Super Mario Galaxy
What would a console be worth without a mascotte? Right, I’m talking about the Wii. With only a handful of decent games and no well-integrated online capacities in sight, the console has broken many hearts in just a year. Many developers have tried to port the controls to the x-th copy, one more successful than the other, but not one game managed to get something “perfect” out of the controller. It was Nintendo’s turn again, you think they succeeded this time? And if yes, don’t forget that mascotte…
Without telling too much about the story, I can say that Princess Peach for once did NOT get abducted from her castle. But to save her anyway, Mario has to let go of the soil and exchange it for the interplanetary space roads which he has to save from Bowsers vermin. Super Mario Galaxy brags with being the first Mario in space but someone who’s a bit fan will know that Mario Land 2 on the GameBoy had a space world and that also the recently added Super Paper Mario also partially played in space. However, the way it’s done is completely innovating where both titles mentioned above did things still quite the same as with all the rest of the game. Not only in controls does this title innovate, also when it comes to gameplay a solid concept was found.
At first glimpse the game resembles Mario64, where each time a certain number of stars need to be collecting in order to move forward. These are scattered over about fourty worlds in the game, where about half can be considered “big”, the rest are bonus levels and boss fights. Each of these big levels is playable in six or seven variants where each time another star can be received. Sometimes the gameworld is identical and you only get another goal, but usually you’ll end up in a totally different environment. Three of the stars can be collected in the very typical way while the others are result of mysterious comets, and even a very special guest star (pun intended).
A level typically consists out of a couple of floating mini planets that are built around a theme. A tropical penguin paradise, a space junkyard and a toy factory are just a couple of examples. The flying between planets is done by letting Mario spin in a warp star that gives him a boost into space. The surroundings not only look very colorful but the shape of them is often very original. The missions are also strongly depending on the world you’re at. One time it’s puzzles that play in the varying gravity, while another time it looks more like a standard platform game.
The fact that the worlds look different when replaying is positive. The travelling from chunk to chunk is fun by itself, but it does decrease the liberty. What I liked as a kid in Mario64 where the large areas. Ok, they may not have been as well decorated as here, but at least you could walk around for an hour looking for that sixth red coin. In Super Mario Galaxy you fly constantly from here to there and the level are too linear. When enough stars are collected new worlds can be unlocked. For every five worlds there’s also a boss fight where Mario will take on Bowser or one of his kids. Not so spectacular since you’ll always need to use the same tactic. For less experienced players it can get quite difficult though.
Concerning gameplay Mario has nothing to fear. The function of the controller is two-sided. There the movement of our hero, which expectedly is done with the nunchuck; the A-button on the remote is used to jump. Giving one of both devices a good kick makes Mario spin around, his only attack in the game. The other part of the controls exists of collecting star bits, nice star candy that you can use to throw and enemies and feed stars. A very nice thing is that this form of control allows to play the game with two people at the same time. When a second remote is activated this gets control over the extra pointer. This way a friend can join in and you can divide the tasks amongst yourselves: one focuses on walking and jumping, while the other literally freezes enemies and throw collected star bits at them. Very good!
What would a Mario game be without transformations? Our hero can receive super power by means of power-ups. These come in two sorts: fixed and temporary. A lot of advertising was done around Bee Mario and Ghost Mario, which both are of the first kind, but they’re not the only ones present in the game. There’s the big return of the fire flower (hurray!) and the discovery of its counterpart, the ice flower with which you can skate over water. Also classics like the super mushroom, invincibility star and the 1Up are again present. I may need to say that of this latter there are quite a few too many around and their function is far from as big as it used to be. Each restart of the game the amount of available levels is decreased to 5. A game over has little to no influence on the further part.
Overall Super Mario Galaxy doesn’t rely on graphical highlights as the game doesn’t really look astonishing. A bigger role is given to the playing style and the atmosphere it brings forth. Refreshing controls in colorful and varied levels, and tuned up music from Super Mario Bros 3. Also the new sound material is of high quality, but unfortunately still not symphonic. I did jump a hole in the roof when I heard voices in the game. My happyness was short, though, as you won’t hear more than ten words during the entire playing time. A nice extra is the interaction the game offers through the Wii channel screen: the mailtoad sometimes comes by to put up a message and it’s possible to make a screenshot of your stats and copy them to the board.
Super Mario Galaxy is without a doubt the best game this year on Wii. It immerses you in a fantasy world that over and over again puts a smile on your face. Biggest letdown in this game is its difficulty degree that also influences the playing time, and the somewhat bulky control system when on very small planets.