Game: Super Mario Galaxy (2007)
Graphics: I found the graphics to be reminiscent of Super Mario 64, but with a twist (literally.) Mario and his 3D friends look the same, but the environment itself has been upgraded to a more polished looking world with lush "planets" (levels) that can be explored from every angle. For an earlier Wii game, the graphics are crisp, colorful, and clear.
Controls: Super Mario Galaxy employs the Wii remote in a variety of ways. You can shake the remote to launch Marios spin attack, execute commands with button combinations, and point the remote at the screen to drag and drop objects (including Mario himself.) I found the controls fairly easy to learn, and the game does a great job of walking you through your control options and warming you up in the beginning levels.
Sound: I was surprised and happy to hear classic Mario tracks being used in Super Mario Galaxy! (Along with some new additions.) For example, Bowser's theme from Super Mario 64 is used during the levels where you face Bowser and his offspring. This is just one example of many classic tunes youll come across. If you are a Mario fan, prepare to feel nostalgic.
Level of Difficulty: Frustrating. This game ain't easy! The levels are intricate and require precise timing of your jumps and attacks. You are also given only 3 life points. (If you are hit 3 times, its game over.) I like to refer to games like this as "sweaty controller games." Make of that what you will.
My experience: I had somehow missed playing Super Mario Galaxy when the Wii was first released. I purchased the game for $20 at Best Buy as a "Nintendo Select Classic Game." I was excited to play it, since it was being displayed next to the likes of Zelda: Twilight Princess and Mario Kart Wii. The game has the same basic premise as every other Mario game known to exist: find Princess Peach and save her. For this adventure, Mario is in space and must travel from galaxy to galaxy collecting stars to fix his spaceship and travel light years to his "special someone." The game itself is visually stunning, and the galaxy levels themselves are all conceptually interesting and different from one another. I also thought being able to turn into Bee Mario and fly around was super fun!
At the point I wrote this review, I had about 42 stars collected. The game itself poses very little in terms of an intellectual challenge. The location of each star is explained to you, you just have to travel through the puzzles and obstacles to find it. I found this obvious layout to the game very disappointing. I enjoy exploring new worlds and figuring things out on my own, not being told exactly what to do. Even the "hidden stars" are explained to you in detail. This type of game set-up would be great for a younger child, but definitely was an insult to the intelligence of a player older than 12.
Additionally, the levels themselves are based on fine motor skills and not much else. For example, most levels require that you jump from one tiny, millimeter sized ledge to the next while dodging flames or an infinite stream of enemies. Most of my frustration came from the deaths to Mario that occurred over basic control errors, such as not being able to adjust the in-game camera to see where I was supposed to be jumping. Brutal! However, I tend to be stubborn so I would keep playing until I got it right out of sheer determination. Another major problem with the game is the amount of repetition. You can earn additional stars for re-playing levels and fighting a boss you have already encountered, with a few minor changes to the level such as faster moving enemies. To be honest, I got bored with this feature quite quickly.
Finally, it is important to mention that Mario is able to defy gravity in this game. He can walk upside down and all around an object, running and jumping across (obviously) spherical planets. What did this mean for me? Motion sickness. I was sitting a healthy distance from the TV and I still felt dizzy and nauseous. Seeing Mario running around in all directions, and trying to keep up with the changing perspectives of the levels themselves left me feeling quite ill. (Most of the levels are constantly spinning, whilst being suspended in the air.) At first, I could only play for 5-10 minute increments until my eyes (and inner ear!) acclimated to the game play. It is a good idea to monitor your distance from the screen, and also limit your total time playing if you arent feeling well.A pretty accurate representation of how my tummy reacted to all that Mario motion!
Bottom line: Endearing for the short-term, but not a classic.
Check out: Super Mario 64, available to download in the Wii online shop.