The original Super Mario Galaxy was one of those titles that made many other games look amateur by comparison. It had beautiful graphics, grand music, and some truly stunning examples of difficult gameplay (the Luigi’s Purple Coin challenge leaps to mind). The sequel, particularly the story, expects that you will be exceptionally familiar with this game.
So what’s new in this game? You get to use new power-ups (such as Rock Mario or Cloud Mario), and one of the better things about the game is new (at least to the Galaxy titles) as well: the return of Yoshi. He comes with power-ups such as the Bulb Berry and the Dash Pepper. The Bulb Berry creates new pathways by illuminating spaces, although they aren’t actually there when the berry runs out (as opposed to Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, where the invisible bridge was all a forced perspective trick). For the most part, Yoshi’s easy to control, but there are some difficult bits (for instance, if you’re running up a slope with a Dash Pepper and hit something, you cannot regain your footing).
Sometimes, however, it feels as if the game doesn’t know whether to mother you or leave you and assume that you’ll know your way around. The version of the game that I got comes with a tutorial DVD intended to teach people who don’t know about Galaxy how to play. The problem with this is that the tutorials aren’t just confined to the disc (which I appreciate that not every copy came with); instead, there are hint televisions dotted throughout the earlier levels (and some later ones) to tell you how to get to certain areas, as well as a Cosmic Guide to take you through stars for you (although you do get left with a Bronze one and have to do the challenge yourself for the Gold Star). As if that wasn’t enough, the characters that get dotted round the faceship (the spaceship hub area looks like Mario’s head, hence ‘faceship’) tell you extremely simple things, like spinning and how to long jump. This can get frustrating after a while and save for the second disc are present no matter the package you buy.
However, once you get past the tutorials, the gameplay itself can offer some moments of joy. This is usually when you’ve just completed a difficult challenge for that elusive gold or green star, but sometimes in seeing how a particular level works or recovering from death in ludicrous ways.
That’s something else I want to talk about. After you stop Bowser’s star-eating, princess kidnapping shenanigans and get all 120 stars, green star comets appear. Here you have to locate green stars in nooks and crannies of the original levels. Many of them require leaps of faith — proceeding without actually knowing where they are and no hope for survival if you miss them. One of them, for instance, requires you to be on the opposite side of a platform, and jump off the side, where due to gravity being weird, you will hopefully fall up into the star.
These are particularly annoying at times, with many of them killing me over and over and over again (especially, as this blog post will tell you, the last galaxy). However, it is nice to basically get two games in one, since there are another 120 green stars to get in addition to the normal stars, so you get more value for money.
The thing is, sometimes in reviewing stuff, it can be hard to describe the negative without making it seem like I hated the item in question. I wish to dispel that misconception and state that I did, in fact, love the game. I love the way they managed to improve the music (more games should have orchestral scores), innovate with countless new ideas, and include homages to Super Mario 64.
My view on Super Mario Galaxy 2 can be summed up in two sentences. When the game is being nice to me, it’s one of the best games I have ever played, save the original. When enemies or long drops keep killing me, I despise the game as I have no other before.
To elaborate upon that, in comparison to the original it doesn’t hold up as well. It’s like comparing Return Of The Jedi to Star Wars or The Empire Strikes Back: it’s not as good and unquestionably has its problems, but it’s still good nonetheless, and better than a lot of new releases these days.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Mild Cartoon Violence.