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Thursday, January 1, 2009

Super Mario Galaxy

Wow. As mentioned, one of the games I bought during Boxing Week was Super Mario Galaxy. Paid $29.99 for it... Super Mario Galaxy got glowing reviews, but I was skeptical because I find that major game franchises from *ALL* the companies to be largely overrated. Part of what's broken in the video game industry is obviously the companies-- console makers, publishers and developers-- but a significant part of it's brokeness also comes from the poor quality of so-called video game journalism. I expected Super Mario Galaxy to be a bit of a letdown like MarioKart Wii was.

What a surprise though! This game is really fun and addictive! I'm very pleasantly shocked by how much I'm enjoying this game. I really want to like the platformer genre of games, but rarely do I find games that are balanced & not just "you can't get over the 18th firetrap, so you can't go any farther in the game. May as well throw it away now."

Super Mario Galaxy has its share of frustrating moments to be sure, but there's still a lot to love about the game. The levels are really nicely designed, you walk around on planets that are small as a house, so you're upside down a lot. For the first couple hours I found it a bit... not queesy, but I wasn't sure how I was going to like it. But after I got used to it, it really adds to the fun of exploring, not only the topsides of worlds, but the undersides & insides too.

The overall look and sound of this game is really great. The basic gameplay reminds me a lot of Lego Star Wars. I like Lego Star Wars, but Super Mario Galaxy is like a better version of those games. Unfortunately, because of the static camera in a 3D world, Super Mario Galaxy suffers from much of the same camera issues Lego Star Wars did... some parts of the game are harder than they should be simply because the camera gets in the way.

Everything is very bright colourful, & cartoony, even the lettering exudes a certain charm (though more voice work would be nice....) Coupled with music with sounds that range from a stirring cosmic themes to what sounds like a Vienese Waltz... it's just a really nicely designed game world. Very kid-friendly looking/sounding game. Playing it, however, is *not* kid-friendly... there are some tricky areas & some of the tolerances for the challenges are so low that there's NO room for ANY error, which I hate. I don't play video games 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, and I don't want to have games designed for people who do. They went out of their way to make this such a kid-friendly looking game that I wonder why they made it largely inaccessible to those very kids they seemed to be targeting it at. We'll see how it goes when/if my nephew tries it out.

But I personally found the difficulty curve to be not too bad. The levels are not too short, but they aren't too long either. You'll navigate some tricky platform challenges & you usually won't be expected to endure tons more, usually you'll get there. Most of the checkpoints are good. You start with 4 Marios, it's fairly easy to get more... but I found that after getting 20 Marios, when I saved + turned off the game, next time I played, you start back with only 4 again. Like I said, it's easy to get more.... even though Princess Peach is kidnapped, she manages to send you a letter with 5 1-ups included. It's just having a limited amount of men is an archaic & outdated formula of video game design.

There's a lot of content to the game, lots of levels, called "Galaxies" here... and there are secret paths that lead to other levels.

Super Mario Galaxy is definitely one of the Wii's flagship titles. I'm glad I bought it. I keep going back to it for "just one more level"... which is a sign of a great game.


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