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|“Super Mario Galaxy 2”: Fun Play Propels Tired Story|
|Lifestyle - Gaming|
|Written by Luke Hamilton|
|Wednesday, 09 June 2010 05:52|
2007's Super Mario Galaxy followed the tradition of Mario games moving platforming in a new direction. The consistently changing gravity combined with the series' top-tier movement controls delivered an experience that felt familiar but different at the same time. While it was a fun gameplay experience, the story was too bland to hold my interest against competing titles such as Mass Effect. Two and a half years later, the Wii exclusive Super Mario Galaxy 2 offers dozens of new levels to explore and power-ups to abuse. The game is just as gratifying as its predecessor, but it once again leaves a bitter taste in my mouth with its retread plot.
If you've ever played a Super Mario game, you already know what's going on: Bowser kidnaps Princess Peach, and Mario comes to the rescue. The story elements are bizarre, with Bowser flying off into space as you make chase on a planet/spaceship shaped like Mario's head, but we don't come to this party for the narrative; we come to collect stars. Keeping with Mario's 3D tradition, every level has stars to grab to complete it, with difficulty ranging from a walk in a park to insanely tricky, akin to hopping on one leg through a minefield, blindfolded. You have limited freedom to choose the level you want to play; you're required to collect a certain number of stars to reach later levels.
The controls are everything a seasoned Mario player expects. Running and jumping are perfectly responsive, delivering the level of precision needed for those hard-to-reach places and narrow landing zones. Shaking the Wii remote performs Mario's spin attack, and if used mid-air it grants him an extra half-second of hang time that can make or break your landing when navigating moving terrain. It's nothing too complex for a beginner to pick up and understand, but deep enough to push dedicated players to their limits in the harder stages.
Power-ups are another staple of Mario's repertoire, and Super Mario Galaxy 2 doesn't skimp on them. Rather than being strewn through every level as upgrades, they're limited to specific instances where you're required to use them to progress. The classic Fire Flower is used in ice worlds to melt pathways, the Rock Mushroom gives Mario a boulder suit to ram obstacles, and so on. The dinosaur Yoshi also returns; just hop on and let him gobble up enemies and get you through other tight spots with his own power-ups for speed or flight.
While the power-ups can be fun, they make gameplay a bit sporadic. An awful lot of the levels change the rules and controls with these (e.g., swimming or briefly touching water cancels out certain power-ups), and some may only be used once or twice during the entire game, making them almost pointless to learn. It's a bit daunting to adapt to so many control variations, and it's frustrating when you only use one a few times.
While the game is generous in its effort and design, I once again had a strange love/hate relationship during my time playing. Rather than being excited about sitting down to play, I forced myself to start the game and suffer through the same old story. Other classic franchises such as Mega Man and Castlevania have developed their stories into new and compelling tales while retaining series staples, but Mario's narrative has remained the same since the late '80s.
Yet once I start a level, the adrenaline starts flowing as I'm leaping from area to area in the fast-paced adventures in space. Make no mistake, the game is loaded with fun, but I've saved this princess from the same monster more times than I can bear.
The graphics are the sharpest you'll find on the Wii but still pale in comparison to HD gaming systems. Levels are bright and colorful, immersing you in the space fantasy. The gravity mechanics can be a lot of fun to toy with, especially when running around on a small sphere, taking a fast and long leap, and seeing how long you can keep floating as it keeps trying to pull you back down. An orchestrated soundtrack rounds out the presentation with fantastic melodies that chisel themselves into your memory.
Overall, I liked Super Mario Galaxy 2 a great deal and can recommend it to fans young and old, even though my preference for games with detailed stories left me longing for something more.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is now available on Nintendo Wii for $49.95. For this review, the author completed the main story, collecting 70 of 120 stars.
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