Review by Parasitic
"Mario soars onto the Wii again with another crazy adventure through space"
It's another lovely evening in the Mushroom Kingdom. Fun times are to be had as Princess Peach is baking another famous cake and the party's rockin'. But from out of nowhere, Bowser interrupts all the fun by doing his best Godzilla/King Kong impersonation while snatching the princess and making his way into space for yet another priceless attempt at a master plan. It's the same old cliche story that we are usually presented with in the Mario games with just a bit new dressing. But that's fine because it works. Most Mario games have never had nor needed a big elaborate storyline. Instead, they rely mostly on their gameplay elements to involve and captivate the player. Just like the good ole' days.
In order for Mario to once again ruin Bowser's evil plans and save the princess, he must travel through space in search of stars that will power his ship. It's a mechanic that has been done before. In order to move onto the next world you have to collect those stars by battling through mini worlds (galaxies in this case) or completing certain challenges that will earn you the stars. Once you collect enough, you're off to the next world where even more challenging galaxies await. I'm happy to say that the world maps are organized quite nicely and seem to utilize a Super Mario 3 style layout. This is great as you'll be able to easily recognize what galaxies are available to you, how many stars you can collect, and what path to take. The galaxies themselves have a resemblance to the style of Super Mario 64 which will please many fans (and there's even a nice nod to Mario 64 thrown in for good measure).
You see, each galaxy offers a different experience for the most part. As you make your way through each one, you'll find different challenges and different aspects to the gameplay that keep it fresh. In some areas, you may need to power up with some old and new abilities to make your way through. These abilities range from the classic fireballs to the returning Bee and Boo power-ups and even some new ideas such as the Cloud and Rock powers. Along the way you'll also meet up with some memorable characters from Mario's past such as Yoshi, who adds yet another element to the gameplay. Although you won't be able to use him whenever you wish, the levels that do use him are often distinct and offer another challenging component to the game. There is enough diversity here to keep this from feeling saturated with the same old thing.
While there are many good things to say, a platformer of this style can be rough at times though and one of my issues were the controls. No, the layout is fine, but I feel that on some occasions it just wasn't as responsive as I needed it to be resulting in death or missed opportunities. This may be a case of the Wiimote and Nunchuck combination which I'm not a particular fan of. I can admit that my skills in this genre have severely diminished over the years, but the problems are relevant nonetheless. Sometimes the game requires quick, split second moves that work a lot of the time, but at that one important moment it fails you. I don't mind the idea of flicking the Wiimote and having Mario do a spin attack, but does it really add to my enjoyment? Nope. And sometimes it's a bit touchy and you end up doing multiple spins or even a spin that you didn't mean to do in the first place. This is more evident when you are moving the Wiimote around like a mouse cursor on the screen collecting star bits around the galaxy and it thinks you're performing a move. It's definitely there, even if it's a minor issue for some.
Along the same lines of the Wiimote controls are the flying mechanics. In certain areas you may be asked to race or fly through obstacles (and if you plan on collecting all the stars, you'll have to do this). I find that the Wiimote motion control makes it unnecessarily difficult. It's always good to have a challenge, but I feel it's more of a flaw of the motion control system and that makes it frustrating. And speaking of frustration, plan for it. Besides the above issues, the way the levels are created and the style of game it is can cause major frustrations. Since the game revolves around a spacy-3D environment, expect to be up, down, and all around. Sounds pretty cool, huh? You'll be on a hectic, fun ride that pushes you in every which way, even from 3D to 2D. But this also can disorient things and mess up your field of vision and directional persuasion. This is mainly due to the camera which usually works, but it does have issues of being out of place at moments and can cause the controls to do a 180. They were smart to implement the camera controls that allow you to pan the camera around manually, but it doesn't always work. And again, in those timely moments the last thing you want to do is attempt to adjust the camera around. The game is already fairly challenging, but these issues do add a frustration factor that will have a few people yelling at their screens.
Graphically it looks great for a Wii title. The environments are lush and the colors very vibrant that it tends to make a lot of next gen games look muddy. That vibrancy really stood out to me and I think developers should take note of that We don't need dark and gritty if the source material doesn't need it. When I was in these different galaxies, I felt like the world was very much alive. There is usually a decent amount of stuff happening on and off screen and the Wii doesn't have any trouble with this. This is due to Nintendo's wise strategy in creating worlds that aren't overly bloated. Don't take it as a bad thing that the galaxies are mostly small. This actually helps the game in keeping with its lovely graphics and smart pacing. It doesn't usually feel like a burden to get through a level because they are generally short or rather just the length they need to be to hit that correct balance of too much and not enough. But while you are making your way through them, you can really appreciate the prettiness that Galaxy 2 shows off. It isn't going to win the best graphics award, but it doesn't need to because it's near perfect for this game.
Sound is what you would expect from a Mario game. You have some of the classic tunes that we were humming 25-years ago with a new dash of style and then you have new tunes that are just as good. They are orchestrated just fine and I'm sure many folks, like myself, will have some of these stuck in their head for awhile or randomly find themselves humming them in inappropriate situations. Sound effects are on par too as we are treated with classic and new audio bytes. Nintendo's decision to still not use full voice acting also plays into this because it just wouldn't feel right, in my opinion. We have the grunts, the occasional two words and that's all that is needed. All of this is a genius method by Nintendo that has kept the sounds of the Mario franchise new and familiar.
There are also plenty of reasons to revisit this game as well which is generally a staple for any Mario game. Besides unlocking secrets, collecting every star, star bits, coins, and everything else in the game to achieving perfection -- it's Mario. The fun factor included is enough to keep gamers coming back and I imagine there will be plenty of speed run competitions going on. A lot of games suffer on the replay value without some kind of major multiplayer/online modes. But in Mario, there is so much to do and even some co-op action that it should keep most folks who are perfectionist coming back to find every single thing included.
With all of that said, Super Mario Galaxy 2 offers a ton more good things than bad. Although not perfect and very frustrating at times, it still easily manages to push the limits of the Wii while creating a mostly solid experience and is perhaps the best Mario game since Super Mario 64. I'd be hesitant to recommend blindly buying this game because of the high scores unless you're a fan of Mario and the genre. It's not for everyone, but there is enough challenge, depth, and classic fun for folks of all ages to enjoy (or throw a Wiimote at the TV).
Reviewer's Rating: 4.5 - Outstanding
Originally Posted: 06/07/10
Game Release: Super Mario Galaxy 2 (US, 05/23/10)
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