Super Mario Galaxy 2 is of course the sequel to one of the best games available on the Wii, Super Mario Galaxy. After a perceived drought of quality titles for Wii, owners of the console have been looking forward to at last having something worthwhile playing arrive to the dust-collecting paperweights.
We have been here before. Not long after being saved from King Bowser, the attention-seeking Princess Peach once again finds herself a way to be captured leaving only the Super Mario Brothers to save her from impending doom. As before the chase takes Mario and co. through a Galaxy of 3D platforming levels that are literally out of this world, as the neverending quest to restore order to the Mushroom Kingdom continues.
The best games on offer for Wii have, not surprisingly, been the ones that understand innately the motion control system the system boasts. While most developers make games which can easily be ported between consoles, and tack on "Wii motion controls" as if this is some sort of attractive selling feature, first party titles and a few notable others (sadly not enough), have distinguished themselves by being "made for Wii" rather than "adapted for Wii".
Playing Super Mario Galaxy was pure pleasure, as the controls are intuitive and you almost forget that you are holding hardware that is sending your intended moves to a central computer to action. It is the closest I have felt "as one" with an on-screen character in a game, and SMG2 controls in exactly the same fashion as its predecessor. Motion controls and pointer controls never feel gimmicky.
The game is as beautiful as it ever was, with amazing detail and shading, as well as impressive water reflections. Worlds and galaxies feel as though they are alive and breathing, and proves once again it is not about what hardware you are born with, but what you do with it that counts.
Little has changed from the gameplay of the first game, which is a good thing. Messing around with a great forumla always risks disaster. But somehow Shigeru Miyamoto manages to do the impossible and improve on an already incredible game. Level design is imaginative and clever, often bringing genuine smiles and happiness as I wandered through the work of a true genius of game design. The game feels perfectly paced with some later levels providing a real test of skill and patience, but every challenge feels achievable and hugely satisfying once completed.
The “Super Guide” from New Super Mario Bros. Wii makes its debut as a “Cosmic Guide” which offers players the chance to complete a level without doing any work if the game detects that you
suck are struggling with it. Using the Cosmic Guide will get you the level’s star, but only in a Bronze form – watching the CPU assistance may then help you to go back and complete the level on your own to collect the “proper” gold star. The Cosmic Guide is not the only help available to new players though – the game comes with an introductory tutorial guide which ironically comes in DVD format and therefore won’t play on your Wii.
As in Super Mario Galaxy, powerups feature again which confer new abilties to Mario for a limited time. The cutesy Bee Mario returns along with Boo power-ups and Spring Mushrooms. New additions include a drill that lets Mario drill down through planets to the other side, the Cloud Flower that lets Mario create cloud platforms in mid-air, and Rock Mario who can bash through obstacles. Luigi is again an optional playable character in selected levels, and Yoshi makes a welcome entry to the game, allowing Mario to flutter jump to distant platforms, as well as use Yoshi’s tongue to swing off pegs to reach otherwise inaccessible areas.
Super Mario Galaxy’s unique co-op mode makes a welcome return. A friend can jump in or out at any time with no disruption. Player 2 uses a WiiMote in pointer mode only and can collect vital star bits or freeze enemies by pointing and clicking on them. It is even possible to pick up coins and mushrooms which would otherwise be out of reach or difficult for Mario to collect himself. Despite limited control in the game, the mode works because actions have a direct bearing on the success of our hero and is enjoyable for those that want to play the game but are not proficient enough to.
Level progression follows the same structure as New Super Mario Bros. Wii – each World map contains a number of levels that can be reached by completing earlier ones to unlock path on the map. Levels can be tackled in a mostly open-ended fashion, but collecting a minimum number of power stars is required to ultimately advance through Worlds. There is a huge amount of value in this game, and it will take many hours to collect all the stars and collectibles in the game. Reaching the “end” of the game doesn’t require collection of all the game’s stars, but playing Super Mario Galaxy just to reach the end credits does a real disservice to the game. The lasting appeal of this game lies in the satisfaction in exploring each and every varied level and the collection of stars never feels laboured.
New to the game are hidden “Comet Medals” which unlock challenges such as speed runs or beating a boss with a single health wedge. These optional levels will provide a serious challenge to gamers thirsting for greater difficulty and will generally be out of the league of casual gamers. Super Mario Galaxy 2 feels fresh despite not having the element of originality, being a game sequel. Levels constantly offer changing environments, with varying gravitational forces, game mechanics, and forced 2D/upside down game sections keeping players on their toes. The inventiveness of the level design is simply awesome.
It must be a good sign when it is difficult to write a game review because you run out of superlatives to describe it, and would rather be playing it than writing it. Gaming mastermind Miyamoto is back at his very best and every Wii owner should definitely have this game in their collection. At ButtonMasher we don’t believe in giving review “scores”, but this game is about as close to the perfect 10 as I will likely play in my life. It improves on the Super Mario Galaxy formula and takes the gameplay further. The only fault that could be levelled at the game is that it is not as ground-breaking as the Super Mario Galaxy which was hugely original at the time of release. But that is unnecessary nit-picking that detracts from the real class of Super Mario Galaxy 2. Having said that, I won’t go against tradition and score it a 10 – let’s hope we can be “wowed” by a mind-blowing Super Mario 3 in the near future.
If you have a Wii and don’t have Super Mario Galaxy (are you kidding me?) then ensure you grab your pennies and get this game immediately. Owners of the original game should similarly look at add this game to their collection as the incredible value this game offers, entirely justifies the purchase. Believe the hype – this is one outstanding game worth buying a Wii to play.