When I first sat down and started to play Super Mario Galaxy 2, I was expecting to play a good half-hour of the game, stop, and return to it later on in the evening. Instead, I found myself so engrossed in the experience that when I finally turned to the clock to check the time, two and a half hours had passed. Every ounce of Super Mario Galaxy 2 is packed with so much creativity, brilliance, and polish that it is simply too remarkable of an achievement to be overlooked.
Every level in Galaxy 2 is radically different from the next one and players will never have to experience the same thing twice. One minute, you’ll be eating plump blue fruits that will inflate your dinosaur buddy Yoshi and allow him to float up to the top of an enormous tree, and the next you’ll be guiding a miniature walking bomb through a maze underneath the glass floor that you are currently walking on so you can grab the coins located just out of your reach. Some levels could easily be expanded upon and be full games in their own right but Nintendo and the fine folks at EAD Tokyo have given the player so much variety to mess around with that even if there was a level concept that wasn’t to your liking, you would never have to play anything even remotely similar to it ever again.
What’s even more interesting than all the new gameplay ideas however, is the fact that Nintendo has managed to pull off all of these new design concepts without really adding much to the tried-and-true formula that was laid down in the previous title. That said, the new power-ups introduced in Galaxy 2 are the best since the Tanooki Suit in Super Mario Bros. 3.
The new Cloud Suit for example, allows Mario to create three floating platforms with a flick of the Wii Remote that the player can then stand on as they are bouncing through the sky. While at first its inclusion may seem superfluous, players will soon find that if they take some acrobatic risks with the suit, they’ll be able to reach coins, star bits, and other secrets that would’ve otherwise been completely out of reach. And believe me, the rewards for that type of exploration can be extremely worthwhile.
One such reward is a Comet Medal that is cleverly hidden in each of the game’s levels. These secret medals eventually unlock entirely new goals and challenges within the levels that can be completed for a Power Star. For example, in one of the secret challenges, Mario must jump on giant blue platforms that zoom in and out of the playing space based on leaps of faith all while trying to avoid dopple-gangers that are repeating his every move directly behind him. If the player stops for even a few seconds, the fake Marios will eventually catch up to him and pummel him with all their might. It’s challenging but once a particularly difficult objective is completed, it is extremely satisfying.
Another new power-up introduced in Galaxy 2 is the Spin Drill that allows Mario to dig a hole through an entire planetoid and pop out on the other side. First, you’ll simply be drilling from one side of a planet to the other in order to find a secret key and advance to the next part of the stage. But, as with all of the power-ups in Galaxy 2, you’ll eventually be forced to use the Drill in extremely complex and interesting ways such as drilling through an ant colony-like structure and bouncing off the walls in order to reach your goal. There’s even a boss fight where Mario must use this power-up to blow up a giant robot. Every one of the power-ups has multiple applications and is constantly used in unique and unexpected ways.
The layouts of the galaxies themselves are also extremely varied. Some levels have Mario flying through the stars, bouncing around from planetoid to planetoid while other galaxies are essentially made of one enormous landmass that the player must traverse in 2D and 3D to reach its Power Star. Either way, each galaxy has multiple paths and secret areas designed solely for the risk-taking explorer. One of the best examples of this type of design is the Honeybloom Galaxy in World 2. A play-it-safe gamer can equip the extremely adorable Bee Suit and buzz around the main path of the stage while hardcore Mario aficionados can test their skills and climb through the flower-covered mass using only their basic jumps. Each stage encourages, and in many cases rewards, multiple play-throughs in a variety of different ways.
The music in Galaxy 2 is also extremely impressive. While some may say that the beautifully orchestrated soundtrack to Super Mario Galaxy 2 is “too grandiose”, I personally believe the booming score perfectly compliments the game. The pleasant themes to the game’s hub, Starship Mario, and the Yoshi Star Galaxy will keep you humming for days while the redone versions of Super Mario 64 classic tunes such as Bowser’s Lava Lair and the theme to Throwback Galaxy will make any old-school Mario player weep tears of joy. Not to mention, the scores to levels such as the Slipsand Galaxy and the Space Storm Galaxy provide gamers with tracks that sound unlike anything previously heard in a Mario game. Every level’s score, every sound queue and every character’s theme is brilliantly composed. Mahito Yokota, Koji Kondo and the Mario Galaxy Orchestra should be commended for their superb work.
It is also worth noting that the layout of the game has been streamlined to tremendous success. Gone is the melodramatic story of a space princess and the re-birth of a universe from the original Galaxy and in its place stands a very clear outline: save the princess from an oversized Bowser to save the galaxy. The hub observatory world from the first game has been replaced with a World Map reminiscent of the one seen in the New Super Mario Bros. series. Everything is quicker and the game is all the better for it, especially taking into consideration the game’s length which rivals Nintendo 64 collect-a-thon classic Donkey Kong 64‘s.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a simply a masterpiece in every sense of the word. It’s bigger, more challenging and more polished than its predecessor while setting a new standard by which all future 3D platformers must be judged. I can’t even imagine where Nintendo and EAD Tokyo can take Mario from here. Galaxy 2 is a no-brainer purchase that should be a part of everyone’s collection.
VG Tribune gives Super Mario Galaxy 2 10 out of 10
This review was based off of a copy of the title provided to us by Nintendo of America.