‘Super Mario Galaxy’ shines

Gaming, Nintendo, Wii

smallsupermario.jpgSuper Mario Galaxy is getting rave reviews. Was there ever any doubt that would happen? But even I, a longtime fan, am surprised by just how solid this game is.

The story is familiar: Mario must rescue the princess of the Mushroom Kingdom from the evil Bowser Koopa. The twist is that this time Bowser has made off not only with the princess, but her castle as well – he’s ripped it right out of the ground and hauled it away into outer space!

Now Mario must mount a rescue, and that means helping a mysterious astronomer restore her space station to its former glory and meeting lots of other interesting characters along the way. As you progress, collecting stars, you unlock new galaxies to explore and in turn earn more stars.

New powers include a spin attack – much like Link’s in many of the Zelda games, except that it has added utility as a way to activate various devices throughout the universe – and the ability to transform into Bee Mario, Boo Mario and Ice Mario in addition to the traditional Fire Mario.

A second player with a second remote can jump in at any time to help you pick up the star bits (things you shoot at enemies and feed to allies) you need to complete many tasks. Your assistant can also shoot star bits at enemies and objects for you, leaving you free to navigate the dizzying galaxies.

It’s unbelievable how immersive Super Mario Galaxy can be. Transition from intro scenes into gameplay is seamless – often disorienting. What isn’t nearly as disorienting as I expected is the relative gravity effect that you experience when rounding the surface (interior or exterior) of a planetoid. The game designers clearly took extra care to make this fun rather than frustrating.

One complaint I have so far is the camera angle controls. It may just be a learning curve and I haven’t adapted yet, but this is definitely one of the less intuitive aspects of the game’s control. I remember it being much easier in Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, for example.

But that’s not nearly enough to ruin this ride. Super Mario Galaxy is out of this world.

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