Released in late 2007, Super Mario Galaxy revolutionized the way games use physics. The concept of small planetoids with their own gravity field, together with traditional platforming and new powers left players wanting more even after completing all 120 stars. Knowing that, Nintendo released Super Mario Galaxy 2, promising a whole range of new features and challenges that would satisfy players. The question is, is Galaxy 2 refreshing enough to shine on its own, or is it just an expansion pack, bringing more of the same?
The main concept is still there: go to a level, get the star, collect enough stars to progress. The stage selection is different, though. This time, instead of unlocking rooms and then collecting enough stars to unlock a new galaxy, the layout resembles the old Super Mario Bros games, with a linear path to follow and optional paths you can take. Each galaxy now has two to three stars only, which would seems like something bad, but instead, offers a bigger variety throughout the game. You also have to collect Comet Medals in order to unlock the prankster comet for the galaxy. These prankster comets usually pick a star you’ve already completed and ask you to do it again, but with a new twist, be it completing under a time limit or do it with cosmic clones repeating exactly what you do (touching those clones hurts you).
Galaxy 2 also brings 3 new power-ups: the cloud suit, the rock suit and the drill, all of them used in many different galaxies in various creative ways every time they’re presented. The cloud suit allows you to create up to 3 cloud platforms that are light enough to be taken by the wind. It also allows you to step on clouds that would otherwise vanish with your weight. The rock suit gives you the power to turn into a giant boulder and smash through obstacles or fly through specific ramps. And the drill, my personal favorite, allows you to dig through soft soil, creating some interesting platforming moments when you consider that planets can be dug through and one side doesn’t have to be symmetric to the other.
The level design is astonishing, creating whole new challenges for experienced Galaxy players while newcomers can still get the 70 stars to complete the game without taking the harder ones. Each level presents a new theme, new challenges and new ideas. You’ll never feel like you’ve done this before and Super Mario Galaxy 2 keeps this pace through the entire game.
To match such a level design, gameplay couldn’t be the same all the time. You’ll see various new ways to play throughout the game, ranging from 2D gameplay mixed with gravity puzzles to whole new ways of controlling the character, such as Fluzzard, the giant bird you fly with on some galaxies. The game also has a heavy emphasis on nostalgia, and it doesn’t limit itself to bringing past tracks from games like Super Mario World and Super Mario 64, it brings entire stages back from the past, and add various twists to it.
But the biggest new addition is Yoshi. The green dinosaur not only allows you to reach areas you couldn’t before, attack enemies from afar and use the tongue as a grappling hook, he has his own set of power ups, also used extensively and in various different ways, and all of them much different from any powers Mario has, making him vital in many moments.
Co-op has also evolved. Granted, the second player is still merely support, but now he can not only freeze foes, but defeat them and grab items such as air bubbles and coins to the player.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is more than a mere sequel. It’s an overload of creativity unleashed all at once in a single package, always making you come back for more, always keeping you surprised, always challenging you to try different ways to reach the end of the stage. Super Mario Galaxy 2 encourages players to try different things, and properly rewards them every single time. It’s as long as you want it, and refreshing every time you turn on your Wii, making it well worth the perfect score.