Mario has huge shoes! That is to say, his shoes are extremely big… What I’m trying to say here is that after starring in some of the best games ever created, Mario has a lot to live up to. As well as having undoubtedly some of the best 2d platform games ever under his little red hat, Mario 64 is still regarded amongst fans as the best 3d adventure ever, and it’s ten years old!
Galaxy is every plumber’s wet dream. Mario nods his cap to fans often during this outing. Enemies and tunes from such favourites as Super Mario Bros 3 make appearances. Back also are most of your favourite moves from Mario 64; fans will feel at home in no time. Fear not though if you are a Mario virgin, for you’ll have more of a learning curve, but you’ll be butt-stomping with the best in no time.
As much as I love Nintendo’s other baby, the Zelda franchise, it has bored me to tears the last few games. After the newness of each one wears off, you are stuck solving exactly the same puzzles with exactly the same items over and over again. Combine this with the fact that when Mario 64 was released, no game had a world quite like it – everything was new, from the controls to the concept and structure. It would be unrealistic to expect Super Mario Galaxy to reinstate this sense of wonder in the minds of now jaded fans, but let’s just say, if this was a carbon copy of a certain Nintendo 64 game, I would have put down my controller and ventured outside, as sunshine would have looked good in comparison.
Fortunately though, despite feeling marvelously ‘Mario’, Galaxy still manages to be its own game. Sure there are a lot of similarities to Mario 64, but at the same time, each new world is a joy to explore. You never quite know what the next corner will hold. The real difference though – to anything released ever - is the level design. Simply put, it’s mental.
It will take a few minutes to get your bearings and learn how to explore this new world, but gravity switching and literally jumping from one planet to another soon becomes second nature. Anyone walking past will be amazed at just how dexterous the little Italian is on the Wii. Just hope nobody in viewing distance has motion sickness! Every world is a new challenge and thankfully there are moments of sheer evil genius in how the worlds are put together, the same kind of evil genius that has many of us still hooked on Super Mario World.
To find faults in Mario’s Galaxy is to master the art of nit picking. Fortunately for the sake of this review, I am a seasoned picker of nits (that’s what you get for buying a replica Mario hat off Trade-Me). One thing Mario could have done better this time around is have a better hub. Peach’s castle in Mario 64 felt like home. You could put off actual levels for a few hours just to explore and mess around in the castle. Of course I’d prefer the castle not to be used again, but the spaceship that acts as a hub here just has no character (I miss Peach’s slide) and you never feel joy returning to it. In and out to the next level, nothing to see here.
While I’m at it, I think the power-ups could have been better too. There are a couple of different power-ups you can use about the worlds, but for the most case they just seem like afterthoughts. Mario 64 had very few different power-ups, but you had to think how to apply them to certain situations. Last and least is the game’s camera; mostly it’s brilliant and keeping it on auto is fine, but quite often you are barred from altering the camera completely. It’s not an issue, but there were a couple of times I wanted to have a look around.
Beautifully crafted, mind-shifting 3d level design would all be for naught though if the game didn’t control well. To be honest, half the fun of Mario 64 was just running around perfecting your jumps and trying to discover legitimate and not so legitimate shortcuts throughout the levels. Luckily Nintendo, even with motion sensitive gizmos coming out the wazoo, have kept things simple. The few motion sensitive commands beautifully complement Mario’s existing arsenal. There are a few levels that make more use of the controller, but these don’t come up too often. Thankfully even these have solid controls serving as a welcome distraction and not a menace. Third parties take note.
So is it better than Mario 64? That’s a tough question, and one you are all thinking. Quite frankly, I’m going to have to cop out and avoid a straight answer. The simple fact is that Mario 64 has been out for eons, and I still love it. I know every inch of that game. I still have a couple of stars to track down in Galaxy, and the second, third and even forth play-through will test if the game really does stand the test of time. Galaxy is however a worthy sequel. That much is certain.
Galaxy really is as good as you have been hearing; if you are a Nintendo fan, this is simply essential. If you can’t stand that darn plumber, still take a look (and for more than five minutes) – you may be surprised how different this game is. If, like me, you have been in a gaming rut as of late, make sure you play this; it will remind you of why you play games in the first place. If it doesn’t work, there’s simply no hope. Sell your games and get a new hobby.
Oh and if you have yet to experience the sheer joy that is a well crafted Mario game, I really do envy the sheer glee you will have playing this.