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'Super Mario Galaxy' flies high

November 24, 2007

By Daniel Barron - G4 Canada

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Super Mario GalaxySuper Mario Galaxy is not perfect. In fact, it's not Game of the Year. Nonetheless, it dishes out massive doses of platforming fun, making it an easy recommendation for anyone who owns a Wii and knows a thing or two about gaming.

So what's so special about it? Well, there's the fact that it has some of the craziest, wildest and most fun levels to ever grace a Mario game. And considering the setting, this isn't all that surprising.

As the name very implies, this newest Mario game takes place across numerous distant galaxies. You go off in search of Princess Peach after she is - spoiler alert! - kidnapped by the King of the Koopas, Bowser, and taken to a place that is much, much further away than the nearest warp pipe. Each galaxy has its own unique setting, ranging from classics like a haunted house and sub-zero ice level, to brand new places like a beehive and a poisonous swamp. Though some levels seem to be finished before they've even started, many are instantly memorable thanks to their design.

In fact, this is the one area where Galaxy shines like the brightest Grand Star you'll ever find. The level design in the game is absolutely astonishing. There truly is always something new going on with every galaxy you visit. One level will see you skimming down a massive water slide atop a sea ray; another will have you crossing a desert on the wind from tornadoes. Another still places you inside a gigantic hourglass where you have to get to the bottom before being crushed by the quickly-falling sand. It'll constantly having you coming back for more, whether that's because you're having trouble beating a level, or you just want to try it out again for fun. Either way, it's rarely frustrating and always addictive.

Super Mario GalaxyFor the most part the controls are very simple to learn but there are a few problems. You move Mario with the Nunchuk's analog stick and jump with the Wii Remote's A-button. You can also flick the Wii Remote to perform a spin move that comes in handy in the most interesting of ways. It's simple enough to learn but some missions in the game aren't quite perfect. The swimming levels simply weren't all that fun because, compared to the high-flying time you can have above ground, swimming in water feels more like you're floating through sludge. You have to constantly be whipping the Wii Remote side-to-side to gain any speed whatsoever, and it's very easy to become discombobulated. Ice levels can be similarly frustrating; changing into Ice Mario can be fun, until you begin to skate uncontrollably all over the place after one ill-placed spin move. Again, these problems are few and far between, but they keep the game from being perfect.

With all this topsy-turvy, gravity-bending insanity, the camera can be a problem as well. It's very easy to get mixed up as you're running around planets, going from upside-down to right-side up, sometimes with gravity literally changing several times in a matter of seconds. Hitting the C-Button to centre the camera only works about a quarter of the time, so don't think of Galaxy as having a free-roaming camera. You can also use the D-pad to adjust it, but it's far from a perfect system.

For the most part, the game can be an absolute blast, but it can also become confusing and frustrating. This was especially obvious when handing the controls over to casual gamers, who quickly became frustrated. It's times like these when co-op play can help out. Co-op play allows one player to control Mario, while the other grabs Star-Bits and stuns enemies with a second Wii Remote.

Not since Super Mario Bros. 3 have there been such memorable new suits for the little plumber to change into. Bee Mario, Ice Mario, Ghost Mario ... they're all a lot of fun, but unfortunately are underused, and in some cases, you can only stay in the special form for a few seconds. It allows the levels to be challenging, but at the same time, it would be nice to be able to roam freely in some of these forms just to see what you can do.

The game's difficulty is all over the place. Most levels aren't very long and initially there are only a few real challenges to be found, but levels later on in the game can be fantastically challenging. In addition, you can go back to certain levels after they've been affected by 'Prankster Comets', which causes changes such as making the enemies move faster or giving the level a time limit. Once again, this keeps the player guessing and adds hours of more play time, and in a game like this, that can only be a good thing.

The music, meanwhile, is absolutely certain to make fans of the series downright giddy. Favourites from almost all of the past Mario games are here. Super Mario Bros. 3 in particular gets some serious coverage. The music fits levels perfectly. One level has the player climbing a giant tower, and the further you climb, the bigger and more grandiose the orchestrated music seems to chime in.

On the surface, Super Mario Galaxy may look like a casual gamer's dream, but there's no way this will have the pick-up-and-play appeal of something like Wii Sports. This doesn't make it a worse game; this is simply more of a warning to those who may see this as a simple walk in the park.

Galaxy puts most platformers to absolute shame with its bursting-at-the-seams creativity. It's much deeper than it looks, it's full of eye candy and it'll suck you in like a black hole by throwing something new at you at every turn. Those looking for plot, please search elsewhere. In Galaxy, gameplay rules.

He may look the same as he did years ago, but thankfully, Mario continues to grow up with his fans. Yesterday, he was running through the Mushroom Kingdom, and today he's flying among the stars. Thanks to the great job they did with this game, we can only dream of what's in store next for the little red plumber next.

 

Super Mario Galaxy
Format: Nintendo Wii
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone
Official Site: http://wii.nintendo.com/site/supermariogalaxy/

Rating: 9.0 / 10

 
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About G4 in Canada
G4 Canada (formerly TechTV Canada) launched in September 2001. G4 is the one and only television station that is plugged into every dimension of games, gear, gadgets and gigabytes. Owned Rogers Media Inc., the channel airs more than 24 original series. G4 is available on digital cable and satellite. For more information, see www.g4tv.ca.