We’re always a bit wary when it comes to sequels.
Nine times out of ten we’re presented with a half-hearted rehash of the original game, or the developers have mucked around with things to the point where it is no longer fun to play. Fortunately, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is neither of these, as we quickly discovered.
It may be three years down the track, but there are no prizes for guessing the storyline: yep, Princess Peach has been kidnapped again, and Mario must drop everything to rescue her from Bowser’s clutches. In the real world, the princess would probably have hired some thugs to teach Bowser a lesson, but in Mario’s world there’s a certain tradition to uphold. Sure, it’s predictable, however the story takes a back seat to the onscreen action… and there is plenty of it.
The game ships with a handy tutorial DVD, and the manual contains detailed instructions on how to operate the various controls. As added insurance there are also in-game tips to ensure you really know what you’re doing. The learning curve is a gentle slope, with new moves gradually introduced as you progress through the game. In no time at all you’ll be comfortably spinning, leaping, wall-jumping and ground-pounding along with the best of them. The controls themselves are extremely responsive and cooperative, and we had no issues with them at all.
While Super Mario Galaxy 2 is essentially a single player experience, a second player can opt in as a ‘tag along’ sidekick, whose role is to make Mario’s life a bit easier by pinning down enemies and fetching collectibles with the Wii remote. This would be ideal for anyone with limited fine motor skills or slower reflexes, such as younger children or – at the other end of the age spectrum – grandparents wanting to ‘give it a whirl’.
Gameplay is much the same as the previous title; Mario traverses a collection of fancifully themed 2D/3D levels (galaxies), amassing coins and other collectibles, discovering secrets, and avoiding or defeating enemies. Each set of levels culminates in a boss battle before Mario can advance to the next world, and of course, each boss requires a different takedown strategy. The diversity between the galaxies is phenomenal; a testament to the creativity of the game’s designers. For instance, one of the planets features both fire and ice, and another is straight out of Alice in Wonderland, with everything of gigantic proportion. As with the original game, gravity – and reverse gravity – is one of the games major attractions. At the drop of a hat Mario will find himself running upside down and sideways, or swimming through pools of water on the ceiling. It’s a topsy-turvy rollercoaster ride, which can be confusing until your brain and eyes are on the same wavelength. Regardless of where you are though, the pace and energy remains high at all times.
The difficulty level is carefully staggered, with the first few levels easing you into the game, and subsequent levels introducing further challenges and new moves. There’s a huge variety of objectives throughout SMG2. Some levels require the basic run ‘n’ jump approach; others involve a bit of puzzle solving or a time limit. Some of the levels are very tricky indeed, but not to the point of quitting. It’s the sign of a really good game when you keep coming back for ‘just one more try’, rather than hurling the Wii remote at the telly in frustration.
The map system in Super Mario Galaxy 2 is laid out in a more logical, straightforward fashion than its predecessor, making it simple to navigate Mario’s spaceship from one location to the next. Stars are required for travelling between galaxies within each world, and a grand star – earned by defeating Bowser or his offspring – is needed to enter the next world) The difficult to obtain Comet Medals unlock Prankster Comets, which in turn unlock new objectives within the galaxies you have already visited. This means you rarely get the feeling of “been there, done that” when revisiting a previously completed level.
Among the new features is the welcome reappearance of Yoshi. The lovable dino is no mere ride-on, however; he comes complete with his own set of moves and power-ups, such as the Dash Pepper, which grants a significant speed boost. Yoshi is a versatile beastie, able to swallow and spit out enemies, as well as using his tongue to swing across large gaps. Luigi also makes an occasional appearance as a playable character, whereas in the previous title you could only access him once you had completed the game. As well as the nifty power-ups from Super Mario Galaxy, Mario’s repertoire has expanded to include a number of new ones, such as Cloud Mario, Rock Mario, and Drill Mario. There are also new characters to meet and enemies to defeat. All in all there’s enough fresh material to provide many happy hours of discovery.
In-game graphics are simply beautiful, with glorious, vibrant colours throughout and a high level of detail applied to backgrounds and characters alike. Even the enemies possess a certain charm. Animations and camera angles flow smoothly – especially when shifting perspective. There were a few instances where the camera angle wasn’t ideal for what we were trying to achieve, however this is a minor niggle at best. The accompanying soundtrack is a delightful mixture of classic and new melodies, ranging from jaunty to spooky, from frenetic to chilled out; each level is partnered with some great gaming tunes.
This is one sequel which bucks the trend by taking an already good concept and building on it, raising the bar in the process. Simply put, it’s better than the original because there’s a lot more to do, and everything meets or exceeds expectations. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is damn good fun, which is what video games should be. It’s all you could want in a platform title - a ‘must-have’ for Wii owners.