Super Mario Galaxy 2 Review

By Garnett Lee, May 25, 2010 7:00pm PDT With zombie hordes and space marines duking it out for videogame supremacy, Nintendo's iconic plumber comes along with casual ease and delivers a reminder that having fun makes for a great game. Yes, there's a nostalgia factor at work in Super Mario Galaxy 2. At its core, the game retains the basic premise of guiding Mario in his quest to rescue the princess by running and jumping through imaginative worlds, collecting coins, stomping on enemies, and defeating bosses. But like its predecessor on the Wii, it does all of those things in a thoroughly modern way, both in its use of 3D space and ability to create unexpected experiences.

Throughout the game I was surprised by how many times I smiled as the simple result of doing something cool. Often, that feeling came from the core fundamentals of how the designers played with gravity and shapes in the levels; a definite high point in the sequel. Like Galaxy before it, the levels play tricks with the player's traditional sense of up and down. The game will flip things and let Mario run around, burrow through, and float over worlds ranging from spheres to flat planes.

As potentially disorienting as that sounds, one of the game's strengths is how natural it is to play. While other games struggle with the Wii's control system, the Wiimote and Nunchuk feel comfortable here. Whatever the orientation, Mario responded as I expected to the directional stick. Motion control isn't used as a gimmick and in the sections where it comes in to play the designers take full advantage of it in ways that make sense. For instance, the first time Mario hopped up on top of a giant ball to roll around a level I grimaced, expecting several minutes of frustration. Instead, holding the Wiimote straight up as if it were Mario, I glided around the level. A simple interaction like this (and the amount of fun it produces) is the hallmark of a Miyamoto game.

Showbiz dictates that we should 'always leave them wanting more'. Super Mario Galaxy 2 plays with a pacing that makes it both fun in the moment, but was also there in the back of my mind between play sessions. The designers debut creative mechanics in nearly every level; mechanics strong enough to build entire experiences around. Mario's new suits like the cloud suit, which lets him create his own platforms, invite experimentation. And Yoshi's return energizes several levels, particularly those where he eats fruits bestowing powers, like the gas fruit that lets him fly.

With so much going on there were sure to be missteps, but for a game that throws new ideas out at every turn they are few and far between. The few frustrations come from the odd sections every so often that stand out from the others in difficulty. And as with prior Mario games there are levels which require a degree of trial and error to learn the way though. I found that given a few tries I could advance, but the game also includes a built-in help system to get past roadblocks. It strikes a comfortable balance that makes Super Mario Galaxy 2 both a delight for someone who just wants to pick it up and play and the completionist who's gotten every star in every Mario game.

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