Shake, tilt, shoot... whoohoo! I refuse to classify Super Mario Galaxy as a platform game. The clever gameplay and controls are out of this world. Even if it has a thick helping of straight-up platforming stages, I say the game deserves its own new genre.
"Mario, Mario, wherefore art thou Mario?"
That would be me during Mario Sunshine's heyday. For many of us, Sunshine was Mario 64 with Yoshi pasted on. Apparently, true innovation was set aside for Super Mario Galaxy - what I call the faster, more furious sequel to Mario 64. Like mama Rosetta's visits to the Mushroom Kingdom, such a thing can only ever happen once every hundred years; or in our case, a game like this comes once every decade.
I'm going to cut through the inevitable space puns and get straight to business. This time, Mario has the ability to travel through space. He starts off on a planet reminiscent of The Little Prince, which aired during the '80s. You soon realize that all the levels are jam-packed planets like this one. Although they seem small (or is it that Mario seems big?), each planetoid is ingeniously arranged to play out differently from the rest.
The game slowly introduces you to each of Mario's abilities. This gives you ample time to familiarize yourself without getting overwhelmed. Experience with Mario 64 or Sunshine helps, but nothing can prepare you for the unusual combination of Wiimote and nunchuck, especially if Mario is moving upside down and all around.
It's not just about jumping anymore. You surf, you skate, you find your way through each vertigo-inducing planetoid puzzle and warp on. You're constantly active in this game and there's no time for being boring. Even as Mario blasts off to the next destination, sparkling starbits flying in the distance beckon you to use the Wiimote and gather them.
Mario also gets to wear some pretty slick power-up costumes this time around. My favourites are Boo (ghost) for the silliness and Rainbow (invincible) for the mayhem. Despite the fantastical and colourful settings, the graphics have also been fine-tuned so that you can quickly discern between what is of interest and what is part of the environment. It's also rare for anyone to need help in figuring out what to do next; the visual cues are there.
But that environment is hard to appreciate when the option to adjust the camera becomes disabled. Understandably, the automatic camera is great for players new to the game and who don't want to feel dizzy but it seems most of the time we have no control over it at all. My younger brother admitted that his "hands were sweating just watching" me play. His hands weren't the only ones. While standing far away from the sensors, the Wiimote became overly sensitive to each movement. Levels that required precise movements became doubly hard to get through.
There are many ways to go about playing Super Mario Galaxy but all guarantee the same end result: fun without the frustration. Those looking to get to the finish line will have no problems and completists who sidetrack into hidden levels, hunting and gathering for perfection, will have the time of their lives.
The game is so well paced and addictive that it's hard to pause for breaks. During one break, I wanted to listen to the game's background music, which features a handful of remixed Super Mario World, Super Mario Bros. 3, and Mario 64 tunes of yore. To listen, I left the controls alone.
Mario didn't like the lack of action so he sat on the ground and fell asleep. A minute or two later, he flipped onto his back for a deep sleep. Curious, and with a strawberry roll hanging out of my mouth, I waved the Wiimote and pulled in a starbit. Mario yelled as he woke up. I was amused.
Super Mario Galaxy isn't just a wonderful game that made me smile. It made me feel like a kid again.
It really does feel like the '90s again.
Such a feeling. Such a feeling. Killer feeling.
Title: Super Mario Galaxy
Developer: Nintendo EAD Tokyo
Super Mario Galaxy