Super Mario Galaxy is arguably the best Mario game ever made.
It offers a similar set-up to plumber’s previous two 3D platformers: the aim is search out a myriad of levels for well-hidden power stars, used to make further progress in the game by unlocking new stages as you inch your way closer to your long-time nemesis, Bowser. The difference here is that each level is a miniature galaxy comprised of many planets and other celestial bodies that turns the conventional 3D Mario formula upside down and spins it around continuously to reach dizzying heights.
For the first time ever in any 3D video game, all angles are covered. That is, if Mario walks off the edge of a planet - some of which are four times his size, others factoring in the thousands - he will continue walking along upside down to reappear from the other side. This mechanic can be somewhat disorientating at the start since the camera can’t be controlled freely a la Mario Sunshine, but the set angles are generally very good and you won’t be fighting it anywhere near as much as you had to in Mario 64.
Each planet could be considered to be an individual platforming challenge that Mario must overcome. Sometimes it is simply a matter of carefully running over to the next launch star that will send you soaring over to another planet, but oftentimes you will have to weave between a large variety of enemy types and survive several environmental hazards such as spurting lava, mobile electric fences and platforms that crumble under your weight just to catch a glimpse of your way out. You may only be aiming for a single power star each time you enter a galaxy, but there are a ton of challenges that you’ll have to conquer if you hope to get there making Galaxy at least twice as long as Mario 64 and Sunshine that came before it.
The variety of levels and the variety seen within levels are simply amazing. There are sections when the focus shifts to a 2D perspective and these play out like the best parts of New Super Mario Bros. and even better in some cases. Remember those times in the 2D Mario games when the screen would automatically scroll from left to right forcing you to keep a quick and steady pace? They have been faithfully recreated here in the form of surprise trigger events such as a volcano that is rapidly sinking into the lava, or an inverted transparent container that’s rapidly filling up with sand as you struggle to escape its labyrinthine interior (and upside down, too, no less!).
It gets even better later on when comets are introduced which greatly affect the gravity of the situation. The effects range from making enemies move faster or placing you in a one-hit-death scenario, to having to race against a shady clone of yourself or speed running solo. 100 purple coin challenges are in here, too, for the brave. These make for some of the most challenging 3D courses ever devised (and they aren’t difficult for the wrong things, i.e. a wonky camera).
The Nintendo Wii has had a dearth of quality games after its initial glowing debut, but the promises of revolutionary gameplay have started to come to fruition. Galaxy is a 3D platformer that redefines how we play platformers. Everything you loved about the 2D AND 3D Mario games has made its way across to Nintendo’s latest baby, and apart from a handful of niggling camera/control issues, it’s more perfect than you could possibly imagine. If there was only one reason to get a Wii, this would be it.