Super Mario Galaxy: Quick Thoughts

I was actually pretty skeptical coming into Mario Galaxy, despite its widespread critical praise.  I wasn’t able to get into Twilight Princess due to the painfully slow opening, and feared that I’d experience a similar event in this case.  As it turns out, I’m now 40 some-odd stars in, and I’m genuinely delighted with the game.  It’s lush and vibrant in a way that I haven’t seen on the Wii before.  The gameplay is varied and charming.  There isn’t too much annoying story tacked on.  Plus the game is challenging, without being frustrating – my progress has, to use the cliche, been slow and steady.

There are so many great little details in the design of the game.  My favourite thus far are the pull-stars that you have to click on in the mission hubs to get to the level-select screen.  At first this seemed like a pointless nuisance.  Then I realized it was probably done to avoid confusion by forcing the player to already have the cursor on screen when entering the somewhat busy, visually, next screen.  A second favourite is the flashlights that shells subtly and mysteriously develop when you carry them under water, which elegantly solves the problem of underwater aiming.

I do, of course, have a few little gripes.  I keep wanting the spin move to be on the nunchuk. The camera occasionally bugs out (most notably in a boss fight against a giant mole, where it kept trying to keep both of us onscreen at once) or, with all the turning upside-down, the connection between tilting the analog stick and moving Mario on the screen breaks down and Mario goes somewhere I didn’t intend.  Underwater levels still kind of suck (this is what caused me to quit my last 3d platformer – Banjo Kazooie) though at least they give you more camera control in them than in other levels, as well as a generous amount of air.

Lastly, sometimes the game feels undone by it’s own sheer amount of variety.  A lot of levels jump so quickly from one idea to the next that it’s a bit disorienting.  (The upside-downness doesn’t help either.)   What’s more, there are so many different modes of movement that it can get confusing to control.  The most recent example :skating.  While I kind of love how they went to the trouble of animating Mario skating backwards, a prior movement mode (swimming underwater while carrying a shell) suggests that the Z-trigger should slow him down.  How you slow down while skating remain a mystery to me.

But all in all, it’s lots of fun.  There is, at times, a “going through the motions” flavour to playing it, but then some hard boss, or other extended, challenging sequence, or even just some gorgeous vista, will come along and re-engage me.

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