Nintendo’s golden boy is back for another installment with Super Mario Galaxy, Mario’s first big adventure on the Wii. And “big” really is the right word, as the adventure contained in Super Mario Galaxy is so large it needs a whole galaxy to contain it. The many planets you’ll visit all have unique looks and themes in spite of their trademark cartoony look, and smooshing a Goomba has never looked so detailed. More important with this variety, though, is that the number of planets leads to a good balance of challenge and entertainment from beginning to end. The planets ranging from a Ghost area to an Icy Hot planet, with many new twists and turns in between. And the one-star planets give your platforming skills a workout, are very different from one another, and all in all provide a nice change of pace from the multi-star planets.
Like most Mario games, the aim of Super Mario Galaxy is to collect stars, a concept we are very familiar with. In order to get them, Mario will be able to use special forms such as a bee, which lets him fly around, all of which are very well done other than the Spring Mario, leads to a few troublesome controls. Players move Mario via the Nunchuk, make him jump with the A button, and butt-stomp with the Z button.
The Wii Remote, meanwhile, is put to good use with a bunch of new control methods. For instance, the Wii Remote is used to collect Star Bits, which are mostly used to feed gluttonous Lumas that grant access to new planets. Shaking the Wii Remote allows Mario to perform a spin move that, while appearing simple, is key to killing enemies and achieving an extra bit of height. The Wii Remote is used in many other creative ways as well, such as steering your manta ray surfboard in a race, and as you pull off all these moves, you’ll never be bothered by a troublesome camera, because the Mario Sunshine camera crew has thankfully been fired and replaced by a new camera that rarely zooms in on the ground, a wall, or other wonderful bit of scenery.
Of course, no Mario game would be complete without a princess to rescue, and Super Mario Galaxy steps right up to the plate. In the game, Mario has received a familiar letter from Princess Peach about the festival party and learns that she has a present for him. Mario, unsatisfied with what has to be the goldmine of coins he has gathered over the years, rushes right over to the castle. He is almost there when — big shocker — Peach and the castle are taken by Bowser. Bowser has tried to capture Peach time and time again, but this time he’s captured her IN SPACE! Peach’s present, by spooky coincidence, turns out to be a Luma that knows how to chase Bowser. Mario, who for some reason can now survive the airless vacuum of space, is then set on another epic adventure.
Mario is the platformer’s favorite son, and you’ll see a lot of that here. The space aspect gives adventuring a whole new twist, with Mario jumping upside down and sideways. The game handles the wacky gravity very well, and you’ll usually die only due to user mistakes or a very gruesome Goomba trampling. Koopas, Boos, Chain Chomps, Piranha Plants and all the old gang are back to hassle Mario, but Bowser has also enlisted the aid of many new plumber-hating baddies. These are a welcome obstacle, as they mix up the gameplay, and all the bosses are both fun to battle and gratifying to defeat.
A boost to the challenge level of Super Mario Galaxy can be found in the Prankster Comets. These nasty asteroids allow you to replay beaten levels to gain new stars, but with a string attached: you’ll have to beat the level in a time limit, or race Shadow Mario, or even defeat that boss you just killed — only this time he can kill you in one hit. These are a welcome spice of challenge and never get too frustrating.
With that said, there are certain areas that provide some challenge, and you’ll find yourself falling into black holes like clockwork. Thankfully, extra lives are easy to come by, as you’ll get one for every 50 star bits (which are incredibly numerous). The challenge remains constant throughout the game, and there isn’t one particular “death level.” The game will give perfectionists a nice long ride the first time out with 120 stars to find, but a 121st star can be found by playing through the entire game a second time.
All in all, Mario’s newest adventure has nice long quest with plenty of variation through to the end. The story really isn’t all that deep, but then again, Mario isn’t a very complicated guy. Your Wii will become your best friend as you jump, swim, butt-stomp, Goomba crush and triple-jump your way to star filled glory. Welcome back, Mario; we missed you.
– John Dempsey