November 15, 2007

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Super Mario Galaxy (Wii)
Nintendo, Nov. 12
By Glenn "Thwomp" Given production@hippopress.com

This just in: Bowser is a mega jerk-face.

In case the prior bajillion Mario titles didnít clue you, in Bowser is a tool. In Super Mario Galaxy he has absconded, yet again, with your fair princess and whisked her away on his intergalactic airship to witness the formation of the new Bowser galaxy in a Big Bang that has been made possible by the Power Stars he has also stolen from the comet-disguised spaceship that was flying over the mushroom kingdomís centennial. Hold on a sec my molars are rotting from the inside.

Mario Galaxy seems innocent enough; you hop and bop around strings of planetoids and various astral bodies made small while collecting star bits and piecing together parts of each levelís Star. But the depth of challenge here is staggering. The new gravity-based gameply (various orientation flips, odd angles, wall-climbing and zero-g jumping) brings the third dimension to platform actioners in a way that Mario 64 never could. It can be disorienting, to say the least. Consequently the controls suffer a bit as you are often radically readjusting your viewpoint and must trust your mental layout more than ever. Youíll meander about in a slighty drunken tilt for a few levels before the action becomes too punishing.

The difficulty curves up briskly and those of us with 3-D navigation issues will likely find ourselves beating our heads against an asteroid keeping Mario out of black holes. Managing his various abilities (born of power-up suits like a limited-flight bee suit or a high-jumping spring suit) adds yet another layer of frustration, as most power-ups last an annoyingly short time. Luckily Super Mario Galaxy offers the weak an opportunity to warp to the end roughly halfway through the 120 stars you are tasked with collecting. So you can cash in, whup Bowser and then feel old when your nephew blasts through the next 60 stars. Galaxy is good, and makes concessions for the casual, but the camera never clicks just right and in such a perspective-based environment that can cripple your fun. A- ó Glenn Given