- Super Mario Galaxy 2 (official site)
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