Mario In Space!

It’s-a-him, Mario, and he’s in space. If you thought Mario Galaxy was going to be lame because it was just “Mario 64 and Mario Sunshine in space,” you’re horribly wrong. In fact, though it is very close to those vintage 3D Mario titles, it adds enough new twists and awesome level design to put itself in the realms of the top 3D platformers created. It’s also the best game released on the Wii so far.

The premise of the game is similar to past Mario adventures. Mario is heading to visit Princess Peach for something, Bowser attacks, kidnaps her in his space cruiser and flies away. It’s all part of the typical sinister plot where you need to collect a bunch of items–this time it’s stars, get it? Mario… in space!–and then thoroughly kick Bowser’s ass for good measure to solve all of the world’s, er, galaxy’s problems.

The game provides a bit of a mind-fuck, because unlike the aforementioned Nintendo 64 and GameCube titles, there are some crazy adventures in gravity. The first time you jump into a warp pipe and end up inside of a house and then have to walk up the walls and then on the roof is more than a little trippy and definitely a load of good fun. The space elements based around changing gravity allow for inventive game design that helps the game from being too similar to its predecessors.

Fortunately, though entertaining, the Mario-in-space element is not the only new trick up Nintendo’s sleeve. Mario has new whimsical disguises, including Bee-Mario, which allows you to fly like a bee and stick to honeycomb walls. Fire flowers make a return, but with time constraints meaning your pyromaniac nature will have to be controlled slightly in order to allow yourself the time to think about what you might need that fire flower for. Mario can also skate, though his form is a little lacking–kind of like Nancy Kerrigan after Tonya Harding.

The puzzles and complex levels make the game and, as you progress, they become more challenging. Though they seemed slightly easier than Mario Sunshine–I finished the first 60 stars and beat Bowser in under 20 hours–some levels are still complicated enough to make you want to wing a Wiimote into your television screen every once in awhile, like a handicapped kid playing Wii Sports Baseball. But, like past Mario platformers, it’s not about beating Bowser, it’s more about collecting every last star. Galaxy provides the player with an incentive to do that: the ability to play as Luigi after 120 stars. Neat.

The biggest drawback of Galaxy is that, even after over a decade of developing them, no one seems to have been able to fix the inevitable camera problems that 3D platformers suffer. Galaxy restricts the use of first-person camera perspective, sometimes making it impossible to look and see what’s ahead or what’s around Mario. In the grand scheme of things, however, this is just a minor frustration and doesn’t take away too much from the gaming experience. Let’s call it another challenge.

In the vacuum of the console’s current offerings, Galaxy is great and may prove pretty important in pushing up Wii sales for Christmas. If anyone was waiting to get a Wii, now may be the time because Mario Galaxy shouldn’t be missed.

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