Super Mario Galaxy: Galactic Pinball

January 23, 2008

I’m not sure what it is, but something about this game is insanely fun.  Maybe it’s shooting from planet to planet like a grasshopper on steroids.  Maybe it’s running around in more dimensions than I thought possible.  Maybe it’s just that amusing sound the lumas make before they transform.  Either way, I’m pretty hooked.

Gameplay

When I first saw footage of this game, I was a little skeptical.  It looked a bit gimmicky, and impossible to navigate–lets face it, most of us don’t know how to navigate well in 3D on a 2D screen.  Okay, so it is a little difficult at times.  Fortunately, the camera AI is pretty smart, and 99% of the time you’ll have a good view of where you’re going without having to move the camera (the other 1% usually happens on thin planets, or planets with holes in the middle).

Controls work as follows: The pointer is used for collecting things called ‘star bits’ (not really necessary, but needed for bonus areas and the occasional Luma Shop) .  A second player can also jump in to help with collecting.  A is jump, B shoots out a star bit, shaking the Wiimote makes you spin–one of your basic attacks–the nunchuck is used for movement and Z is a ground pound.  Pretty simple to get the hang of.  Spinning as an attack can be difficult sometimes.  The radius of the spin isn’t much wider than Mario’s body (he needs longer arms) so with enemies that don’t come towards you it can be hard to get in range.  Jumping is often easier, but it doesn’t work on all enemies and when upside down getting the angle right can be a little tricky.

There’s also a number of new mushrooms with new Mario types, such as Bee Mario (my husband likes to say that in Waspinator’s voice, that’s all I can hear when I think of it).  Fire Mario also makes a return.

Story

Wait, there’s a story?  Given that it’s a Mario game, I think we can guess the gist of it, but I’ll spell it out anyhow.  Mario gets invited to visit Peach (the game opens with a rather amusing shot of him heading towards the castle).  Bowser attacks the town around the time Mario arrives, and steals the castle (Along with everyone in it, including Peach of course, who for some reason I haven’t figured out is holding a luma) before Mario can stop him.  Mario then gets recruited by the lumas and their ‘mama’, a girl named Rosalina, to gather the missing stars from their galactic observatory to give it back the power to fly around the universe.  Guess who has the stars?  Yup, Bowser!  Mario has to alternately fight him and Bowser Jr. to get the Grand Stars back to power the observatory.

Pretty basic.  There is a bit of a background story on Rosalina which is told through a storybook, for anyone who was wondering why there’s one human with all those lumas (we still don’t find out why Mario, Luigi and Peach are the only humans among the toadstools though), but it’s not essential to the plot and can be skipped as well.

Luigi also shows up later on, and helps Mario out by finding stars that Mario has missed.  Unfortunately, he always manages to get himself stuck, and needs Mario to help him get back.  And for some reason I have yet to figure out, by some means that is equally elusive, Peach will occasionally send a letter and some 1UP mushrooms.  Aw, isn’t that sweet.

Graphics

Alright, obviously we can’t expect Square-style cutscenes, but for the Wii it has some of the best graphics yet.  It retains the traditional style of the Mario line, but is fairly detailed for being that cartoony.  It’s also quite colourful, in true Nintendo style.

The imaginations of the designers obviously ran wild when designing the levels.  Every galaxy has a different theme, from ghosts to gardens to toys, and you’ll often encounter planets with interesting shapes, such as Yoshi’s head.  Other galaxies will only have a few larger planets, which gives a bit of a different feel to them, but I don’t find them as much fun–they tend to be more puzzle than action, and have the added disadvantage of being able to fall off (most times, you’ll wind up in somethings gravity well, making it harder to fall).  But, you won’t get vertigo either.

Sound

Less imagination here, but much of the music is copied from older games, so you get a nice dose of nostalgia.  The quality is quite good, and it lends a nice atmosphere to the worlds.  The lumas make some amusingly cute sounds when you talk to them (fortunately, you don’t often have to interact with them, because I can see it easily going from ‘amusingly cute’ to ‘annoyingly cute’).  There is very little in the realm of voice  acting, but there being any is a bit of a miracle for the franchise.  It’s probably a good thing there isn’t much though, because the voices would probably grate my nerves very quickly.   The quality is again good, but when no one says more than one line, and they say it anytime you get near…well, just don’t stick around the observatory too long.  Actually, that’s a good idea anyways because the music for there, while fitting, will probably put you to sleep after a while.  It sounds a lot like a lullaby.

One neat aspect that was added was that in certain areas music notes will appear, and as you run through them a song will play from the NES days.  If you run through fast enough, it’ll play at normal speed.

Overall, it’s a damn fun game, and there’s no real flaws that I can find.  The ability to have a second player help collect star bits is a nice touch, so that anyone watching has something to do.  It’s worth picking up.

———————————-

System tip:  Get a pair of charger stations for your Wiimotes.  One station comes with batteries for two controllers, and it makes it easy to make sure you always have a charge.  It doesn’t work well with the remote covers though (We cut out part of the backs of ours) because they cover the charge connector and affect the way the remotes sit in the charger.  $50 will cover four wiimotes, and will quickly pay for itself in the number of batteries you don’t have to buy.   Plus, it’s better for the environment 😉

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