ONCE AGAIN Bowser has swiped Princess Peach and the Mushroom Kingdom is in a fl utter. Fortunately our favourite pot-bellied plumber is on the case and leaps into space to save her. It seems that the game is never really over for Mario, which is lucky for us because Super Mario Galaxy 2 is truly magnifi cent.
Across all consoles, this is the fi rst time I’ve reviewed and graded a game with a perfect score. Yep, Super Mario Galaxy 2 really is that good. From the minute I fi rst started playing it knocked my socks off. As impossible as it seems, SMG2 actually outshines the brilliance of its famous predecessor, Super Mario Galaxy (one of the most highly ranked Wii titles ever).
I’d expected to be disappointed; after all, sequels are all too often disenchanted cash cows. Plus SMG was so incredibly innovative in its use of 3D platforming that it left boots too massive to fi ll. However in the case of Super Mario Galaxy 2 excellence has actually been improved upon, because the game's developers have taken the gravity-defying gameplay that we love so much in amazing new directions. Oh, and they’ve fi xed some of the niggles found in Super Mario Galaxy along the way.
I’m getting ahead of myself though, so let’s look at the basics fi rst. As Nintendo points out, this is the fi rst real Mario sequel in years (three years, actually). Though we saw a recent incarnation in 2009’s New Super Mario Bros. Wii, this is retro Mario at his fi nest. Everything you love about our favourite Italian is here, and even the most cynical of gamers will be charmed by the nostalgia of this re-energised and polished addition. Be warned though, SMG2 is highly addictive; it’s hard to even write this review when I could be playing…
In between combing the universe for Bowser and his pretty prisoner, Mario’s deep-space adventure is focused around saving the ‘power stars’ stolen by the massive brute - you must collect them to fi nish the game. This time around Mario teams up with Yoshi, his adorable ride-on dinosaur pal. Speaking of which, as with the original Nintendo titles, this game has major cute appeal - even the bosses at level ends are endearing. But back to Yoshi: he’s a fun and functional addition and can fl utter, jump and gulp/spit out baddies with his tongue, alongside a few extra tricks with the right diet.
So how about the gameplay? In 2007 SMG blew our minds, and though incorporating the same foundations, SMG2 is even more diverse and imaginative. I’d go as far as saying it’s even more fun too. Though the goal is unchanged (platform jumping through levels to get to the shiny star), so much of this experience is new: fresh level designs, more creative and fulfi lling challenges, and fabulous new powers with which to transform Mario. Incidentally, all the power-ups are pretty darn cool, but my favourite is the drill Mario can use to furiously tunnel through one side of a planet to another.
Playing Super Mario Galaxy 2 is such a delightful experience. Even navigating through the galaxies is a lot smoother this time around with the addition of a simplifi ed world map that is a throwback to 2D Mario games. When it comes to steering Mario through the 3D landscape and performing his array of moves, it’s clear that Nintendo has defi nitely done some polishing work because player control is very tight and responsive. Well worth noting is that the camera work (the one real bone of contention in SMG1) has been knocked into shape and provides a clear default view almost constantly, though you can adjust the angle to your preference if necessary.
A second player can come onboard in a supportive role and can help in a limited capacity by taking out minor enemies and collecting goodies. It’s a little like being an extra on a big-budget fi lm set, but it’s nice to have the option.
Evoking the original series, the beginning of the game starts in 2D platform perspective. This wistful reminder of old-school Mario actually serves as tuition for navigating our wee plumber through the 3D terrain to come. In fact, the perspectives continue to chop and change throughout, which keeps things interesting.
Visually Super Mario Galaxy 2 is stunning. The Wii is hardly known for its graphical prowess, but perhaps it should be, because this production is remarkable. The vibrant galaxies, planets, worlds and expertly designed characters are a joy to look at and explore. Everything is colourful and crisp, and the attention to detail is amazing. What really seals the sensory deal, however, is the soundtrack. It mixes classic Mario tunes from yesteryear with a fresh track that nicely stitches together the retro aspects of the game with the cool contemporary additions that technology has afforded.
This is very much a ‘pick up and play’ title suitable for most gamers, and credit to Nintendo for this, because the game is actually very long and fi lled with amazing challenges and objectives. It’s kind of a case of ‘you get out what you put in’, because there is literally weeks’ worth of intricate gameplay available here if you put in the hard yards and unlock extra challenges.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is exceptional, and is undeniably the new benchmark against which all platform games will be considered. This is defi nitely Mario’s best gig yet.