At a glance...

Reviewer Platform Publisher Developer Players
Ross Gilder Wii Nintendo of Europe Nintendo EAD Tokyo 1-2 (Share screen)
Requirements Buy from Amazon.co.uk
None Click here to buy Super Mario Galaxy.

Super Mario Galaxy review

When Nintendo get off their backsides every six months and finally deliver us a game, by general rule of thumb, it's going to be one of the year's greatest games. Last year we experienced Metroid Prime 3 and rounded off the year with Super Mario Galaxy. And what a way to round off the year. If it wasn't for Bioshock's amazing sense of atmospheric story stealing the show, then Galaxy would easily be pick of the year for me.

So what does Galaxy do, then, that's so good? Well, for starters, it's one of those games which doesn't take a few minutes to get accustomed to, learn the controls and whatnot, but it does take some time to master. Platforming is all about timing your jumps and your accuracy in doing so, while not being so hard as to make you want to let your player drop into the pit. Galaxy succeeds at this masterfully; the level design is such that the novice platformer could pretty much complete the game by defeating Bowser and his cronies through picking the levels he/she can do. All the same, however, for people like me with high platforming skills, scattered around those first 60 stars you need to defeat Bowser are 60 more stars which require the fine tuning of platforming talents. This is especially apparent in levels such as the "Hurry Scurry Galaxy", or the "Sweet Sweet Galaxy".

But the game doesn't just show off in terms of gameplay control dynamics, it shows off nearly everywhere, refining everything that we would want from a Mario game. Name an enemy from the series and he's probably there. Like Mario Kart DS, it just oozes retro, picking up on everything that came before it and adding more. Goombas? Check. Koopas? Check. Magikoopas? Check. Bowser? Peach? Check, check. Bob-ombs, chomps, mushrooms, blocks, Dry bones, Bower's air ships, Peach's Castle? Check, check, check, check, check, check, and check. And the list goes on...

So, for the most part, in my eyes, this is to (the brilliant) Super Mario 64 as Mario Bros 3 was to the original Mario Bros. You have to wonder if there's a connection here, and if Super Mario Galaxy 1.1 is on the way much like Super Mario World was really Mario Bros 3.1. In fact, you could probably match up the 2D versions to the 3D editions as follows:

2D game Explanation 3D comparison
Super Mario Bros. Genre Original Super Mario 64
Super Mario Bros. 2 (US/UK) Offbeat game, nowhere near as good as the original Super Mario Sunshine
Super Mario Bros. 3Reinvention of the original Super Mario Galaxy
Super Mario World Basically last game, fine tunedGalaxy 1.1?

So, what I'm getting at is that Galaxy feels like a reinvention of Super Mario 64. That's not to say it is Super Mario 64 by any means; they share ideals, certainly, but in the same way that Super Mario Bros 3 shares the same ideals as the original. In fact, Galaxy goes beyond what Mario 64 does, not just by the implementation of changing gravity and odd shaped worlds, but by incorporating new ideas, in the form of power ups and level design. On numerous occasions in Galaxy you won't be playing in Mario 64's 3D movement system, for example. Here the developer takes it right back to basics in the form of 2D platforming, while retaining all that they have brought new to the series. In some cases, this leads to some rather tricky situations, that will take you a few attempts to get past.

The level design is perfect at creating these harder areas, and it sets it out in such a way that it gears the game towards different players by use of where in the level you respawn when you inevitably die. Areas that are hard that it wants you to get through, it will give you a respawn point a jump away, but then there are those areas where you will have to retry most of, if not all of, the level to get that star. While this may isolate some gamers from ever completing these levels, it also further adds to the mix of difficulty by creating some truly hard areas that only the skilled players will enjoy to the full extent.

As well as all of this the game succeeds in using the Wii Remote perfectly in multiple ways. The main control system will only have you collecting star bits through the use of the Wiimote as a pointer, and using the nunchuck in a very standard approach for actually controlling Mario. There are numerous points in the game when you will be using the Wiimote in more 'lucrative' ways, such as using it as a virtual straw to move a bubble around, or using the motion sensing capabilities to ride the back of a manta ray through a 360-degree loop. While there may not be as many times in the game as you would like to see for these fun uses of the Wiimote, I hope that some of them become used in future Nintendo products to a greater extent.

Traditionally, however, Mario games have a bit of a weakness in the form of water, and Galaxy is no exception. My only complaint with the water levels is the camera while swimming, in short, is awful, especially when turning around. However, if you're not trying to do a sharp turn on the spot then the water levels aren't too bad; it just so happens there are a few times when you will find yourself trying to swim one way and end up swimming the other.

Ratings

Graphics Graphics are just what you'd want from a 3D Mario game. Bump, Specular, Reflective, Refractive, Bloom, Depth of field, and fresnel effects are all used. For a Wii game, that's a lot. 9/10
Gameplay Tight and responsive controls with the precision and tolerance needed for skilled and less skilled players alike. 10/10
Value You could probably spend £60 on this game in 2 years time and it would still be worth the money. 10/10
Lifespan There are 242 stars in total to collect. By the time you've reached this point, though, you will have defeated the final Bowser level at least 4 times! Be sure not to forget to collect your reward in the final level... 10/10
Audio Near-full orchestral score. Mario's voice does sound a bit higher than usual, though. 10/10
Overall Super Mario Galaxy is the current pinnacle of platforming game design excellence. You only have to look at other recent titles in the genre, like Crash of the Titans, to see how high you have to go before you reach the galaxy. Anything below a 10 just feels wrong. 10/10

Click here to buy Super Mario Galaxy from Amazon.co.uk.

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