Out of this world!
While the original Super Mario Galaxy was a massive and highly replayable game, that didn't stop fans from wanting more. Thankfully Nintendo has broken with tradition by delivering this follow-up, marking the first time the company has ever released a direct sequel to a 3D Mario game. But one question hangs over the title: Is it just more of the same?
At times the red plumber's second interstellar outing feels much like its predecessor, carrying over many of the first game's mechanics. Playing as Mario you'll run and jump around 3D playgrounds and 2D platform environments, performing spin-attacks and jumping on enemies' heads as you again bid to rescue Princess Peach from her captor Bowser, but in Galaxy 2 no two experiences are quite the same. There are loads of surprises and new ideas running through the adventure, which is arguably even better than the original, itself widely considered to be one of the Wii's best games.
New powers and old friends
Galaxy 2 has a more streamlined approach to gameplay than its predecessor. Nintendo has reduced the amount of lengthy, story-based cut scenes and dispensed with the first game's large hub world from which you accessed levels, replacing it with a simpler top down map. This allows for a longer, less fussy game that gets straight to the business of collecting stars, which power your spaceship across the galaxies and toward your ultimate goal.
There are loads of surprises and new ideas running through this adventure, which is arguably even better than the original.
While our hero acquires a number of abilities that were present in the original game, turning him into the likes of Fire Mario and Bee Mario, plenty of new power-ups add variety and introduce incredibly inventive new ways to tackle levels. Cloud Mario sees you drop up to three fluffy platforms beneath your feet using flicks of the controller, enabling you to climb to higher locations, and Rock Mario propels you forward at speed, knocking down all that stands in you way. Meanwhile, Drill Mario can dig through planets, allowing you to quickly shoot from one side to the other, creating new pathways and surprising enemies.
The game also sees the return of Yoshi, Mario's green dinosaur friend. Far more than just a trusty steed, Yoshi boasts a pointer-based gobble attack that lets you swallow and spit out foes, as well as a tongue that can be used to swing from one hook to the next and a floaty jump useful for traversing platforms. Yoshi also introduces some of the game's best power-ups, including spicy dash peppers which send you stampeding around vertical mazes at great speed, and blimp fruit which puff you up like a hot air balloon, requiring you to dodge enemies and spiky obstacles as you ascend to higher spots.
Series veterans will be pleased to hear that Nintendo has upped the difficulty level in Super Mario Galaxy 2. Whether melting or sinking, or changing perspective or form as you journey along them, surfaces generally refuse to remain still, making the game increasingly challenging. Acquiring stars can occasionally be a frustrating process, particularly in the later worlds, but there are very few occasions where death feels like a result of bad design instead of player error, and you'll constantly want to have one more go at collecting those elusive items.
The sheer imagination is arguably unrivalled.
But you don't have pick up all of the stars to finish the game, and this is just one way that Galaxy 2 refuses to leave newcomers behind. Fail to beat bosses and a 'cosmic guide' will show you how to progress, although you'll be rewarded with a bronze star for completing the level rather than a gold one. Optional video tutorials that give you tips and a better grasp of Mario's capabilities are also available via TV screens dotted around the game.
As an evolution of the 3D Mario formula rather than a revolution, Galaxy 2 might lack some of the impact carried by its excellent predecessor back in 2007, but by combining new powers and ideas with tried and tested ones, it manages to feel both familiar and refreshingly new.
Effortlessly mixing 3D playgrounds with mazy 2D environments, the sheer imagination present in each of its gorgeous galaxies, addictive mini-games and varied boss fights is arguably unrivalled in the genre, providing tens of hours of addictive adventuring for age-old Mario fans and series newcomers alike.
- Like the first game, only bigger and better.
- It features Yoshi and some great new abilities.
- Brimming with imagination, it's perhaps the best platform game ever.
- Lacks some of the original's impact.
- It's evolutionary rather than revolutionary.
- Repeated failure can make some later challenges a little frustrating.