Written by Thomas Read
Mario is the best-selling and longest-lived video game series of all time. It arguably brought video games back to life in the 80s. The games are successful for this reason: It’s a solid formula that is generally improved upon every time a new game is released. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is no exception to this trend. With loads of new features and a new world (galaxy) to explore, this game is masterfully produced and simply good entertainment.
To be honest, when I first started Mario Galaxy 2, I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. Super Mario is one of my favourite game series, so I was hesitant to get too excited about this innovative new addition. My favourite game of all time is Super Mario World for the Super Nintendo, so when I started seeing all the new features Galaxy 2 had to offer, I must admit I felt a little overwhelmed, like the purity of the Mario formula had been tainted somehow. I can confidently say now that those feelings have passed, and I’ve grown to enjoy nearly every new addition that Galaxy 2 brings to the series.
The story is the same it’s been for a quarter of a century: Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach and Mario is flung into another block-smashing, pipe-travelling, gap-leaping Goomba-pwning adventure. The main difference here is that you’re in space, travelling from galaxy to galaxy (Which is ultimately no different than traversing every other map-based Mario overworld ever) collective those elusive Power Stars and moving ever-forward. Bowser’s ambitions are also a bit more grandiose than in the past, but it’s still nothing special plotwise.
I can confidently say this is the best looking Mario game to date, and you will be consistently impressed with both the level of detail and vast scale of the game. You can see the gorgeous lighting on Mario as he collects a Star, or look up from your ship and see a glowing spiral-armed galaxy surrounding you in every direction. You can feel that a lot of effort was made in taking the Wii’s graphics to the best they could look for a Mario game, while still maintaining the trademark look and feel of the series.
The music was also unmatched in the Galaxy games— A symphony of Mario tunes for every moment of playtime. I personally miss the simple 8-bit music, or the island sounds of Mario Sunshine, but the classical soundtrack is also a fresh new take on the series’ flagship music, and the sweeping strings and melodies really add to the atmosphere of immensity that the game promotes.
The gameplay in Galaxy 2 is unlike anything seen in a platformer before. While each level only has a few ways to beat it, the levels are still varied and unique enough to give this game a vast selection of gameplay quirks and options. Gravity manipulation is a reoccurring theme, and you will be standing on ceilings and walls extremely often. As planets are common, you will find yourself jumping from sphere to sphere, hoping you jumped far enough to make it into the next one’s gravity well, before running onto the underside to get to the next one.
There are a number of new powerups, (which sound strange at first but are a lot of fun when you use them) such as Bee, Cloud, Rock, and Spring Mario. The Fire Flower and Invincibility Star also accompany our favourite plumber in his journey. Yoshi is also a large part of the game, and he gets some powerups of his own, two fruits that turn him into either Dash or Blimp Yoshi, which allow him super-speed (Even over water or up walls) or float high upwards (Think that P Balloon in Super Mario World.)
Bosses show up outside of castles very often in Galaxy 2, each complete with their own unique method for beating them. This is welcome, as sometimes Mario games focus primarily on the simple completing of a level; the bosses serve to break that repetition. Ice skating has also been added, which is an interesting new mechanic; it’s nice to not have to stumble over every single step when on ice. As always, sliding and racing games show up, as well. Star Bits are a new element added in the first Mario Galaxy, which you collect by pointing the WiiMote at the screen. They are used mainly for progression (Certain levels can only be accessed when you’ve collected a certain number of Star Bits) but can also be fired at enemies to stun them. At first this felt like a gimmick, but I learned to love the option of firing a projectile in a Mario game.
One different thing about the level design in this instalment, is that due to the fact that each level only has 3 or so ways to beat it, they lack the openness of past 3D Mario games like Mario 64 and Sunshine. Each level, with some exceptions, is generally a series of platforming challenges floating in space, with a launcher at the end that brings you to the next sequence. This is a stark contrast to the big connected levels of the previously mentioned Marios. Galaxy 2 fortunately does make this difference work to its advantage, even if progression does feel a bit more linear. There is a co-op option available, and while the experience isn’t as impressive as New Super Mario Bros. Wii (Player 2 is just a cursor on the screen), a second person can help Mario by collecting star bits and attacking enemies.
Galaxy 2 is not perfect (I’m looking at you, IGN) and there are problems with it. The game, unfortunately, feels really easy much of the time, especially the first three-quarters or so. I know this should be expected but it’s still a disappointment. You can tell this game was made so everyone could play it, which in a way is good, but it lacks the “Nintendo Hard” difficulty of some other games in the series. The difficulty definitely picks up later on, and you will end up getting stuck on a level or nine.
As I’ve said already, the levels lack their previous size and are much more straightforward; It’s unfortunate each and almost every level doesn’t have 7 unique ways to beat it a la Mario 64. One other minor complaint I have is that it lacks Classic Controller support, which admittedly would have been difficult to manage with all the on-screen aiming you do. Even so, other options would have been nice, though the WiiMote and Nunchuck do their job, and well. Overall, my complaints are minimal, and once you clear the first few worlds you will fall in love with this game.
Overall Score: 93. Simply one of the best titles out on the Wii. Easy to pick up and play for any length of time, this is a great title that any owner of the system should have. Anyone who has ever enjoyed the series should at least give it a try, as it’s a game that was simply made to be fun. A classic whose innovations and influence will be felt for years, if not longer.
Genre Score (Platformer): 95. As the Mario series sets the standard for platforming games, it adds unique effects unseen by other games in the genre. Mario Galaxy 2 is a fresh, innovative addition to the series and brings hordes of new features not only to Mario games, but to platformers in general. Countless examples of gravity manipulation as well as rhythm based levels, unique powerups and a vast collection of worlds and environments. Other platformers could stand to learn a thing or two.