29 June 2010

Super Mario Galaxy 2 - Review

This should not be a tough sell. Gaming's biggest mascot plus the high quality of the preceding game surely set the sequel up as a classic? However, with sequels there is always a fear that the game is just rehashing old ideas and slapping a '2' on the end. Super Mario Galaxy 2 avoids this issue completely and in fact, manages to be a better game than the original.

You've heard it fifty times before: Princess Peach is kidnapped by Bowser and Mario has to rescue her, this time by travelling to different galaxies and collecting power stars. For the sequel Mario once again gains the help of the Lumas in his quest who offer him a
ship (oddly in the shape of Mario's head) that requires the power stars to reach distant worlds and eventually Bowser. The universe Mario traverses is set out in a similar fashion to the older S/NES games with each world split into multiple levels, linked together by paths that require you to complete the previous level to continue. Along the way Mario will come across hungry Lumas, that when fed enough star bits will transform into new galaxies.

Yet, what makes Super Mario Galaxy 2 so fantastic is the sheer variety in gameplay that will keep you playing and moving on to the next galaxy...and then the next...and the next. Each galaxy has a number of stars for you to collect, in addition to a 'comet medal' which opens new challenges on certain galaxies. Although this sounds repetitive, there never comes a point where you will be bored with the game as each new galaxy offers so much diversity. Tricky platforming sections, exhilarating boss fights, imaginative power ups, excellent level design, responsive controls and enjoyable mini games all mix together to produce that quintessential Mario formula.

Power ups are a key part of this formula and the majority of them are very enjoyable to use. Some return from the original, such as 'Ghost Mario' and 'Bee Mario' but there are also a number of new additions. 'Cloud Mario' allows you to generate a cloud platform when you spin for reaching distant areas and the 'Drill' allows you to carve through planets even sometimes allowing the exploration of their innards. In addition, Mario can now call upon the help of Yoshi who has the ability to eat enemies, latch on to flowers to swing new locations and devour a number of fruits that then change his own powers. The power ups are spread so well across the game that you will most likely encounter each one before you finish it.

Completing the game is a
fairly easy task to accomplish; a minimal amount of stars are required to reach the final showdown with Bowser but that is certainly not the conclusion of the game. A whole new world becomes available with more galaxies and stars to collect after the credits. From here the game's challenge for the core gamer truly begins. Once all 120 gold stars have been collected, green stars appear on all of the galaxies. These stars do not require you to defeat bosses or reach a galaxy's end but are hidden throughout them. They work as a simple gameplay extension but are fun and challenging to collect as they require you to utilise all of Mario's skills to retrieve them.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 is what all sequels should be; continuing with the aspects of the original that worked well and improving or developing new and interesting ideas. Where Super Mario Galaxy was the training, Mario Galaxy 2 is the live mission offering a comprehensive gaming experience that, even I will admit, does not need a well developed, highly character driven story. Instead, you receive the most satisfying gameplay on any platform that provides enjoyment for the casual and challenge for the core. Forget 25 kill streaks on Call of Duty, this is what gaming is truly all about.