Super Mario Galaxy 2, Wii – Review
Super Mario Galaxy 2 – £29.74 delivered
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Review by Bobby Foster
Seriously? You want to read about Super Mario Galaxy 2 instead of play Super Mario Galaxy 2? You are, quite simply, wasting precious moments of your life that could otherwise be spent enjoying the greatest videogame ever made. Really. Honestly. I promise I’m not just saying that to catch your attention.
The history here is well-worn but important. Shigeru Miyamoto gave us Donkey Kong a little under thirty years ago. You got to jump over barrels and occasionally smash the barrels up with a hammer, as you set about trying to save the kidnapped Pauline from the giant ape at the top of the screen.
Despite that the technology driving Miyamoto’s Mario games has gotten ever more powerful, none of these essential details have changed much in the past thirty years. Pauline might have been edged out in favour of Daisy or Peach or Rosalind (or whatever the bland token female might be called next), but the damsel in distress motif endures. The slightly too cuddly Donkey Kong was quickly replaced by a meaner, spikier and ever-growing Bowser, but his role was the same: irrational and unyielding tyrant. Even now that the action has evolved from taking place across a single screen to multiple planets, the game can still be boiled down to one core principle: “time jump well to get girl”.
It’s no coincidence that the biggest misstep Mario ever made was when Nintendo forgot these crucial tenets. The generously reviewed but massively disappointing Super Mario Sunshine changed the formula to “hose graffiti down to clean town”. It didn’t have the same ring to it and the game bored away all but the most devout of Mario fans before it had a chance to get interesting. Even Mario 64, in spite of the assuredness with which it first put Mario into three dimensions, suffered from a similar problem. It wasn’t a game that boiled down to just jumping. You had to explore. Retrace your steps. Play the same level six times over. Most notably, it was happy to throw you into situations where you didn’t know exactly what you were supposed to do next.
Okay it was a great game, but it wasn’t a proper Mario game.
Real Mario games are about obstacles courses- usually the most beautifully designed obstacle courses it’s possible for their host hardware to generate. They’re about getting from point A to point B without coming to harm. In Donkey Kong, it was obvious that “point B” was up there where the barrels were coming from. And in the original Super Mario Brothers, the screen was only capable of moving from left to right, so it was pretty clear which way you had to go. But in three dimensions? Who knew which way was forward? Even with the greatest level design in the world (and at the time it pretty much was), Mario 64 couldn’t communicate so effectively or consistently which way to go next.
The real triumph of the first Super Mario Galaxy was solving the conundrum of how to do a proper Mario game in 3D. By basing the action on small planets and firing the player between them in quick succession, it reinjected the pace of the 2D games, and was much better at compelling you to keep moving in the right direction. It also featured some of the greatest architecture ever featured in a game. (Yes, I’m calling the level design “architecture”- because I simply don’t believe it’s possible to be pretentious when you’re talking about something so exquisitely fit for purpose.) Unsurprisingly, nearly everybody loved it and – unlike Super Mario Sunshine – it truly deserved the universal acclaim.
What was left for the sequel to do? “More of the same” would have satisfied all of us who spent large amounts of time since the first game’s release wanting to rip out the tongue and tear off the fingers of anyone regurgitating that lazy unthinking nonsense that “the Wii doesn’t have any games for proper hardcore gamers”. And in some ways that’s what we’ve got: riotously inventive levels, a huge variety of challenges, and a generosity of ideas that most developers would spread across ten games and try to sell for £40 a pop.
Yet this isn’t just more of the same: it is by a long stretch a superior game to the original. The levels – in particular those that mess around with gravity and perspective – are braver and more ambitious, and ultimately more rewarding to play. Across the board it’s bigger and tougher, and whilst getting the 70 stars required to defeat Bowser should be within almost any player’s reach, collecting the additional 172 that lie beyond that point will be a severe test for even the most dexterous and patient. Happily, the unnecessarily convoluted hub system from the first game has been stripped back so there’s less pointless wandering about. The new power-ups open up entirely new ways of thinking about levels. Yoshi has been implemented superbly. The hairs on Mario’s moustache flap in the wind more convincingly than ever before…
Yep, it’s the greatest videogame ever made. Sure, you might want to deduct points because it wastes time at the start telling you nonsense like “ shimmering stardust falls on the Mushroom Kingdom only once a century”. Or you might think that the “daredevil” comet challenges (where you have to replay a level without taking a single hit) are just a little too frequent and unforgiving. You might even be disappointed that the camera, although pretty much perfect 99.9% of the time, isn’t quite as capable of psychically predicting where you want it to be as it would be in your geekiest dreams.
But that’s not the point.
The point is that in Super Mario Galaxy 2 we have a game that compels you to keep playing without the need for a cheap cliffhanger story. It doesn’t have to bother with the illusion of character development and a tedious slow-drip of upgrades, because in its unashamedly old skool way, it asks that the player, rather than the avatar, improves their skill level in order to progress. It’s got the confidence to frustrate you with challenging objectives, because it has enough faith in the sheer joyousness of what it’s presenting to you that it knows you’ll keep trying at it.
But really. Words words words… you’re still wasting time. This is simply the best a videogame has ever been. Go play it.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 – £29.74 delivered
Apply coupon “FTSL15-1″