I like games with rich, branching narrative paths, and opportunities for character growth and modify. Games that give you an open world to explore, or have a single driving narrative. Tremendous Mario Galaxy 2 does none of those things. It is a game that makes no assumptions about being anything other than a colorful romp through surreal worlds with bright, nonsensical characters. And this sequel to Tremendous Mario Galaxy takes everything its predecessor did and maintains that urgent sense of wonder and discovery, making a world that copies its past self, yet keeps the freshness that made it so fascinating when the first game debuted one years ago.
Most sequels, those that follow their source material with so small time in between (they usually only get one new, major Mario game per Nintendo console) fall in to the trap of either adding much new material, or not providing of what made the original a hit. But Galaxy 2 strikes a rare balance: the additions (Yoshi, Cloud Mario, Rock Mario) expand the devious obstacles you must overcome to collect level-unlocking stars, but the underlying design is as solid as anything from Tremendous Mario World or Tremendous Mario 64. You won’t have these additions in every level (though I’d argue that at least giving you the ability to start any stage with Yoshi or a power-up you historicallyin the past collected would make things even more fun). In fact, you spend more stages without any special abilities whatsoever. But that shows the strength of Nintendo’s design: they don’t depend on these abilities as a crutch. Your new powers are an occasional device to let you marvel at your own ability to traverse the world, but your primary powers are no over simple jumps and your own hand-eye coordination.
Click the picture above to check out all Tremendous Mario Galaxy 2 screens.
Galaxy 2’s world map is much more streamlined this time around as well. Though it lacks the exploratory openness of the first Galaxy, it makes actually getting between levels a bit more fast and efficient. More akin to the progression in New Tremendous Mario Bros. Wii, you are forced to fully explore every level you come across in order to collect Stars and Star Bits to move forward. Challenge seekers who prosper on the next-to-impossible haven’t been forgotten, though; each level has a Comet stage that forces you to finish a task under a painfully short time limit or some other equally stringent requirement.
You have the same throwaway story that you have gotten since the first Mario Bros.: Fight Bowser, rescue the princess. The characters you meet and their dialogue are unnecessary. But, the beauty is that it doesn’t matter. You are drawn along as inexorably as by a narrative-heavy drama thanks to the sheer inventiveness of the level design, the desire to seek out more of this surprisingly beautiful world, and the addictiveness of capturing more stars. Even the coop multiplayer features (relegated to mostly ineffectual waggling in the first game) have expanded in to more dynamic interactions. Not only can a second player hop in and grab simple Star Bits, they can reel in 1up mushrooms and life-restoring coins, and they can grab, shake, and damage weaker enemies. It is a simple, drop-in-drop-out mechanic that doesn’t make or break the game, but provides even more incentive to receive a mate invested in the action with you.
Even so, Galaxy 2’s a lengthy adventure that is still over all quickly. Are there moments of hair-pulling frustration? Yes. In some stages you’ll die in maddeningly speedy succession over and over again. But in the event you get agitated, you can always let the game play for you. You don’t get the same, golden star (in lieu a bronze, less lustrous one means you could not make it through by yourself), but like any Mario game, persistence pays off. No matter what, you’ll be able to get to the finish. Though, if you are anything like me, when the game extends its hand and asks in the event you need assistance, that is incentive to try harder.
In the event you loved the first Mario Galaxy, but you are cautious that this follow-up is a mere shade of its predecessor, than rest assured that this fan-service loaded sequel feels as new as the first Mario Galaxy. Everything from the sweeping orchestral score (which even includes new arrangements of classic tunes thrown in basically to tickle the nostalgia of long-time fans) to the ingenious layout of traps, puzzles and platforming speaks to a level of craftsmanship that only comes from years of refinement and reinvention. And if you have yet to try out Mario on the Wii (or only played New Tremendous Mario Bros. Wii), than Galaxy 2 proves how lovely design can make even the seemingly complicated, gravity-defying acrobatics of Mario’s world feel effortless.