First Looks// Super Mario Galaxy 2

Posted 25 Feb 2010 17:32 by
OK, hands up. Who didn't like Super Mario Galaxy? As they say in Atmosfear, “You are banished!” The 2007 gravity-based platformer was a stellar entry in the Super Mario series, and combined excellent platforming with a colourful presentation that was hard to match. Basically, if you thought it sucked, you are wrong.

Having something of a core hit on its hands, Nintendo set about making the most of it, announcing a sequel to the game at E3 last year. Eyebrows were raised. This is the first time a console Super Mario title has followed the themes and mechanics of its predecessor to the letter. Nobody could think of any way the company could improve on Galaxy. Some concluded, therefore, that Super Mario Galaxy 2 would be nothing more than a glorified add-on pack.

In some respects, those concerns would be correct. I've just thoroughly played through nine stages of the upcoming summer blockbuster, and the first thing I noticed was that... well, it looks an awful lot like Super Mario Galaxy 1. But is that ever going to be a problem? And if so, why exactly?

I certainly didn't care – the graphics are some of the best that the Wii has pumped out, and the eclectic mix of elements and atmospheres as you travel from one stage's planet to another is a beauty to behold. What's going to matter here isn't what the game looks like – Nintendo has that down pat. It's going to be on what Super Mario Galaxy 2 adds to the experience.

In that regard, I liken it to the differences between the original Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario Bros. 2 (Lost Levels in the West) on the NES. The basic landscape is the same, the graphical style is the same, but there's just enough altered content to make it a worthy addition to the series. The most striking parallel is that Super Mario Galaxy 2 is hard. Quite, quite hard.

Huge Thwomps jump up and down and leave the tiniest room of opportunity to run underneath them before they squash you. Flipping platforms that require you to shake the Wii Remote will be your undoing when you instinctively use the twirl attack to edge yourself closer to a surface. Flying Goombas prove hard to hit and Koopas are still a pain in the arse. Such difficulty spikes are discrete and timed just perfectly enough to provide a worthy challenge.

It's not face-punchingly relentless like Super Mario Bros. 2 was to its predecessor, but it can give you a good run for your gaming money compared to the original Super Mario Galaxy. It's somewhat refreshing actually – the best part is that Super Mario Galaxy 2 doesn't assume anything of the player. The levels I run through barely featured any hand-holding or molly-coddling.

To make sure you keep a lot of your hair though, Super Mario Galaxy 2 adds mid-level checkpoints, which look exactly like those found in New Super Mario Bros. Wii. You can find several of these dotted throughout any given stage – it means the levels are longer, sure, but who's complaining? I'm not.

Perhaps the biggest addition to the game – in terms of visual impact and the gameplay mechanics that open up because of it – is the appearance of Yoshi. And playing on the back of the plucky dinosaur really makes Super Mario Galaxy 2 for me.

As you jump on him, I noticed that the Wii Remote pointer graphic – usually a blue star to pick up star chips – turns into a red dot. Now doubling as Yoshi's tongue, I could aim at various enemies and objects and have the green dude gobble it whole.

Various fruits and vegetables are placed in the levels, which not only make Yoshi change colour (yay) but also give him special powers. Licking in a chilli pepper will turn him red and make him steam forward at an incredible pace – the Hightail Falls Galaxy required me to use this so that Yoshi could run up steep curves and along walls for a limited time.

In the woody Tall Trunk Galaxy, a strange light blue fruit makes Yoshi blow up like a balloon and float upwards while expelling air through his nose. It's cute, but also handy.

I never got to see many power ups for Mario himself besides the classic Fire Flower – so there's no telling whether we'll see the Ice Flower or Bee Suit in this sequel. All I know is, I had a blast powering through courses as bog-standard plumber man.

Some of the levels I played through were reminiscent of past gimmicks from the first Super Mario Galaxy title, and some were new imaginative premises – Upside Dizzy Galaxy is a good example of the former, with a level that uses the red and blue gravity walls to provide a lengthy 2D puzzle. Supermassive Galaxy saw coins, Goombas and piranha plants five times Mario's size puttering about, waiting to squish you into dust.

One notable stage was Spin Dig Galaxy, which introduced a new spinner power up that let you burrow through from one side of a planet to another with a flick of the wrist. No doubt we'll be seeing more of these new ideas as we get closer to the game's release.

This might sound a bit cliché, but Super Mario Galaxy 2 takes everything about the original 2007 title – quite literally – and improves upon it. I was certainly very impressed with both subtle and not-so subtle changes to the gameplay during my playtest, and I guess it just goes to show that I shouldn't really doubt Nintendo when it comes to improving on old ideas.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 has been confirmed for a European release on the 11th June.

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ohms 27 Feb 2010 04:06

Brilliant. Can't wait.

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