A game of this caliber, and with Shigeru Miyamoto behind it, simply couldn’t go wrong, so when we heard about a new Super Mario Galaxy back at last year’s E3, we got very excited. The second Super Mario Galaxy brings to the table the same bag of tricks we saw in the first one, but not without many interesting additions that spice things up, sometimes literally.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 tells the story of a kidnapped princess, a devastated mushroom kingdom, and stolen Luma stars. No doubt, this sounds familiar, but the worlds Mario explores this time around and the way he does it are still different. The remaining Luma stars want to help Mario save the princess while he helps them recover the lost stars, so they build a ship for him to allow him to travel back and forth between galaxies. This charming, Mario head-shaped home base makes it a breeze to navigate between worlds and obtain new power-ups while at it.
When you take the helm, you’ll be sent to a map screen where you can pick the next level you’d like to play. Much like a classic Mario game, the chart often splits up into a couple different paths, letting you choose your preferred route to the castles and Bowser’s ship. In order to open up new levels, you’ll have to pass at least one of the stages within the current level. That’s usually an easy feat, as the stages are wonderfully engineered to get players through it at a fast pace. However, if you are a completionist, you may want to make sure you’ve explored every corner and examined every suspicious object, as there are tons of hidden goodies throughout the levels.
This 3D platformer has a lot of what we saw in the first SMG, starting with flashy and delightful environments, full of amusing and unique characters ranging from the typical goomba to squeezy beetles, bouncy spiders, and the likes. The entire Super Mario line-up is there in one way or another, making us giggle while enjoying every moment of it. Every level has a new thing to add, whether it’s gravity changes that make you walk upside-down, a drill that lets you perforate the planet just so you can come out in the other side, a new travel companion that helps you through the toughest obstacles, or varied power-ups.
Mario can do a lot on his own, from swimming and diving to double and triple-jumping, wall-jumping, spinning descent for a smooth landing, ice skating, somersaults, etc. He can also stomp on most enemies and get coins or star bits as a reward, but some of them require a different approach, such as spin attack, a grab and a throw, or even a ground-pound.
Each galaxy you step on is a world full of surprises, keeping the gameplay fresh and innovative throughout. Although there are a few of them, my favorite new power-up is the cloud. With this costume, Mario gets to summon up to three clouds by simply jumping and swinging the Wii Remote. These temporary platforms give you access to new heights, as well as helping you get through chasms when things are spread apart. They disappear in no time, but they last long enough to get you to the next platform, where oftentimes a new cloud power-up awaits.
Other new special powers include the rock, which turns Mario into a boulder that can break through objects that a spin simply couldn’t do, not to mention the devastating effects it has over enemies! Also, in some levels, you’ll find a Yoshi egg that will hatch when you hit it. If you hop on over him, he’ll take you to areas you couldn’t reach by yourself, in part thanks to his fluttering abilities. Also, he can reach out for items with his tongue, being able to swallow enemies and even throw some of them in the desired direction. In addition, you’ll see flower grapple points he can grab onto with his tongue, swinging across gaps and landing in hard-to-reach areas.
Most of the Yoshi levels require his help to get through them, making for a nice change of pace. Some people might be hesitant about using Yoshi to get through platforming environments, but the fact is it’s been done beautifully; you won’t really want to get rid of him, as the advantages overcome the couple of mishaps you may encounter.
Two things may drive you crazy: one is when you get hit while riding Yoshi and he starts running away without you. You can chase him and hop back on, or you can wait until a new egg hatches, sometimes in a not-so-convenient location. The second problem is also partly fun. Yoshi can swallow spicy peppers; these Dash Peppers make him run around like crazy, and only you can control the direction. If he crashes against a wall or runs into an obstacle, he’ll turn around and keep on running, which sometimes has lamentable results such as free-falling off the stage and losing a life. Complaints apart, this is actually a neat power-up that lets you dash uphill like a champ and even run on water.
If you find a Blimp Fruit, you have to eat it. Yoshi will inflate like a balloon and rise up for a short period of time! You can then float in the desired direction and even decide when to stop rising by hitting A. This comical moment is also quite useful, though perhaps not as much as when you eat a Bulb Berry and reveal hidden paths with a mysterious golden light.
Returning power-ups that don’t involve Yoshi include the Bee Mario suit that gives you brief hovering abilities, Rainbow Mario, which makes you invincible for a bit, Boo Mario, which lets you float and turns you transparent so you can get through certain walls, and finally, Spring Mario, the one that lets you bounce around and go higher than ever!
With so many abilities, one has to wonder how they crammed it all into the controls. Fortunately, they did a great job, having players move Mario (and others!) with the control stick, jumping with A, and swinging the Wii Remote to spin. Pressing Z after a jump will cause a ground-pound, and when you’re on the ground it lets you crouch. C re-centers the camera, and B lets you grab objects and snag-attach grapple points when riding with Yoshi. Of course, there are many other moves assigned to different controls, but what’s most important is there’s no abuse of the motion-activated controls, which becomes very tiresome in other games.
As you can imagine, the orchestral soundtrack of Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a real masterpiece. It includes plenty of wonderful and varied background tunes for the different levels, and it makes you feel right at home. Other than hums and little yelps, there isn’t a whole lot of voice acting, which is not a bad thing for a Mario game.
One of the best qualities of SMG2 is the speedy gameplay and the multitude of levels spread out into several different worlds within an ever-expansive universe. Even when you think you’re done, you’ll realize there are plenty of unlockable galaxies you’ll get to explore with time. Finding the hidden coins and chatting with mysterious characters will be your tickets to exciting new worlds you won’t want to miss. Also, if you want to share the game with a friend, things are a bit more attractive for the second player this time around, allowing him/her to stun and spin-attack enemies with their cursor, as well as pick up star bits and other collectables in the background.
If this doesn’t sound like a fun and complete game to you, you are crazy. Of course, Super Mario is not for everyone, and perhaps 3D Mario platforming versus the four-player 2D, side-scrolling Super Mario that was released back in November isn’t much. I know some may prefer that, but the truth is – here lies yet another wonderful game that any true Mario fan shouldn’t miss. It’s been made with love, and it shows!
RATING OUT OF 5 RATING DESCRIPTION 5.0 Graphics
Same flashy, delightful graphics seen in the first game bring Mario’s universe back to life. 4.5 Control
Solid controls make it easy to navigate through the galaxies, explore hidden areas, stomp on enemies, and hop and spin to wreak havoc. Levels with Yoshi are mostly a breeze due to his agile moves and fluttering abilities. 4.8 Music / Sound FX / Voice Acting
Music and sound effects bring back the tradition and make you feel right at home. Voice acting is very limited, but perfect. 5.0
It’s a 3D Mario platformer. How could you miss it? With the amount of levels available, unlockables, and the engaging, speedy gameplay, you’ll have a heck of a good time!
4.9 Overall Rating – Must Buy
Not an average. See Rating legend above for a final score breakdown.