Here is the game that Wii owners have been pining for, a game that has tons of appeal for both the less experienced player and the longtime gamer. A game that deftly combines accessibility and challenge, all wrapped up in a package that's both deep and addictive. Super Mario Galaxy is all of this and more. It is simultaneously one of Mario's best adventures and a game that doesn't require fandom of the portly plumber's previous engagements to appreciate. The sheer quality of Mario Galaxy's wonderful level designs, tight controls, and brilliant presentation is the sort of thing that just about anyone who loves gaming should be able to appreciate, and that many will fall head-over-heels for.
Mario takes to the stars in Super Mario Galaxy.
The premise for Mario Galaxy begins in fairly well-worn territory. Mario receives a note from his beloved Peach to come to the castle, for she has a special "gift" for him. He arrives, only to walk straight into chaos as Bowser and son arrive in a fleet of airships and use a giant UFO to pluck the Princess' castle right out of the ground. Mario gives chase, but is unable to rescue her before the fearsome twosome jet off into space. This all certainly sounds par for the course, but it's where Mario ends up that gives Mario Galaxy its own flavor. Mario eventually hooks up with a creature called a luma, from a race that looks like some kind of cross between an invincibility star and a headless chicken. The lumas are led by an enigmatic woman named Rosalina, who lives with them on a crazy spaceship called the comet observatory. Mario learns that Bowser has made off with a gaggle of power stars used to power the observatory. To reach Bowser's hideout, Mario has to travel to all the various galaxies in the universe to collect as many power stars as he can in order to power the ship back up, fly to the center of the universe, rescue the princess, and set everything right again.
Mario 64, anyone? If you played that seminal game, Mario Galaxy's star hunt progression probably sounds familiar to you. But apart from that basic structuring, you can hardly call Mario Galaxy a Mario 64 rehash. If anything, Mario Galaxy simply takes the basics of what made Mario 64 such a dynamite game, and turns them completely crazy.
The definition of crazy here has a lot to do with gravity and physics. Each galaxy contains a series of little worlds that can't even really be called planets so much as they are floating puzzles. In many of these worlds, Mario can walk just about anywhere. When he lands on a sphere, he can walk all over it, going sideways and upside down in the process. Sometimes you'll simply jump in one area and end up gravitating toward the ceiling or walls or even another nearby planetoid without even realizing it. Often Mario will need to track down launch stars, which, when you shake the Wii Remote while standing near or inside one, will send you flying to a whole new, previously inaccessible area. There are even sections where you'll be floating through space, using specialized pull stars to hop from area to area, all while floating through the spatial void.
Practically every galaxy you explore is an absolute joy to experience. The level designs here are top flight in every regard, with tons of clever and sometimes dastardly traps and puzzles for Mario to navigate. The difficulty doesn't start off terribly high, but as time goes on, the game ramps up nicely, building the challenge steadily until the final areas, which, though perhaps a bit frustrating to inexperienced players, provides the exact sort of tough workout you've come to expect from a Mario adventure. But even aside from the challenge level, simply exploring all these various galaxies is half the fun. Whether you're floating from land mass to land mass on a giant spinning flower, running frantically around a giant series of platforms that shrink to nothing the first time you touch them, or taking on one of several terrific 2D side-scrolling areas reminiscent of New Super Mario Bros. for the DS, you won't be wanting for variety while playing through Galaxy's dozens of levels.
In a sort of nod to the suit-happy gameplay of Super Mario Bros. 3, Mario can don a number of different costumes that give him new abilities. For instance, in several levels, Mario can take on the abilities of a bee, buzzing around through the air via his new pair of wings, and wall-climbing specific honeycombed areas of the environment. With others, Mario can freeze water to walk over it, launch fireballs (natch), fly, wrap himself in a Mario-sized spring and jump to great heights, turn invincible (natch, again) and even turn into one of those pesky boos, allowing him to float around and pass through some solid walls. In most cases, the game takes great advantage of these abilities in the context of each level. A few involving the bee suit are a bit frustrating (given that you lose the suit when you touch water) and the spring suit is kind of a pain to control given Mario's perpetual bounciness, but otherwise, these abilities add a great dimension to the already excellent gameplay.
All the crazy gravitational pulling and perspective shifting is undeniably cool, and also potentially a little queasy.
Apart from the screwiness of the spring suit, there's very little issue to be taken with Mario Galaxy's controls. At its core, it controls much as Mario 64 did, but with a couple of Wii-centric twists. For one, Mario's primary attack is a basic spin move (the same spin move you use to activate launch stars). Simply shaking the Wii Remote engages the spin, and it's an extremely responsive mechanic. The one trick to it is that you have to wait a second before spinning again, so you want to make sure you're able to get away from whatever bad guy is nearby if you happen to miss.