Super Mario Galaxy
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Super Mario Galaxy 2 Wii constantly surprises and delights with so many videogame treats. But in the alchemy that created such enjoyable gameplay the charm of the original Galaxy has been somewhat lost. Instead, Super Mario Galaxy 2 feels more like an awesome level expansion pack and less like a legitimate sequel.
That may sound overly harsh on a game that's already been praised higher than its predecessor. True, it may have iterated on the previous Super Mario Galaxy game, added new and exciting power-ups, merged 2D and 3D worlds together seamlessly, but Super Mario Galaxy 2 lacks the adorable quality of the first. The storybook beginning, the Star Festival and Rosalina's observatory were all elements that created a charming base for the game to spring its amazing ideas into space.
Instead, Super Mario Galaxy 2 eschews any kind of narrative as I could almost hear the audible sigh of developer frustration as they are restrained to keep just the bare minimum of a story. This isn't to say Mario games need any kind of narrative to be awesome experiences. Far from it - the moment that story or character development gets added into these platforming games will be the moment the world implodes. But it's this wrapper that went around the first Galaxy that made it such an utterly charming experience - and now it's been discarded for a more rudimentary filler it feels a little soul-less.
Small elements, like the way the world map now resembles a traditional 2D Mario game, takes away the wonder of each galaxy having that planetarium vibe. The replacement for Rosalina is an annoying and bloated purple Luma whose dialogue is best experienced by bashing the A button as quick as possible.
It took that warm fuzzy feeling I had when playing the first Mario Galaxy away, replacing it with a poor substitute
This isn't enough to stop me playing, but I just wanted to move onto the next galaxy without even seeing the Mario spaceship. It took that warm fuzzy feeling I had when playing the first Mario Galaxy away and replaced it with a poor substitute that merely went through the motions to connect each galaxy.
It was a real fight to ignore this distinct sea-change but the improvements made to the actual platforming levels helped to compensate for Galaxy 2's atmospheric shortcomings.
New mechanics and power-ups come at you thick and fast, never overstaying their welcome and giving you a bite-sized taste of the creativity at the heart of Nintendo's Tree House. The welcome return of Yoshi, adding a level of cuteness that even a grown man can't resist and the breathtaking array of ideas left me with a mix of positive emotions in a short space of time.
Perhaps this is the secret to why Mario games are so compulsive and unique. There's a soulful playfulness to the opening few worlds that reminds me how videogames can be simple, colourful experiences that put fun above every other consideration. It's entering this world of bright colours and cartoonish characters that makes Galaxy 2 a powerful and positive joyride of fun. These Goomba's, Koopa's and Mandabugs might be the enemy but they want to be stomped on. What could be stressful or confrontational about turning them into star bits and coins?
When you take a toddler to a soft play environment you can see the possibilities of fun unfolding in their eyes. That same wonder and creativity reside in each of Galaxy 2's worlds
This carefree environment makes Galaxy 2's individual worlds a joy to experience - far more so than the previous 2D games which feel more like a test of your enthusiast gaming skill than turning back the clock and remembering what it was like to play as a child. It may sound sappy but with Mario 64, Galaxy and Galaxy 2, I feel the games open up in far more than just three dimensions.
When you take a toddler to a soft play environment you can see the possibilities of fun unfolding in their eyes. That same wonder and creativity reside in each of Galaxy 2's worlds and turns you into a fanatical fun-seeker, enjoying every crevice of these environments until you grasp that shiny, wonderful star for the exultant finale.
Mario Galaxy 2 is candy-floss entertainment that you wilfully consume until you throw-up in your parents car on the way back from the fun-fair. This sugary-rich treat completely expands on the previous Galaxy and yet despite all my previous hyperbole I felt the sugar-crash hit me every single time I was thrown back into the hub-world.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 for the Wii is the most amazing 3D platformer that's ever been made. But it's not the most charming or soulful.
I know I'll struggle to criticise Mario Galaxy 2 in failing to tell an enchanting story. And indeed the obvious gameplay improvements outweigh my petty concerns regarding the atmosphere and narrative, but I can't deny the flat feeling I experienced between each world and galaxy. My sense of wonder was blunted in these brief moments and the expansive nature of the 3D world snapped back to an emotional 2D perspective until I was launched into another awesome new galaxy.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 for the Wii is the most amazing 3D platformer that's ever been made. But it's not the most charming or soulful. That honour remains with the first Mario Galaxy and this awesome new pretender may take the heart of many other players but it can't wrestle my affections for the original away. I'll gladly recommend Galaxy 2 to everybody who likes games - and even some who don't - but if you're after the same charm as the original Galaxy then it's simply not here.
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