Super Mario Galaxy Review - 18/12/2007

Mario takes on the universe in his latest adventure, but is this really the Super Mario Bros 3 of 3D? Super Mario Galaxy is finally here. After nearly a year of delays, Wii owners can now play the latest instalment in the plumber's franchise. It was definitely worth the wait.

As usual, there isn't a great deal of story in Galaxy. The game opens with Mario and the rest of the Mushroom Kingdom being teleported into outer space. Peach has once again been captured, and Mario must find a way to save her. Bowser returns as the villain, keeping the look he had in the other 3D games. Mario also meets the Lumas, small star children, who grow up to become galaxies. This encounter begins the game's obsession with stars, as there will always be at least 10 on screen at once. If you play the Mario series for the story, then you need to sort out your priorities. The game features a basic, but fitting story, which if became any more complicated, may have affected the game negatively.

The game is split up into separate galaxies. These take the place of the portraits from Mario 64, and each has various levels within them. This is one area that the game exceeds expectations, with each level, or star, taking place on what feels like a separate galaxy. Unlike 64's approach of having all the stars in a level available at any point, you are guided along a set path to your destination. This allows for the Galaxy to change depending on what star you are going for. This can mean that there are new ways to get around the world, or even a complete overhaul of the stage. By doing this, the galaxies feel fresh, even if it is your 4th time through them, curing an aspect of 64 that became repetitive.

But you can't play a whole game in one world, there has to be some variety. Galaxy proves that Nintendo employ the most creative minds in the industry. Every galaxy has been carefully crafted to feel original. The level design is flawless, each being completely different to the others. They incorporate platformer clichés, like a fire and a sea world, but are imaginative on a colossal scale. The gravity bending ideas used here are faultless. In most worlds, Mario can run all the way round the 'planet', creating brand new puzzles. This new gravity mechanic is used cleverly throughout the game, with later levels testing your balance to the limit.

Each galaxy has a vast number of small planets, each containing various items, enemies, and ways of transporting to other planets. These planets can take mere seconds to traverse, while some can take up most of your time in a galaxy. But these planets feel connected, as you're constantly moving between them. Mario uses launch stars as his main way of getting to these planets, which are activated by performing a spin attack while in them. Scouring each planet to find these will be one of your top priorities, but you never find yourself stranded. When playing through the galaxies, you can only admire the excellence in design that is shown here. The levels look and feel completely original, and this lasts until the closing credits.

One thing to remember is that Galaxy is still a platformer, and so there must be things to collect. Well, there are still coins to be found here, recovering your health with each one you find. But the main items you will be collecting are star bits. These small pieces of star are all over the place, under crates, in grass, and sometimes they spontaneously fall from the sky. In a single galaxy you can find nearly 300 of these bits, which can then be used to open extra levels to play. This may seem like a lot of collecting, but with the Wii remote in hand it's easy. You can pick up star bits by simply pointing at them. This may seem different at first, but makes the game much less tedious as you go through each galaxy. By pressing B, you can also shoot these at enemies to stun them. This feels natural, and soon your little star pointer will be your best friend.

This idea is carried into the multiplayer aspect of the game. The co-star mode allows a second player, with a second remote, to have another pointer on screen. They can collect star bits for the other player, but they can also stop enemies from moving by holding A while pointing at them. This can aid younger players, or give non-gamers something to do while you play. This mode is a great idea, and one that is sure to feature in more Nintendo games on the Wii. The general controls of the game are great, keeping what was good about the N64 game, and adding some motion control. This feels fantastic, with Mario spinning when you shake the controller. All of the controls work extremely well, and anyone having doubts about them should have them put to rest. This is Nintendo we're talking about.

Mario still has the opportunity to change into various outfits to gain new abilities. These range from the traditional Fire Mario, to the previously announced Bee and Boo costumes. All of them work well, except perhaps the Spring Mario costume. At points while wearing it you lose control of Mario, leaving him bouncing around the level. This is the only hiccup for the power-ups, and is only found on a limited number of planets.

On a technical standpoint, Galaxy is an amazing achievement for the Wii. It looks as good as any game out right now, and that is the truth. The vividness of the colour, and the sharpness of the worlds pierce through you television, and show that the Wii can pull off gorgeous graphics. This may be a bad thing for developers, as now they have no reason to say that the Wii can't handle good graphics. This gives the Mario universe life like it has never known. The characters look like they fit in their 3D moulds for the first time, giving the game the same feel as the classic Mario adventures. The musical score is the most epic in the series so far, sounding more like a Zelda game at points. The main theme is played by a full orchestra, bringing the game into a new arena of music. The sounds used in the game are fully functional, and none harm the game. The sound of Mario flying through space is great, and makes these moments all the more enjoyable. The game also features limited loading times. This is achieved by some loading occurring while Mario flies from planet to planet. But even so, the entire galaxy can be seen at any one point, giving the game amazing draw distances.

If you play Super Mario Galaxy, you will have a smile on your face from start to finish. The main reason why the game is so good is the fact that it is fun. There has been no other game in recent memory that keeps you hooked throughout, retaining the feeling of awe you have when you first step out into the galaxy. Everything about this is brilliant, from the controls, to the level design. The game doesn't try and cover up the fact that it is a platformer, it uses every cliché that Mario himself helped to pioneer. When compared to the other platformers of today, Ratchet, Crash, and every kids' movie tie-in, you can't help but praise how flawless Galaxy is. The innovative use of the Wii along with the way the developers have toyed with gravity all help solidify Mario's place in the industry. If you need a reason to buy a Wii, this is it. Forget that. If you need a reason to get into games, Mario Galaxy is it. It is the game that has come closest to perfection all year, and needs to be played by everyone. This is why games exist.

- Sam Atkins



Nintendo EAD