Review: Super Mario Galaxy 2

SuperMarioGalaxy2.jpg BioShock 2 is often described as an unnecessary sequel – and it is. But there’s another top game this year that I think is even more unnecessary: Super Mario Galaxy 2.

Yeah, I said it. Super Mario Galaxy 2 – or ‘Super Mario Galaxy 1.5’ I should say — is a particularly unambitious sequel, and yet another high profile game that seems to be getting a pass from fair, honest scrutiny based on brand alone. It’s a fantastic game, don’t get me wrong. But except for a few new toss-in features and some other negligible modifications, it’s virtually identical to the original. In fact, when I played the first game and immediately jumped into the second for a comparison, I felt like I was playing the same exact game. So much so that our discussion review for the first Super Mario Galaxy applies to the sequel almost word for word.

Everything you know and love about Mario, and everything that made Super Mario Galaxy such a marvelous experience is in Super Mario Galaxy 2. And just to make it perfectly clear once again: this game is tremendous fun, and I had a carefree time playing it. The new power-ups, such as the abilities to spin-jump to form cloud platforms and ball up into a rock to smash into things, add a little extra diversity to the gameplay; Yoshi is back in action and is a joy to ride, even if he has been relegated to the role of a glorified power-up rather than a full-time character; the spherical levels, though slightly smaller in scope this time, are even more creative; the momentous soundtrack is absolutely breathtaking; the graphics remain unrivaled on the Wii, and are even a bit smoother and crisper than before; and the core hop-n-bop gameplay is 3D platforming in its purest form.

However, my beef is simply this: with nearly three years to work with, Nintendo took the base of Super Mario Galaxy and stapled on a few new power-ups, took out the main hub world in favor of a simplified overworld map like that of earlier Mario titles, and ever so slightly cranked up the difficulty. And, well…that’s about it. To me, the main purpose of a sequel is to build upon the foundation of its predecessor and hone it to perfection. But in my opinion Super Mario Galaxy 2 fails to do this, and instead is content with repackaging the original’s concept and tying a pretty new bow around it.

Super Mario Galaxy is without a doubt one of the best Wii games to date and a personal favorite of mine, so to an extent I’m fine with the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” approach – the game certainly didn’t need a whole lot of fixing after all. But the fixing it did need – namely some camera and control inadequacies – weren’t addressed in any way.

Like in his other 3D outings, Mario’s movements still feel a little too loosey-goosey for my tastes, and when you’re running every which way around the spherical planets the camera still has trouble finding an optimal viewing angle. It was easy to overlook these minor faults before, but after a few years they have become more pronounced, and subsequently less forgivable. Oftentimes the game’s new-and-tougher level of difficulty stems from a control or camera design quirk causing an unavoidable death, and that can become frustrating. Swimming, like in the last game, is particularly problematic, as are the clunky flying levels, which have you tilting the Wii Remote to turn and dive while soaring through the air on a bird.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 does, however, deserve praise for how masterfully it mixes up different play styles and level designs. A new power-up, boss, or gameplay gimmick is introduced with each passing level, and so the game stays fresh and unpredictable every step of the way. That’s not an easy thing to pull off, so props to Nintendo for managing to do so…for the second time no less!

Beyond that, though, there really isn’t much more to say. I really wish I could tell you that Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the greatest Mario game ever like many others seem to think, and that it blew me away in the same way the first game did years ago, but it isn’t, and I can’t.

I was provided with a review copy on loan, and now that I’ve played and returned the game to Nintendo I am in no hurry to buy a copy to call my own. I’m sure glad I got the chance to play it, but there isn’t anything I’ll take away from it that I hadn’t already taken away from the original, and by year’s end I certainly don’t see myself remembering this title with any great enthusiasm. Hell, I’m already forgetting about it as we speak.

So unless you are an undying Mario fanatic or haven’t played the first game already, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is what I consider a rent-first game. Sorry to be such a nitpicky party pooper here, I have just come to expect so much more from Nintendo and continue to grow increasingly frustrated with the lack of evolution and innovation in the company’s core franchise titles.

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Pros:
+ Wonderfully creative and diverse level designs
+ Beautiful graphics
+ Sweeping, bombastic soundtrack
+ Core Galaxy gameplay remains great fun

Cons:
– Too much of a rehash
– Camera flaws weren’t addressed
– Still really isn’t that challenging

Game Info:
Platform: Wii
Publisher: Nintendo
Developer: Nintendo
Release Date: 5/23/2010
Genre: Action/Platformer
ESRB Rating: Everyone
Players: 1-2
Source: Review copy provided by publisher on loan

About the Author

Matt Litten is the full-time editor and owner of VGBlogger.com. He is responsible for maintaining the day to day operation of the site, editing all staff content before it is published, and contributing regular news, reviews, previews and other articles. Matt landed his first gig in the video game review business writing for the now-defunct website BonusStage.com. After the sad and untimely close of BonusStage, the former staff went on to found VGBlogger.com. After a short stint as US Site Manager for AceGamez, Matt assumed full ownership over VGBlogger, and to this day he is dedicated to making it one of the top video game blogs in all the blogosphere. Matt is a fair-minded reviewer and lover of games of all platforms and types, big or small, hyped or niche, big-budget or indie. But that doesn't mean he will let poor games slide without a good thrashing when necessary!