You’ve got to hand it to Shigeru Miyamoto. Year after year the man seems to put out an endless stream of fantastic Nintendo games, and in case you hadn’t guessed it, Super Mario Galaxy is no exception. Actually, that is a terrible understatement.
As a spiritual sequel to the undeniably revolutionary Super Mario 64, and the (ahem) less-than-stellar Super Mario Sunshine, Super Mario Galaxy brings everyone’s favourite plumber into outer space, continuing his wacky platform antics across multiple different themed galaxies, while still keeping the great Mario formula alive with coin collecting, fireball throwing, and of course, rescuing the Princess.
You’d think Mario would have had enough of this by now. Happily dancing across the mushroom kingdom is our dungaree-clad hero when who should attack but the evil King Bowser in a gargantuan spaceship. Nabbing the Princess, he makes haste into the stars leaving Mario and co. behind. And of course, it’s up to Mario to get her back.
I find that the real wonder of Mario Galaxy lies in how charming everything is. Your hub world, (in the shape of an enormous space station) is littered with little star like creatures called Lumas. The Lumas help Mario across his entire adventure, giving him hints on where to go next or even transforming into helpful objects. These little creatures add so much personality to even the most colourful of decorated levels, and almost everything in Mario Galaxy seems to be bursting with life and animation. Even the earlier levels, which are substantially smaller than the later ones, are beautifully rendered and it’s a remarkable feat for the Wii. In short, Galaxy is unlike anything you would have ever seen before.
As in the previous 3D Mario games, gameplay is played out through different missions of levels that are accessible through the main hub world. Pick a level, pick a mission and off you go. Mario’s job is to navigate a whole sea of obstacles and platforming nasties until he can reach the level goal and obtain a Star, which can be used to go and fight Bowser and rescue the Princess. Whilst the format is all pretty standard as has come to be expected, the gameplay itself really is unlike anything else.
One thing that makes this game stand out above every platformer that I’ve ever played is that no two levels are the same. That’s easily said but Galaxy manages to keep things fresh constantly throughout the game without faltering. One level may have you getting from A to B in the traditional sense, but the next may have you navigating a giant sea to look for coins on a jet-powered turtle shell! Although recent platform games do tend to try and mix things up with levels of different formats, Galaxy does it in such a way that it feels natural, none of the differences seem tacked on or feel like they haven’t been though through properly. It would take forever to describe how different the levels really are, but two personal favourites of mine included escaping a giant volcano as fire Mario, and skating in a race against an evil Ice Mario on sheets of ice floating through space – sheets of ice that are so small that the tiniest mistake will set you back to the start!
And that’s another thing; the majority of the stages are exactly the right level of challenging. They will test your nerve, you will lose lives, but all in all, you will get the job done and feel absolutely fantastic about yourself when you do. Aside from some of the later missions which are nigh on impossible (and quite frustratingly so, actually), most missions are an absolute joy and you will find yourself sailing through the game with the biggest of grins on your face.
The control scheme works pretty well considering that all of Mario’s attacks are motion orientated. Mario is moved with the control stick, you jump with A, but all of Mario’s offensive moves, whether they be the classic spin, or a kick, are all mapped to a wave of the Wii remote. It works well most of the time; on the odd occasion you will find that Mario has spun around earlier than you have prompted him to, but these occasions are too few to ever get massively annoying.
The game makes good use of the motion controls. Mario can be warped around levels by jumping into warp stars. Once inside these huge range floating devices, you can shake the Wii remote to make the star spin, and eventually launch Mario around the level. The star makes a satisfying launch noise and an even more pleasing vibration of the Wii remote. You can also point the remote on screen at any time at “Star Bits” – colourful crystals that populate the levels, to pick them up. Collecting enough gives Mario an extra life, but you can also fire any star bits you’ve collected at enemies to stun them with a quick press of the B button. It’s an excellent lightgun-esque addition to the series that actually works really well. What’s more is that you can fire them at Lumas, who will eat them, and love you forever.
Progression through the levels opens up Boss stages. Most of these stages are excellent and challenging, among other things, but a real disappointment is that the fights with Bowser, of which there are three in the whole game, are exactly the same. This isn’t an exaggeration. Once you have figured out how to kill him in the first fight, you simply need repeat it for the next two. It’s a shame because the rest of the game has had so much thought put into it.
And after all of the hours I have poured into Mario Galaxy, this was the only fault I could find. The game is absolutely superb and so very unique. There is enough personality and challenge to keep you busy for absolutely ages and what’s more is that you will actually have fun during the process. The game is so damn near perfection I could come close to calling it a work of art, but the best I can really say is that you will find no better platformer this side of the universe (space pun definitely intended), and if you love your games than you simply need Mario Galaxy.
Hi-Score – Challenging, charming and epic adventure, fantastic differentiation between levels, doesn’t ever get boring.
Lo-Score – Some uninspiring boss fights, certain missions are horrendously difficult.
Final Score – 9 out of 10