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Mario Rocks, Rolls In Super Mario Galaxy 2
by Brad Shoemaker on
Hands-on impressions with some wild new levels in Nintendo's platformin' Wii sequel.
When Nintendo pitched its here's-all-the-ideas-we-couldn't-fit-in-the-first-time concept for Super Mario Galaxy 2 at E3 last year, they weren't joking around. This isn't just a collection of B-side levels made with the same art assets and mechanics of the stellar (sorry) original platformer, still one of the best Wii games available in my humble estimation. Galaxy 2 definitely looks and plays like the first game on its surface, but there does seem to be a whole sequel's worth of new power-ups and things to do in here that I hope will make this thing worth the full-fledged-sequel price tag.
There's the rock suit, one of the game's new power-ups. It's a mushroom with a blocky granite-looking cap that girds Mario in a stone suit that somehow doesn't seem to weigh him down. But it does roll him up into a boulder when you shake the Wii remote that spins for a second--giving you just enough time to point it in the direction you want to roll--before it takes off and smashes through just about anything in its way. You have to be pretty careful with the rock suit spin, as the thing hurtles off like a bullet as soon as it launches. It sort of has a mind of its own, giving you only limited steering control once you're barreling around a level. But there are, of course, a ton of things to smash through and a number of sizable ramps to jump over in levels where you find the rock suit.
And hey, you probably already knew about Yoshi's triumphant return, right? But how about light Yoshi? I got to play a level in the Haunty Hills Galaxy patterned after the old ghost houses from Super Mario World, where the floor was nonexistent unless Yoshi grabbed little light bulb power-ups that made him luminous for a short period of time, revealing the floor around him. But the area of floor you can walk on shrinks slowly as the light fades, so if you don't get to the next bulb in short order, you're tumbling into the abyss. Of course there are extra coin blocks and 1ups spread here and there between bulbs that only the fastest players will be able to detour and pick up before the floor runs out beneath them.
Galaxy's wanton misuse of celestial terminology must have Carl Sagan spinning in his grave. Like in the first game, here a small group of tiny round planetoids make up a level, in the game's parlance called a galaxy, and multiple galaxies then go on and constitute a world. Yeah, I don't get it either, but the net effect is that in Mario Galaxy 2, "worlds" work just like they did in games like Mario 3, Super Mario World, and (come to think of it) New Super Mario Bros. Wii, which is to say you get an overhead-perspective map with a bunch of levels connected together by paths that you move an iconic Mario around.
Actually, in this case it's Starship Mario, a giant green Mario head that flies from one world to the next. You can also zoom down to a close-up view of Starship Mario and run around on it, sort of like Mario 64's castle. Starship Mario is sort of like a gameplay sandbox in Galaxy 2, since you can play around with any of the already unlocked power-ups and abilities at will. You can even hop on Yoshi and run around, though Yoshi plays pretty much just like Mario, except that you need to use the cursor to tongue-lash predefined grapple points in each level.
I can't help mentioning the new (edit: not new) underwater turtle shell power-up. Ever since the hallowed Mario 64, I've thought the swimming controls in Mario games were a bit weird, but this thing basically provides you an outboard motor that lets you zoom around underwater without having to hammer on the A button. It's got headlights on the front of it that you can use against some aquatic enemies, and, hilariously, it has red taillights that light up when you hit the break to stop swimming around. Later on in the water level I was able to freeze the pond I was swimming around in, and skate around on top of it.
Some of the levels come up with some snazzy new mechanics solely through inventive level design, without relying on new power-up gimmicks. One of these had me running around the top of a sliding tile puzzle, making me butt-stomp the sides of the tiles to slide them around and form a complete picture on the top, revealing the star that would rocket me to the next area. And later on, I was running along a particularly brutal series of wooden platforms that had automated saw blades carving big chunks out of them as I went along. In the interest of preserving what tatters remain of my reputation, I'm not going to mention how the rest of this level went for me, but let it suffice that it wasn't too easy.
Don't let Mario's affable Italian exterior fool you; the portly little sadist is not messing around in Super Mario Galaxy 2. Some of these levels are pretty darn difficult, especially that last level with all the saw blades. The game looks like it'll provide a healthy challenge and a bunch of new toys to play with when it ships in May. Now watch this new trailer and look at screens!