Not to spoil the rest of the review, but Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a freaking blast.
There are a number of things I could have confidently written about 'Super Mario Galaxy 2' (SMG2) based purely on the fact that it comes from Nintendo, even without seen anything from Mario's latest adventure. Technical glitches will almost be non-existent, the game will be pure fun, and for some reason it will be hundreds of long jumps ahead of anything else currently appearing alongside it on the Wii. The big surprise would have been if any of the aforementioned facts turned out to be false. Much to our complete lack of surprise, all of these elements are true of Super Mario Galaxy 2.
Nintendo Knows What They're Doing
There isn't much to say about the gameplay that can't be inferred from watching a few minutes of gameplay footage. Mario runs, spins and jumps. Any special power up or dinosaur like mount only serves to add variation to those three actions. The 'Bee Suit' gives you a controlled slow jump, the new 'Cloud Suit' gives a floaty jump that you can pause in mid-air, and the 'Spring Suit' gives you the ability to jump uncontrollably. The 'Fire Suit' lets you shoot fire while you spin and lastly the new 'Rock Suit' lets you spin like an invincible destructive bowling bowl. And then of course there is 'Yoshi,' who adds height, distance and speed to the running jumping variables I just discussed. He doesn't do a whole lot to change the gameplay, and because he has become such a defined Nintendo character as of late, it is a little bit odd to see him putting up with the big boned (not overweight) Italian plumber riding around on his back. Even so, Yoshi is a welcomed and fun addition, and licking enemies and pooping them out is still entertaining after all these years.
The Motivation is to Have Fun
If you have ever played a Mario, be it 2-D or 3-D, you know what to do here, move forward, and get to then end. There is no motivation other than grabbing the star to finish the level and it’s refreshing. Sure, the end goal is saving Princess Peach in theory, but the real reason you keep grabbing stars is practically non-existent. Mario is like a four year old child in the most awesome playground of all time. He is just there to play. Bowser is the bully of the playground, and even a four-year old can understand the moral obligation of saving someone in danger, but there is an awesome playground here! Maybe you even go saver her really quick, but you will run right back over to the monkey bars, and that is totally acceptable. Nintendo doesn't need to give you a motivation. They do, but only because they are such nice folks. You are collecting stars simply because you can, and it is a blast.
Of course, there are times when the game isn't a blast. There are times when the game can be very difficult, but it never seems unfair. All of the most difficult challenges are shippable. You can avoid them altogether and still get an engrossing complete experience, or you can put them up off until later, and you will still have an engrossing complete experience. The one problem I have with the selective difficulty of Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the lives. At this point in our gaming experience, lives have almost become a thing of the past, and Mario, at times, showcases why they should be. The only thing a game over serves in SMG2, is having to navigate back to the level from the giant Mario head space ship (more on that in just a moment). It's unnecessary and annoying. As long as you have lives, you can retry a difficult sequence over and over without leaving the level.
Once you get a game over you have to start as though you just turned on the game, and head back over to that level and start the retry loop over again. It is a distraction that serves no other purpose than preventing you from playing 'Super Mario Galaxy 2' for a few moments, which is surely an egregious crime when it comes to a game that is as much fun to play as it is. It is because of this that collecting lives became less of a small achievement for me and more of a, 'great, now I don't have to leave the level,' sort of realization. Retries should be based on my patience, not on the number of green mushrooms I have in my overall pocket. And that previous statement describes just about my only complaint about Super Mario Galaxy 2.
Often times game reviewers, or friends in the living room wondering why you're playing Wii instead of Xbox, will justify the graphical quality of a Wii game with a phrase like, "this game has good graphics -- for a Wii game." It is the tail end of that phrase, "for a Wii game," that SMG2 has somehow bypassed. Super Mario Galaxy 2 looks good by any standard, not just the Wii standard. It's so pretty, colourful and enticing to look at that you wonder why other Wii games are so far behind. That being said though, I really wish I could play a high-resolution HD version of the game.
And on the topic the non-interactive media elements of the game, the music can be described as nothing less than epic. Every soaring score, every bit of the remixed recognizable Mario themes, and even the sound effects, wahoos and yelps from Mario and Yoshi are all a joy to listen to. Watching Mario leap from planet to planet as the orchestrated music flies behind him, will make you happy. You can't help but smile with nostalgia.
Running on Mario's Giant Space Moustache
The original 'Galaxy' placed you in a harmless open area to gallop about in while running from level to level. This was fine, but Nintendo decided to change it slightly for their refined sequel. This next sentence sounds a bit strange, but trust me stranger things have happened in the Mario universe. For example, having a racoon tail means you can fly. In what universe does that make sense? But, back to the weird sentence I said was going to be next, but then relegated to right here:
Instead of physically running from Level to level, now you drive a giant Mario head spaceship from level to level.
See? Makes perfect sense -- to somebody. This change in traveling between levels, really defines all of the positive changes made for Super Mario Galaxy 2. It was something that worked fine, and was fun, but they tweaked to make it even more streamlined and fun. Nintendo didn't change many things for their brilliant sequel, but when they did, it was calculated and ended up making Super Mario Galaxy 2 an ultimately better game than the original.
By the way, after you -- spoiler alert -- collect all 120 stars and save the Princess, Nintendo goes and drops another hundred or so green stars to go seek throughout all the levels. You're Wii is going to be working harder than it has in a long time.
Nothing will ever match the mind blowing gravity bending innovation that was experienced in the first game. Nothing can replace the initial awe of literally running around a planet, or long jumping into orbit that we experienced in the first game, but Galaxy far and away succeeds in refining a near perfect experience. You're Wii is going to be working harder than it has in a long time.
Gameplay:10, Graphics:9.3, Sound:10, Innovation:9.1, Mojo:9.6 Final: 9.6 / 10