Tuesday, December 11, 2007

VG REVIEW: Super Mario Galaxy

Nintendo, for the Wii, rated E for Everyone (mild cartoon violence), $49.99.

Though it's easily one of the more popular consoles out there today, the Wii hasn't exactly garnered a thunderous herd of stellar games. There have been a few strong titles but nothing that screams must-own or really builds strongly upon the premise of the Wii's motion controls.

All that changes with the release of "Mario Galaxy." The first major Mario title for the console (assuming you don't count "Super Paper Mario" and "Mario Party 8"), "Galaxy" is a fun, addictive platform game that thrills and surprises at every turn.

The plot isn't significant, but for the sake of recapping, it can be summed up thusly: The evil dinosaur-turtle (or whatever he is), Bowser, has kidnapped the princess (again) and stolen a bunch of magical stars. It's your job as Mario to get them all back and set everything right (again).

To do this you wander the spaceways, either hopping or jetting across various tiny planetoids, some barely larger than Mario himself, solving puzzles and dispatching enemies along the way.

As you might expect, you'll do the usual bit of item collecting (a mainstay in any platform game these days), but for once the coins, gems and other doodads prove to be valuable, as they can unlock other areas or improve your health.

Taking a page from "Super Mario World 3," in "Galaxy" Mario can try on several costumes, each with its own special abilities. The bee outfit, for example, allows him to fly for short periods of time (though you have to avoid water). The "Boo" costume lets you become a ghost and pass through walls.

But it's not just the level design and add-ons that make "Galaxy" such a joy to play. The game's use of motion controls is intuitive, fluid and graceful enough to make you wonder why you ever bothered using a traditional D-pad. Shaking the controller, for example, allows Mario to do a spin attack, stunning his enemies. Other, more unique levels require you to do things such as holding the controller vertically to balance Mario on top of a rolling ball.

The game also boasts a co-op mode, where your friend can collect the little star bits that dot the landscape while you operate Mario. As multiplayer schemes go, this seems to be terribly unbalanced and is probably the weakest part of the game.

As the official poster boy for Nintendo, Mario gets his mug plastered onto a lot of games that barely rank above mediocre. Not so with Mario Galaxy." Like the best "Mario" games before it, it builds firmly upon platforming traditions to offer something original and inventive. You won't find a better game on the Wii console right now.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2007

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