Developer: Nintendo / Publisher: Nintendo / ESRB: Everyone (Mild Cartoon Violence) / Played on: Wii / Price: $49.99
Hi, my name is Brendon Schulze and like it or not, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is probably going to be the best reviewed game of 2010. Does it live up to the expected accolades or will it garner attention simply because of the word Mario in the title? Everything you need to know is right ahead.
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If you’ve played the first Super Mario Galaxy, you’re going to find yourself in familiar territory. All the same mind-warping, gravity defying elements are in place. You’ll immediately notice that the observatory from the first game has been replaced with a more traditional, Mario-style world map, and this is a far more streamlined approach to get you on your way to 120 stars. You now have Starship Mario to navigate the universe. On board you can deposit stars and coins, harvest extra lives, and appreciate your accomplishments through various decorative characters that adorn the flying Mario-head. Navigating the level-map is a breeze, even for those unfamiliar with the first game.
But how do the levels play? The level design in Super Mario Galaxy 2 is unparalleled and, ultimately, the real heart of the whole experience. From the familiarity of spontaneously shifting gravity and bounding across miniature planets to newer takes on the classic haunted mansion and drills that allows Mario to go through planets, Super Mario Galaxy 2 keeps the most memorable level varieties from the first title and combines them with fresh ideas. Despite having to combine patience with cracker-jack timing all within a techno-colored MC Escher painting, the level design remains extremely intuitive, rarely leaving you guessing where to go next.
The most obvious addition to the Mario Galaxy cast is that of Yoshi. The popular sidekick–who shows up immediately on the first level–is loads of fun as you devour enemies and use power-ups such as speed-inducing peppers and blueberries that turn him into a blimp. While Mario’s bee and spring power-ups return, you’ll find some new tricks up his plumber-sleeves. Cloud and Rock Mario make their debut and aid in the solution to platforming puzzles that are fun, challenging, but never hinder the momentum of the game. Along with these new faces of Mario, some familiar foes return from the first game, along with some older baddies from the rogue’s gallery. And while Luigi was unlockable upon the completion of the first Super Mario Galaxy, he is playable very early on here and provides some nice variety with slightly looser controls.
One of my big complaints with the first Super Mario Galaxy was the lack of difficulty without an option to change it. The whole experience was rich and rewarding, but it was hardly taxing, and while it may be my out-of-practice Wii skills but Super Mario Galaxy 2 definitely seemed to ramp up the difficulty level. The combination of patience and timing is crucial and I found myself on my last life more than once. And with 240 stars in total, Comet Medals, and more Star Bits than you know what to do with, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is going to keep you occupied for a long time to come.
It is no small feat for a game to throw out the rules of physics as we understand them, yet remain grounded with accessible controls. Nintendo stuck with the scheme from the first game so you have a pretty good idea of what to expect. Jumps, ground-pounds, and spins all return with the new power-ups in play like old favorites. The controls for Yoshi brilliantly utilize the reticule as an aiming device for his tongue. Just point, click, and eat. Much like the level design, the controls are remarkably intuitive, quick to master, and allow the gameplay to shine.
This is one of the few games on the Wii that didn’t make me yearn for greater hardware power. It’s a true testament to the idea that if you put gameplay first, everything else will fall in line. Each world has it’s own unique look, all painted with a beautifully vibrant palette that leaves you perfectly content with the capability of the system.
As it has always been a crucial component in the Mario realm, the sound here keeps the tradition alive. The larger, orchestral style from the first game return, accenting the huge scope of the adventure. There are also some classic themes returning throughout the game and, yes, the Yoshi noises are spot-on.
My biggest concern with Super Mario Galaxy 2 was whether it could match the shocking originality and novelty of its predecessor. It seemed a near-impossible task, but make no mistake, Super Mario Galaxy 2 improves on nearly every aspect of the original, creating an experience that is just as fresh and just as exciting as that first trip around the galaxy. In fact, I would argue that playing to the strengths of the original game has given Nintendo the opportunity to craft one of the most impressive titles not only of the year, but in this generation of consoles. I’ve just given you a laundry-list of reasons why this game is good. yetSuper Mario Galaxy 2 manages to be even greater than the sum of its parts. Simply, it’s phenomenal fun. It’s all the reasons why I started playing games in the first place. It’s exciting, original, fearlessly imaginative and will almost certainly be my favorite game this year. While I don’t believe in a perfect game, I believe this is pretty damn close.