Super Mario Galaxy 2 Review
Review By ChadDrake @ 04:30pm 01/07/10
Mario has become an institution for Nintendo. They can whack his name or likeness on almost any product and it will sell (I even seem to remember a copy of "Mario Teaches Typing" on PC - don't ask). That however, doesn't mean it's always going to be worth forking out for. Thankfully, as I'm sure you all guessed, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is.
As the old adage states, if the pipe 'aint broke, don't fix it! Super Mario Galaxy 2 takes the tried-and-true 3D platforming nature of the first title, throws in a new tweak or two creating a sequel that doesn't stray too far off the previously set path, but also avoids approaching any truly new ground.
Super Mario Galaxy was a big game on AusGamers. Scoring a whopping 9.7, it took the 3D platforming genre that Super Mario 64 revolutionised (and arguably created), reinvigorating and reinventing it - presenting us with a truly next-gen version of Mario. But this creates problems for SMG2. With so much to live up to, has Shigeru delivered? Well, yes. And no.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 does little to reinvigorate the series, or the genre. With the exception of adding Yoshi, the ability to play as Luigi from the get go on selected levels and some new power-up mushrooms, it's essentially the same game with different level design. Far from producing a shitty game though, it only means SMG2 doesn't have the 'wow' factor its predecessor did.
Bowser is again up to no good. Following the familiar kidnapped princess routine, Mario teams up with another Luma, and heads out into space... again. He needs to collect power stars to reach Bowser and rescue his 'special friend' Princess Peach. Again.
While the premise is familiar, there are a few stand-out differences. Mario no longer presides on an interstellar, star-creating, spaceship as his gaming hub. This time around it's a much smaller spaceship (thus a smaller hub) created from gardens and trees and all other kinds of Mario-inspired cuteness shaped liked our hero's head, which gradually becomes occupied with the power-ups and characters you encounter. Before long you're moving around a sickly-sweet kind of tutorial world where you can constantly learn how to do things you already know how to do. It's also an easy place to earn more lives if you're short. Strangely, SMG2 removes the solar system selection screen with several galaxies, instead implementing a linear progression screen having more in common with New Super Mario Bros. Wii. This occasionally branches out in one or two directions, but never allows for much variation from the set path.
This seems like a step back for a game which really needs some encompassing worlds to play around in. I mean not every planet has to be 200m in diameter, but how about some large planets scattered throughout, with the ability to collect more stars later once you've completed their missions, a la Super Mario 64 or Super Mario Sunshine? C'mon Nintendo, you've set the bar with SMG... now instead of simply being nostalgic, and adding small nuances from previous titles (music, characters, a location or two) - which by the way I'm not complaining about - draw on them further by incorporating a large gaming hub and levels of Sunshine or Mario 64 with the smaller puzzle-based planet missions already in Galaxy. Larger worlds please, more of them. Classic power-ups and a bonus of unlocking levels from older Mario games would also be great.
As I glossed over earlier, this time 'round, you can crack open an egg and free Yoshi to ride around the selected galaxies Nintendo wishes you to use him on. Yoshi retains all his signature moves like eating stuff and his extended running jump; however, he no longer takes a hit for you. Get hit whilst on Yoshi and you fall off, ensuring Yoshi runs away screaming, but you lose the life. There are some levels where Yoshi appears to be there simply because he can be, often not providing any real addition to gameplay, other than the odd secret. Overall Yoshi appears too little in the game. He's an exciting addition to the gameplay, but definitely not a fully realised one.
Responsiveness of controls is essential in Mario games and thankfully SMG2 is a winner in this respect. Everything is just as reactive and smooth as before. The 'wii-waggle' that plagues and frustrates in many other Wii titles works extremely well in SMG2, and while it is becoming a tacked-on control method just for motion's sake in many other games, it feels as natural as ever here - playing this game any other way would be inconceivable.
In the 'what else is new' department, Mario encounters some fresh power-ups to compliment some old faves. Returning, we have the Fire Flower, Bee Mushroom and Ghost Mushroom. While new to the culinary universe are the Spring Mushroom (encompassing Mario in a giant spring - allowing him to jump to great heights with correctly timed press of the jump button), a Rock Mushroom (which turns Mario into a giant, rolling boulder that smashes all in his path), a Drill power-up (that enables Mario to drill right through surfaces to the other side), and finally, one of the most useful, a Cloud Flower - granting the ability to create clouds directly underneath you thus allowing you to reach otherwise unreachable areas. This also creates plenty of opportunities for the skilled player to completely skip areas of the level with accurate timing and long-jumps. The new power-ups are all well realised, however, I would've loved to see some power-ups from older titles making an appearance. The Raccoon suit, Frog suit and Cape would all be awesome to play around with in a 3D gaming arena.
Following a similar fare to the original, great orchestrated audio remixes of classic Mario tunes, that stay true to their MIDI counterparts, are partnered with succinctly presented, new, yet true-to-the-Mario-universe, tracks. The soundtrack to this sequel far surpasses the original with many tracks overall, providing much less repetition.
There's a distinct lack of Prankster Comet variety this time round, with only one prankster comet per world which are randomly assigned a challenge type. Speed-runs provide an adequate, yet frustrating-at-times challenge, but Daredevil Runs provide plenty of those "I'm going to deliberately let that wiimote fly into the screen because I'm not wearing my wrist strap" moments. For some reason these comet challenges are quite inconsistent in their difficulty, but thankfully 1-Up are quite easy to come by, with mini-games on offer on your ship, offering bonus lives or star-bits with the roll of a dice. The game feels relatively easier than its predecessor, but this may simply be down to the fact that we aren't new to this gameplay style - it just feels very comfortable donning the overalls of Mario and Luigi again.
With a thoroughly disappointing and easy final altercation, Bowser is defeated using the same techniques as used on the Bowser Boss Battles ending each universe. Whereas New Super Mario Bros. Wii changed things up a bit, with a rather exciting end for a platformer, I was thoroughly disappointed with SMG2's finale. You do gain access to a secret world though, with more difficult puzzle-orientated gameplay, so it's not all bad.
If it feels like I've been incredibly critical of this game, you're right. The first game was just brilliant, and likewise so is SMG2. It just seems that instead of toughening things up and broadening the SMG universe, we have been presented with a slightly more linear version of something we already know, with Yoshi and Luigi at the helm.
At 17 hours, game finished and only 12 more stars left to absolute completion, I can say it's at least decent in length. And yes, there're plenty of new puzzles, new levels, and more variation in enemies, music and gameplay, but not enough to raise the bar. It's still the king of 3D platformers, it's just more of what we know and love.