There is no game like a Nintendo first party game. You can try to deny this, but you’re not fooling anybody. No matter your genre of choice, there remains something almost indefinably pure and gratifying about sitting down to an experience that has been meticulously, lovingly designed simply to be fun. You remember fun, don’t you? That Super Mario Galaxy 2 provides just such an experience should come as no surprise.
I don’t wish to go too deep into spoiler territory with my first impressions of Super Mario Galaxy 2. So skip the rest of this sentence if you don’t want to know that the whole story is set in motion when… Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach! Shocking, I know. I apologize if I’ve given away too much.
Bowser, who is really, really big this time around, nabs our fair Princess and high-tails it to the center of the galaxy. Needless to say, only one man can save her.
The story-book sequence that begins the game also functions as a bit of a tutorial, with players controlling Mario as the scene plays out. You won’t have mastered all of Mario’s moves by the end of it, but you’ll be running and jumping and spin attacking proficiently.
Right away, you’ve got to notice how good this game looks. Everything looks sharp and smooth and animates fluidly. Textures boast a lot of detail, lighting is dynamic, and everything looks nice and glossy. Galaxy 2 is a great looking game, and not just for the Wii.
The score, too, is consistently charming as it ebbs and flows through the game. Pleasantly orchestral, it dynamically frames the action when Mario faces off against his enemies.
Though it doesn’t greatly surpass the bar set by Galaxy 1, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is both technically sound and aesthetically attractive. It should flat out embarrass developers who’ve never spent the time to make their Wii titles look half this good. But, as everyone knows, Mario titles aren’t really about looks. Mario is all about gameplay.
Controlling Mario in Galaxy 2 is exactly like controlling Mario in Galaxy 1. Which is to say, the control is perfect. Mario is agile and responsive. Though the game is designed to be playable with just the simple run and jump controls, the Triple Jump, Long Jump, and (especially) Backward Somersault really allow players a measure of creativity in how they tackle the game’s many challenges. Motion control is kept to a minimum – shaking the Wii Remote while on the ground will execute Mario’s Spin Attack. In the air, it gives a little extra boost to Mario’s jumps.
So, Mario’s controls really haven’t changed from the first game. The same can not be said for the Co-Star Luma, controlled with just the Wii Remote by a second player. In addition to the Star Bit collecting/firing abilities carried over from Galaxy 1, player 2 can now grab Coins as well as certain power ups, and even defeat some enemies. Playing as Co-Star Luma is much more fun, and much more useful, this time around.
There is a third character to control here, as well. Mario’s sage companion, friendliest of the friendly dinosaurs, Yoshi finally makes the scene in Galaxy 2. Yoshi makes effective use of the Wii’s control scheme. He will try to eat whatever you identify with the Remote’s pointer. Whatever he can’t eat, he’ll smack with his tongue. If his mouth is full, he’ll spit the contents wherever you point.
In an early level, Yoshi eats a pile of hot peppers, which cause him to take off like the proverbial bat-out-of-the-bad-place. While pepper powered, Yoshi can run straight up the sides of some platforms. In this state he’s harder to steer, he’ll fall if he hits an obstacle, and you can’t make him stop.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 largely takes place on a series of small planetoids and abstract, hovering platform constructs. The genius in this approach is that there is no need for anything that doesn’t directly play into the design of a level. Everything serves a gameplay purpose. Exploration, platforming, collecting, conflict — every aspect of Mario’s gameplay is thoroughly exploited by the level design.
Mario’s designers are an inventive bunch, and right from the very beginning of the game, anywhere you think there might be something hiding, be it a Coin, an extra life, or a pipe to a bonus stage, there almost certainly is.
This is good, because you’re going to want to find all the Coins and Star Bits that you can. In the economy of the game, one hundred of either will earn you a free Mario. But Star Bits can also be traded for power ups or even bonus levels.