Review by DarkChocobo47
"I honestly can't understand how anyone could enjoy this game."
I'm going to lay this down right now. This game is not fun. Why isn't it fun? Well there are a number of reasons, but first, some introduction. I decided to play this game on co-op mode one day at my friend's house because I had heard all the hype about it and I hadn't heard a single bad thing about the game. So we popped it in and watched the opening cutscene and began the game. My very first impression was what you would expect from a good Mario game. I asked my friend if I could borrow it for a few days, and I brought it home and played it. Once I really got into the game though, I started to notice a few things that detracted from the game quite a bit.
The very first thing that is made very obvious to you right from the start is that this is a gravity based platformer. While this is a neat new thing for Mario, it has been done to death by other games. While one might think a gravity based platformer is a cool thing, it has some drawbacks. First, it is very awkward to play. While you are on a surface it feels just like Super Mario 64, but once you start walking upside down and being pulled from one planet to another, you start to feel detached from Mario a little bit. I don't like not being in total control of the character when I play a game, and this game takes away a fair amount of control from you in favor of automatic movement sequences. With this also come questionable physics. The game takes place on tiny planets as I mentioned earlier, but being a gravity based platform gives you a degree of uncertainty as to how the physics will behave. If I do a long jump off this ledge, will I land on the other side of the planet, or go plummeting into that black hole? It's that uncertainty that makes the game less fun. Remember in Super Mario 64 when you could long jump or triple jump basically anywhere without fear of gravity screwing you over? No more of that.
You may be asking why I keep comparing this game to Super Mario 64, and that is because Super Mario 64 is an excellent game. How else am I going to review a game if I have nothing to compare it to? I consider Super Mario 64 the standard that a new Mario game has to reach or exceed in order to be a good game (I never played Super Mario Sunshine, so I don't know how it stacks up). Super Mario Galaxy falls drastically short of the standard that was set. I don't think you will find anyone who will argue that Super Mario 64 is a bad game unless they just flat out hate Mario or platformers. People do have complaints about this game however, and they are well deserved.
The next problem I have with this game besides the questionable physics is the difficulty level. I would really like to know what age group this was targeted at because this game is so outrageously easy. The only way I could see this game being difficult is if the player simply lacked the motor skills to physically move the controller. It's really that bad. This game is so easy that it doesn't even feel like you're playing a Mario game, it feels more like you're just running around in an open-world sandbox kind of game not really accomplishing anything. The majority of the missions are just to get from point A to point B. I can at least say that for the portion of the game I played before finally stopping from pure boredom. At first I kept pushing on hoping maybe the difficulty would pick up, hoping the game was just being nice for the first few stages. Not the case, the difficulty never picks up. The bosses are a joke and the stages are very linear and uneventful.
The final thing that bugged me about this game and perhaps its most pressing issue is the controls. Simply put, they are terrible. Since the game takes place mostly on strangely shaped objects suspended in space, you might expect moving about them to be somewhat strange. While this is true, it wouldn't be nearly as bad if the controls were decent. When you are running around on a small sphere or another small object with little surface area, you are bound to walk upside down at some point, but the upside down controls are just weird. You try to tilt the joystick in the direction that you think the game should send you, but it sends you another way. This is not due to lack of effort in the control scheme though, I could tell that Nintendo actually tried to optimize the controls for areas like that, but they tried a little too hard. Like I said, when Mario is in an awkward position or at a strange angle, you would expect the controls to be adjusted slightly to go in different directions. Think of it like the Playstation Final Fantasy titles. You walk in a door and the game orients you in such a manner that pressing up on the D-pad sends your character forward instead of actually straight up. That is, at an angle parallel to the walls, not 90 degrees straight up. Of course you have to adapt to that, but it's easy to pick up on and after a while you do it without thinking about it. Super Mario Galaxy does the opposite, it sends your character in the direction that you tilt the stick regardless of everything, and it can be very confusing and disorienting at times, especially when precise control is required. It would be like in that same Final Fantasy game if you pressed up on the D-pad inside an angled building and went straight up at 90 degrees instead of staying parallel with the walls. One on hand, its an interesting innovation, but it's just not something I'm used to and I'm sure a lot of other people aren't used to either.
The movement controls aren't the only thing that bugged me in this game. The regular gameplay controls weren't quite up to par either. How do you attack enemies in the game? Any Mario fan would instantly say jumping on the enemies. Well yeah you can do that, but only if you want them to drop a coin that has no other use besides restoring health. If you want an enemy to drop star bits (little crystals that double as ammo and "currency") you have to do a weird spin move to stun the enemy and then run into it for the kill. This wouldn't be a problem if the spin move actually worked most of the time. If you are playing on an HD TV, there is going to be a delay from the time you input the command to do the spin (shaking the remote back and forth quickly) to the time Mario actually decides to spin. Couple that with the startup time that is built into the move and it becomes noticeably delayed. Not to mention that is has a very small hitbox and you need to be almost touching your enemy for it to hit at all. What happened to just punching your enemies like in Super Mario 64? Even jumping on enemies in this game is tough because of the weird controls. Most of the time you miss slightly and the enemy rams into you. Either miss your jump or get hit during the delay of the spin attack, pick your poison. I also found the input delay to interfere with the triple jump. You have to time it fairly precisely, and when the TV interprets your button commands at a different time from when you send them out it becomes annoying to properly time. Not that you ever really need to do it, but it's still frustrating that you can't triple jump for fun.
The final thing that annoys me is the unnecessary use of the wiimote in the game. The game would have been totally fine without it and could have played normally with a Gamecube controller. Here is what the wiimote does in the game. It's first function is for the spin attack. It's second function is to... collect star bits? Really? Yeah, you wave the pointer over stray star bits to collect them. What kind of useless mechanic is that? Was it so hard to program the star bits to be attracted to Mario when he gets close to them? It may not sound bad on paper, but think about it. Every time you kill an enemy, you have to stop what you're doing to wave the wiimote around to collect all the bits that drop. Think you can just skip that part? You would be wrong. Star bits act as a sort of ammo in the game, but they also act as currency (really, who came up with that? It's like throwing quarters at people). To simplify it without going into the plot, you give a few hundred star bits to a guy and he unlocks a new level for you. More levels means more stars, and some levels can't be completed without giving your bits to the guy. Bottom line, they should have just made it playable with the Gamecube controller.
Overall, as you can probably tell, I did not like this game at all. A plethora of problems paired with the typical Wii graphics that should be better than they are and a lackluster soundtrack make this game a very unfortunate addition to the 3D Mario library. As much as I don't like it I gave it a 4/10 because it's fun to play for like an hour with your friend if you're really bored and it does have some (used very loosely) cool original content. It is by no means an unplayable abomination, but at the same time there is really no reason to play it at all since nothing goes on in the game. I usually try to play a game for at least 6 or 8 hours before I pass final judgment, but I just couldn't make it that far. If you're thinking about buying this game, definitely rent it first, it seems that most people enjoy it so it might be your cup of tea. If not, bust out the ol' N64 and play a good Mario game instead.
Reviewer's Score: 4/10 | Originally Posted: 08/25/10
Game Release: Super Mario Galaxy (US, 11/12/07)
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