Review: Super Mario Galaxy
In space no one can hear you unblock toilets.
So here, we go another (relatively) new Nintendo console and another new Super Mario game. As regular as the seasons and just as disappointing when season is the wet drizzle of Mario Sunshine and not say the glorious summer of Super Mario World. Now I have always preferred the Banjo-Kazooie games to the various 3D incarnations of Mario saddled as they are with the stale conventions of rescuing a kidnapped princess Peach, jumping on kupa shells and avoiding chain-chomps. So let us quickly check off what I will graciously describe as some of the archetypal Mario elements present; Bowser: check, spinning gold coins: check, stars: big check and those godamned annoying shrooms: check.
Anyone who has played a platform game in 2D or 3D can tell you that what goes up must come down. So what happens in an environment where there is no up or down? With one small step for Nintendo Mario has left his familiar surroundings of the mushroom kingdom and taken a giant leap for gamer kind. Here you can fly through space, jump from one planetoid to another with a single bound or use your own momentum to slingshot around an orbiting satellite.
I am not doing a very good job of selling this game so far by making it sound like Mario does Resident Colin. So right, enough about Mario Sunshine and how shit it was (extremely shit) and the central gimmick (gravity) lets talk (as it where) about how fun this game is. This game is fun. There you go, it might not sound very impressive but in today’s market overflowing with twitch shooters, stealth assassination simulations and testosterone pumped cod sci-fi epics but it really does stand out and not just for the usual Nintendo brand saccharine flavoured aesthetic that drips from every pore of its cheerful exterior.
You find yourself craning your neck to watch Mario run across a giant robots head upside-down. You are having fun. You gently flick the Wiimote to slingshot Mario between stars inside an expansive minefield. You are having fun. You run rings around a cannon shell that you then dummy into a cage holding a star. You are having fun. You find one of Mario’s new ability suits and fly around like a fat moustached bumblebee. You are having fun. This game will make even the most jaded cynic (me) crack a smile like a smylex victim in the first throws of death. Even in those tricky sections that you will find Mario falling into a black hole because you mistimed a jump you will still be having fun despite losing life after life because of the same tricky hole or rotating flame jet.
The various mini games are fun even though some are saddled by over complex controls because Nintendo wanted everyone to use their Wiimote even though the nunchuck’s analogue stick would be a more natural and sensible choice. Amongst Mario new diversions is a Super Monkey Ball alike section with Mario stood atop a big sphere prone to over acceleration and a Waverace mode set on a tame stingray with shitty steering thanks to the aforementioned Wiimote control scheme.
The controls for the meat of the game are far more straightforward. The nunchuck analogue stick controls Mario’s running and walking, with Z doing a ground-pound and C (sometimes) allowing you to free-look. The Wiimote buttons lets you jump with A, access the menu and shoot star bits with the trigger, the reticule for which is motion controlled by pointing at the screen. Through a combination of these, you can perform most of Mario’s repertoire of 3D moves including triple jumps, wall kicks, ground slide and a spin attack. It doesn’t sound very original but after being encumbered with too many variant or just plain pointless moves before in 3D platform games the back to basics approach works well here given the originality of the nunchuck-Wiimote combo already being used.
Oh my starry-eyed surprise… It’s so very rare that you can say a trailer didn’t do justice to the final product, but then Mario Galaxy isn’t about any single gimmick (the elastic use of gravity) insomuch as every single level is a new experience – like in Super Monkey Ball – sharing that title’s mind-bending, eye-straining puzzle design for it’s worlds. While every Star-hunt is a set-piece in itself, most ‘galaxies’ share the common trait of small platforms surrounding large planetoids connected by what occasionally feel like stellar bus-lanes.This means that unlike 64 and Sunshine, you don’t have a flat expanse of land to explore, but that’s fine because you’ll rarely find anything flat that isn’t electrified. It’s only Mario’s simplicity of control that’s a steady constant is this bizarre, Little Nemo universe (where up is often down) and he never falters; allowing you to grin like a Cheshire Cat at every new surprise – though some of the harder Stars will make you spit fire. These are true achievements, after all.
In conclusion, there is no point in describing the soundtrack pastiche, textures sensual or audio phenomenal, as words are simply incapable. This isn’t game of the year, it’s game of the millennium.
Secondary Score: 10/10
Along with shooting star bits at enemies to slow them down, trigger switches the pointer collects them from the floating void around you and converts them into extra lives, or unlock new playing areas. Why this was done rather than use coins as before is a bit strange but given the space theme on display makes a bit more sense then finding coins by shaking trees or pounding on rocks. Soon wiping the screen down for them becomes second nature and does not become distracting unless you have a second player using the Wiimote to draw over the screen like some demented football commentator.
While the intergalactic setting makes fertile territory for new maps and locals, Mario Galaxy is still full of the same Bowser clan enemies and shroom allies as before save for the new Princess Peach stand in and her chubby star friends. New characters obviously were not the focus of the development team but just because it is, a sequel does not mean you should have to use the same characters you have been for the last twenty years. The franchise still has a way to go before its cast reaches the annoyance level of say the Sonic games but if Miyamoto does not hit the breaks soon I will be skipping the next entry in favour of Banjo and Kazooie.
So we conclude, is this the best game ever made? No. Does it deserve 10/10? Not by a long shot and for several key reasons, that need improvement before I will give it a “perfect” score. The gameplay is sublime and the presentation of graphics and music is amazing but all the original elements struggle to break free from the constants of being part of the Mario series. If you own a Wii, you should really buy this immediately but think twice about getting a Wii just to play Super Mario Galaxy as it just falls outside killer app classification.