Jumping to a New Level: Techland Reviews Super Mario Galaxy 2

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Super Mario Galaxy 2
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Systems it’s available on: Wii
ESRB rating: E
System reviewed on: Wii

Aside from their Mediterranean background, it seems like Mario and Kratos have something else in common this year. Both have sequels out and both those follow-ups up the ante in terms of scale. While God of War 3 went for a widescreen epic feel, Super Mario Galaxy 2’s evolving in terms of depth. The end result is different for both: Kratos’ exploits make your jaw drop but Mario’s newest outing makes you smile at its cleverness and its design.

Just Peachy:
Guess what the plot of this Mario game is? That’s right: Princess Peach gets kidnapped again! Of course, there’s some stuff about archenemy Bowser stealing cosmic power of the Lumas–the little starmen you met in SMG1–but we all know Mario’s real motivation here. Once Mario saves a few Lumas, they remake a little planetoid ship into a giant Mario head that he takes on his journey to rescue Peach and defeat Bowser… again!

You Got A Star!:
The Mario gameplay formula requires careful tweaking. It’s in Nintendo’s best interests to keep it as close to the jump-&-bop mechanics of the NES classic, because that’s still what your average everyperson thinks of. Missteps in futzing with the ingredients lead to wrong-feeling offshoots like Super Mario Sunshine (that hydraulic water-based jet pack just seemed not to belong) or fumbly messes like New Super Mario Bros. Wii (letting multiple players run around on screen at the same time doesn’t mean your games balanced for multiplayer). But successes in changing up the way Mario plays can also lead to gems like the wackily inspired suit-changing antics of Super Mario Brothers 3 or the wholesale evolution of Super Mario 64–arguably the first 3D console game.

SMG2 comes closer to those last two games in spinning up fun new Mario gameplay ideas. In addition to the Cloud Suit, Spin-Dig Suit and Yoshi-blimp transformations I talked about in my preview, there’s also a Rock Suit that Mario can put on and a super-speed Yoshi power that comes after eating hot peppers. Speaking of the sneaker-wearing dinosaur, introducing Yoshi’s more than just a nod to Nintendo’s hardcore faithful. On the Yoshi-centric levels, there are shooting mechanics, swing-based tweaks to the platforming and exploration, specifically in the levels where Yoshi’s glow can find hidden platforms.  All the play mechanics are gently introduced but the game does get challenging as it goes on. But, part of SMG2’s brilliance is accommodating every level of gamer with the game’s Cosmic Guide. Nintendo knows that the curious Wii buyers concerned about fitness may also want see how this whole Mario thing has changed since they may have last seen the plumber, so building in some help in terms of challenge and accessibility makes sense.

In Another Castle:
Playing through Super Mario Galaxy 2 makes me think of Walt Disney and the theme parks and cartoons that build the Mouse Empire. Everything seems so tempting at first glance, and you feel like there’s a greater design philosophy at work. The bright inviting color scheme pops at every turn and everything animates in a way that seems infused with humor and energy. The soundtrack in SMG2 is great, too. It’s fully orchestral and sounds sweeping without being full of bombast.  The extremely busy screen should seem chaotic but doesn’t feel that way. The squeaks, yelps and noises that everything makes when you interact with them make Galaxy 2 a world that’s just begging to be touched. Now, all this feedback might be annoying but the game is such a joy to play that it isn’t.

Super, Mario:
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is game-making of the highest order. The ingenious puzzles, great use of camera angles and the return of the awesome simulated gravity mechanics from SMG1 combine with a perfect mix of hardcore challenge and newbie-friendly design. The new gameplay elements actually make it feel like Mario’s still got decades of life left in him. The title feels like it stands for what video games can be like at their best: an infectious doseof interactive fun. Here’s hoping that all the sequels we get this year can feel this well-evolved.

Official Techland Score: 10 out 10