Tuesday 22 June 2010

Game review: Super Mario Galaxy 2

Ah Mario. Everyone's favourite Italian plumber (well everyone that I know). Avid sportsman, environmentalist and party-thrower, the plump piasano has now become known as quite the astronaut. Following on from the success of 2007's Super Mario Galaxy, can the sequel surpass its predecessor?

For those of you who missed out on Mario's first foray into the inky blackness of outer space, SMG2 plays out similarly to much of Mario's previous terrestrial adventures. The player navigates Mario through various contained stages, using his various moves and power-ups to collect coins, stomp enemies and obtain power stars. Once Mario collects enough stars, he is able to progress to the next stage, and take one step closer to rescuing Princess Peach from the dastardly Bowser.

Yep, that's right, Bowser's up to his old tricks again, and Mario (once again lured back to the Mushroom Kingdom by the promise of cake) jumps into action without hesitation. Now I know the core Mario games aren't known for their in-depth story and narration, but I was hoping that Nintendo would make a little more effort on this front. At least they could try and explain everyone's obsession with cake!

While the story may be stale, the game-play definitely is not. The controls are tight, the platforming is well-executed, and the levels! Oh my! Unlike the more coherent environments featured in other plaform games, SMG2's levels consist of free-floating galaxies, which in turn are made up of different planets and structures. These planets each have their own individual gravitational pull and rules which Mario must manipulate to progress. Some galaxies are more abstract than others, and the levels vary from planets made entirely out of ice to a galaxy of cakes! SMG2 improves on its predecessor by removing the awkward hub level, and replacing it with a world/map screen (think New Super Mario Bros.), which makes navigating between the galaxies a much simpler task.

Variation is SMG2's trump card. The game is so packed full of ideas and innovations, that no sooner is a gameplay mechanic introduced to the player, than that idea is tossed out of the window in favour of new one. This constant cycling of objectives, formats and environments is hugely enjoyable, making each play session unique and fun. However, this schizophrenic playstyle can have its drawbacks, as some ideas don't feel as well developed as others, and I started to miss the more concrete structure of conventional platformers towards the end.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a joy to play and with some of the best graphics seen on the wii (and a fully orchestrated epic soundtrack) is also a joy to behold. The development of the ideas set out in Super Mario Galaxy along with the introduction of new power-ups and old friends (the return of Yoshi is my particular favourite addition) makes Mario's latest outing a must own. But was that really in any doubt?

Lukao gives Super Mario Galaxy 2 9 power stars out of 10.

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