Review by Crazyreyn

"Welcome to the Galaxy! (spoiler free)"

A Nintendo console just isn't complete without a flagship Mario title. The Wii has had few stunning single player experiences to boast about, and who else to deliver than the king of platforming himself, Sir Mario of Mario? With little surprises in terms of plot, he returns once again in an adventure that is simply out of this world.

The primary gameplay mechanic in Galaxy is the use of gravity. Each platform (or planet) has a gravity that allows you to dash around spherical landscapes and run underneath seemingly one-dimensional areas to find new places to explore. Even from the very first planet you realize the potential and experience the sheer rush from traveling around such landscapes, something which doesn't let up at any point in the adventure. Going between each planet is done via stylish on-rails flights through space to manually leaping across the stars before gravity takes hold and sweeps you to your next destination. Even with something as simple as leaping toward the next planet and the camera swooshing upside down is done with extreme finesse is nothing short of exhilarating. As before there is a hub that links to all the galaxies in the game, however what is refreshing is the size of each galaxy, where instead of the seven or eight stars as seen in 64 and Sunshine, there are only three standard mission Stars alongside bonus stars, with additional smaller single star galaxies. The way the system works is more of a throwback to 2D Marios, with smaller individual stages instead of massive worlds with repetitive and throwaway objectives that often confounded the experience of the previous editions in the series.

As a result each level is entirely unique. As galaxies are made up of various planets, you are forced to go across a select few of them but you will never visit them again after that that Star. Although this removes the vast majority of exploration that fans have come to love from the series, and means that levels are more linear the end product is that every path you take is entirely unique, new and keeps the game constantly fresh. This is further boosted by how simply impressive and unparalleled the level design is, and it that constantly throws so many innovative ideas at you. Without giving specific examples, a button can shed unexpected collectibles, a planet masks a hidden centre, new suit abilities completely transform how you progress through the coming trials, familiar yet exhausted worlds are mashed together to form unexpected environments… everything the game does is nothing short of mind blowing, from the simple to extraordinary, it always surprises you and keeps a smile on your face. And while the use of gravity is by no means original, the applications are so spectacular it turns the whole platforming genre on its head. Each and every Star is a new experience to behold.

The gameplay is further enhanced with a sublime control scheme, where the Wiimote and Nunchuk are used in subtle yet effective ways. Similar to how Twilight Princess and Resident Evil 4 make use of the control setup, the Nunchuk is used for moving Mario and the pointer utilized for additional tasks. The main role of the pointer is to collect Star Bits, the primary collectible over coins this time round, which act as both a projectile and currency within the game. They are scattered literally everywhere; locked up in crystals, up trees and cliffs, dropped from enemies and even far off into space. The effect is that will always search the screen for them even though you promised yourself to just concentrate on the task at hand, and serves as a valued and amusing side addition to the main adventure. The pointer also acts as a means to toy with aspects of the environment, and while delving further would spoil the fun, some of the uses are simply ingenious. Motion is used only for the Wiimote, where a quick shake will activate the spin attack or suit specific abilities which never fail to act when you need it to. On top of this Mario can perform his usual range of tricks, jumps and moves; nothing is lost through the new control set up, and the surprisingly immersive pointer feature is gained with great reception. Tight, responsive, perfect.

Visually the game is stunning, considering the Wii architecture, and with the right cable setup can stand up against other next gen console offerings. It is a characteristic Mario game with solid bright visuals that add to the euphoria of the gameplay, draped under that classic Mario font and presentation with easy to use pointer menus. Although each galaxy has a unique premise the space theme persists throughout and really adds to the scope and depth that the game provides with its variety. However for some reason some galaxies just don't quite look as good as others; they just seem somewhat bland and lack the real gloss and glitter the rest of the game exerts and instead look as if they have been taken straight from the halls of Sunshine. None the less the game always looks crisp, steady and above all provides stimulation that few other games give out just from visuals alone. Coupled with (what can be considered rare for a platformer) spectacular orchestrated music that has a mix of beautiful melodies to powerful and haunting choir tunes, each galaxy has an enchanted and breathtaking atmosphere. It is awe-inspiring.

Super Mario Galaxy gets everything right. Well, almost. The two player co-op has another player join in with an additional pointer to aid your adventure. While it can do everything one pointer can and more, from collecting Star Bits to stunning enemies, it lacks any real depth and just isn't interesting enough for a second player to play through with you. The main hub just seems bland when compared to the likes of Peach's Castle or Delfino Plaza and just acts as that, a hub, and when returning to it after every stunning galaxy you can't help but feel that you are brought down a notch in the atmospheric stakes. And although the camera does incredibly well to keep up with the variance and switching of the planets, it does hiccup at times and get stuck behind a wall if you approach a ledge for an unorthodox angle, but considering what it has to do in the first place such qualms are easily quashed. These niggles just seem like a drop in the ocean when the game excretes unadulterated platforming bliss out of every orifice.

Super Mario Galaxy is a special game in many, many ways. It pushes all the right buttons and is the most shining example of how entertaining gaming can be with its combination of innovation, outstanding design and overall character. A justified comparison is that it is just like playing games again for the first time, it's that exceptional. It is very rare for a game to completely ‘wow' you from start to finish, physically making your jaw drop and constantly amaze, but Galaxy manages it with ease. Nintendo delivers an experience that no other developer could provide, and the likes of which you probably won't see again until the next revolutionary Mario title. It is easily one of the best games this year, and will stand out as one of the greatest this generation. Buy a Wii, and buy this game. It's that simple. Welcome to the Galaxy!

Pros
+ The most innovative platformer in years
+ Practically perfect control scheme that put the Wii features to great use
+ Incredible visuals, music and atmosphere
+ Will completely surprise and amaze you from start to finish
+ Incredibly addictive yet also perfect for short playing sessions

Cons
- Two player co-op mode lacks any depth (but is totally optional)


Reviewer's Score: 10/10 | Originally Posted: 11/26/07

Game Release: Super Mario Galaxy (EU, 11/16/07)


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