Super Mario Galaxy 2 - Nintendo Wii

Super Mario Galaxy 2 was definitely one of my biggies for 2010. Offhand I can’t think of many games I was more excited to play this year. I loved the original and even if they had completely copied everything about it but just gave us some new levels, I would be completely satisfied. Many criticized this sequel, calling it Super Mario Galaxy 1.5. Sadly it is not possible to make those people physically eat their words, but they should definitely be force fed something gross like a sausage milkshake or Nutella. This game is in no way simply a rehash of the first one. It builds and expands on it to a point where I honestly have no idea how they will top this one.

Hmm, I have to stop giving away my thoughts so early. Please…please don’t leave. I’ll make the rest of the review entertaining I swear!

If you liked the first Mario Galaxy (and the only reason you wouldn’t is if you hadn’t played it yet or you are a ghost) then I want you to think about all of the things you liked about it.  Every single one of those things – they’re done better here. I don’t care how much you liked any aspect of the original, you will like it more here. I would maybe hear your case about the music, as the first game’s soundtrack was top notch, but everything else it’s no contest. Anyone who says they like the first game better is lying to you, is not your friend and may in fact be out to hurt you.

I’m not even sure where to begin with this one. You’ve seen the abundance of 10/10 scores, you know this is a good one.  So why don’t you already have it? Are you really still on the fence about this one? Wait what’s that? You say you’ve been holding out on buying it until you hear my specific reasons why you should? Well that’s very sweet and weird of you. Here are those reasons weirdo.

My biggest praise for this game is something I already touched on. They did not settle for just taking all the elements of the first game and building new levels around them. They improved what worked, ditched what didn’t, and threw in a ton of new mechanics. Almost every level throws you into a completely different scenario. One level you’ll be gliding around on a bird, then the next it’s a maze where the lights flicker on and off, then suddenly you’re riding around on a giant ball. They really do switch it up level by level. Not once will you find yourself thinking “oh great, another one of THESE parts”. If anything you’ll be a little bummed out that some of these mechanics don’t show up more often. I can definitely think of a couple of instances where I finished a section and found it really fun, only to never see that particular style of game play return. Thankfully there is always something just as good right around the corner.

I’m not going to get into a huge breakdown of all the abilities there are, but we’ll talk a little about the big new ones. You may have heard that Yoshi is in this one. Shocking I know.  This could have been another easily tacked on gimmick but once again, Nintendo went above and beyond, giving Yoshi his own unique abilities which add a 78th level of variety to the game. He only pops up occasionally too, so he’s certainly not overused and it’s actually pretty exciting when you spot that Yoshi egg at the start of a level.

On top of the returning suits from the first game, there are several other ones added here. A personal favourite of mine is the cloud suit, which allows you to generate cloudy platforms to help you cross over gaps. It’s fun to use and just so god damn adorable. There’s also the Rock suit, which of course turns you into a rolling boulder that will crush anything in its path. As with everything in the game, these power-ups only show up sporadically throughout the game, so there’s that twinge of excitement when you realize you once again get to use one of them.

I think I’ve more than made my point that the sheer variety on display on here is really quite insane. I don’t just mean the new power-ups and abilities, but also all of the new ways the designers found to play around with the gravity physics. There is more creativity on display in a single stage (and there are tons of stages in this one) than many games have in their entirety.  I really can’t praise the level design enough, despite trying the last few paragraphs to do so. It’s incredible and more than worthy of all the acclaim it receives.

It seems like the designers realized just how great these levels really are and made sure that the player can get to them as soon as possible. While the first Galaxy made the effort to have a story, this one provides the absolute bare minimum of a narrative in order to get you to the action faster. “Ok Bowser kidnapped Peach again, whatever whatever, play the levels!” From that point on the game never stops to tell the story any further. There’s occasional dialogue, but it’s quick and to the point. Personally I don’t mind at all. I don’t need a Mario game to tell me a story, at least not the platforming centered ones. Knowing Peach has been kidnapped is enough for me, and I would have been fine even without that. Text could have just popped up at the start saying, “Mario was walking around and then this happened…” and I’d be good to go. It feels weird to praise a game for not trying to tell a story, but this is the rare case where the experience really does benefit from it.

In order to streamline the experience even further, Galaxy 2 completely ditches the over world hub and instead features a World Map where you just move the cursor and select your stage. You do have a spaceship that sort of acts like a hub, but you don’t need to traverse it in order to access different levels. Again, I’m fine with this. Running through the over world to reach new levels often felt like more of a chore than anything. It really did feel like an obstacle standing in the way of enjoying the levels. I for one am not upset that it’s gone.

Another improvement that I feel is worth mentioning is coop. There wasn’t much to the coop in the first game. The second player could pick up star bits for you, but wasn’t given the opportunity to do much else. Here they still can collect star bits, however on top of that they can now take out enemies for you, or freeze them in place so it’s easier for you to navigate stages. It feels like your partner is legitimately contributing to the action. In fact I found several sections a lot easier with a second person helping out. As someone who is always trying to rally their girlfriend to play games with them, the improvements made to the coop are much appreciated.

I’m not sure it came across, but I really like this game. In fact, I freaking love this game. It blew away even my sky-high expectations for it. I’m actually struggling to think of a legitimate complaint but I can’t. The closest thing I had was that some of the stars are really frustrating, but that’s an artificial complaint. Yes the game is difficult, but it’s not cheap. Plus it’s immensely satisfying when you finally net that tricky star. So yea, I got nothing. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is like a never-ending warm hug and is now the 2010 game to beat.