Gaming My Way

10 Jun

Super Mario Galaxy 2 Review

Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the most fun I’ve had playing a platformer in a long time. I haven’t played the first Galaxy game, however, so bear in mind anything new from that game was new to me in playing this game as well.

Still, not since the days of full 2d Mario have I had this much fun playing a Mario game. I very much appreciate that Mario has gone back to a linear level design, and the goal is to make the jumps, stomp the enemies, and find the star at the end of the level, rather than exploring to find it hidden somewhere in the level. While there are some hidden stars, the majority of them are just at the end of some great, straightforward platforming.

Naturally, if the game were just jumping and avoiding enemies, there wouldn’t be much more to it than it’s predecessors. But the inclusion of power-ups, both new and old, really keeps the game fresh and allows it to vary challenges quite a bit. Some old favorites that are returning are the fire flower and Yoshi, and frankly, it’s about time. I’ve been waiting to see these appear in the new Mario games, and it’s a very welcome homecoming for these two. (Note: I’m aware the fire flower was in the original Super Mario Galaxy, but again, I haven’t played that yet.) Roasting enemies is great, as is the old standby of eating them then spitting them out as weapons against other enemies. My favorite of the new additions is easily the cloud suit, as the ability to make your own platforms is something I rarely see in platform games. Definitely a great addition. There are others, naturally, and they are all used to craft different challenges. This helps keep the game fresh and entertaining over the course of it’s many galaxies.

This game also makes many transitions between 2d and 3d platforming. While the majority of the game is 3d platforming, there is a good deal of 2d platforming as well. The switch is never jarring and feels quite natural and smooth. The 2d sections play just as smooth and fun as old school Mario. The 3d sections manage to keep this same feel while expanding gameplay options with the full freedom of 3d movement. Everything controls great, no matter how you’re playing.

Also keeping the game fresh is the occasional mini-game, such as navigating a bird through an obstacle laden sky and Whack-a-Mole style games where you have to rack up a big score in a short time (for a star, of course). Then, there are also the level redesigns for many of the alternative stars you’ll be chasing, making the level different enough so it doesn’t feel like you’re doing the same level over again.

In fact, my biggest complaint is about how the green stars are implemented. The green stars take everything great about the design of this game, and do away with it. This wouldn’t bother me, except for the fact that you must get all of the green stars to play the very last level of the game. The green stars are all exploring the levels for the little hints that, if you’re very observant, tell you one is nearby. This kills the linear platforming I loved while obtaining the majority of the gold stars. Then, as a nail in the coffin, these stars don’t change the levels up at all from what they were while looking for the gold stars. This does start to get repetitive after a time, especially when you miss the hints that point out the green stars.

I understand this exploration is something some people will enjoy, and for those in this boat, the green stars is where the game will really pick up for you. For those who enjoyed the original presentation, like me, this is where the game takes a serious nosedive in fun. Of course, going from one of the best 3d platformers available to still pretty fun isn’t exactly a scathing indictment, but I do wish Nintendo had stuck more closely to the gameplay the game began with, or allowed players to play the final level before going after the green stars. Either option would have been a good solution.

I will say that I like the addition of the Cosmic Guide. Basically, if you get very badly stuck, the Cosmic Guide appears and offers to play the level for you. This will result in a bronze star instead of the typical gold star, so you must play the level yourself for the good stuff. But, this also provides players a chance to play the rest of the game if they reach a part they find frustratingly difficult, and it also allows players to observe a technique that works for getting through the level. Both of these are great things for anyone having trouble, and add a lot to the game’s accessibility without taking away from it’s challenge to those who choose not to use these features.

Finally, there are plenty of creative boss fights that will pit you against giant monstrosities of different sorts. From towering robots you scale by making cloud platforms, newborn piranhas with a giant tether-ball tail, to Bowser himself, there’s a great variation of boss battles that all make use of different platforming skills. I do wish there was a bit more variation amongst the three Bowser battles, but that’s a very minor complaint when compared to the vast number of bosses through the game.

All in all, this is an excellent game, and definitely warrants a purchase. While the green stars drag it down a bit for me, if you’re any kind of platforming fan, you would still be doing yourself a great disservice if you avoided playing this because of them.

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