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Critical Reception: Nintendo's  Super Mario Galaxy 2

Critical Reception: Nintendo's Super Mario Galaxy 2

May 26, 2010 | By Danny Cowan

May 26, 2010 | By Danny Cowan
More: Console/PC, Columns

This week's edition of Critical Reception examines online reaction to Super Mario Galaxy 2, a Wii sequel that reviews describe as "a veritable creativity bomb, a megaton explosion of new ideas." Super Mario Galaxy 2 currently earns a score of 98 out of 100 at

Justin Haywald at gives Super Mario Galaxy 2 an A grade. "I like games with rich, branching narrative paths, and opportunities for character growth and change," he begins. "Super Mario Galaxy 2 does none of those things."

"It's a game that makes no assumptions about being anything other than a colorful romp through surreal worlds with bright, nonsensical characters," Heywald continues.

"And this sequel to Super Mario Galaxy takes everything its predecessor did and maintains that urgent sense of wonder and discovery, creating a world that copies its past self, yet keeps the freshness that made it so exciting when the first game debuted two years ago."

Haywald finds that Super Mario Galaxy 2 is an inspired sequel. "Most sequels, especially those that follow their source material with so little time in between (we usually only get one new, major Mario game per Nintendo console) fall into the trap of either adding too much new material, or not providing enough of what made the original a hit," he notes.

"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 just as solid as anything from Super Mario World or Super Mario 64."

"If you loved the first Mario Galaxy, but you're wary that this follow-up is a mere shade of its predecessor, than rest assured that this fan-service laden sequel feels just as new as the first Mario Galaxy," Haywald concludes. "Everything from the sweeping orchestral score to the ingenious layout of traps, puzzles and platforming speaks to a level of craftsmanship that only comes from years of refinement and reinvention."

Game Informer's Matt Helgeson scores Super Mario Galaxy 2 at 9.25 out of 10. "Super Mario Galaxy 2 is perhaps the truest 'sequel' in the history of the storied franchise," he writes. "By that I mean that it is, by and large, just more levels of what we experienced in 2007's Super Mario Galaxy."

This is not necessarily a bad thing, however. "The original Mario Galaxy is about as good as it gets," Helgeson recalls. "The way it eschewed large, open environments in favor of series of smartly designed orbs and platforms floating in space was just genius. It played the fundamental elements of platformer designs like a classical composer plays with notes, subtly tweaking gravity, movement, and even lighting in ways that constantly challenged your expectations."

The sequel builds on its predecessor with new features and power-ups, though Helgeson finds that Mario's classic platforming elements remain the most compelling.

"While it's fun to be able to roll over goombas as Rock Mario or make your own platforms as Cloud Mario, to me the meat of the experience still lies in the more traditional levels, which require fast and accurate platforming while throwing mind-bending gravity reversals, moving platforms, and even slow-motion sequences at you," he says. "For me, the Yoshi abilities and suits really shine in the boss battles. Though most are based classic boss battle templates, each one manages to add at least one unique or compelling new aspect to the mix."

Helgeson warns that some may find the title to be too difficult, however. "It's definitely harder than the first," he asserts. "In the early stages, this is a plus; Galaxy 2 gets you into some serious platforming much earlier in the game. It was nice to feel like you weren't just waiting five or six hours to get to the good stuff.

"On the other hand, as the game wore on, I often felt more frustrated than challenged. I frequently hit choke points, where I needed one more star to advance, but the only available stars were either annoying Prankster Comet challenges or time-consuming hidden stars. If I've completed all the main missions available to me, I just want to advance."

"Even so," Helgeson continues, "whatever frustration I may have felt was worth it. Most games today are willing to hang their hat on a small handful of new gameplay or level-design ideas. Super Mario Galaxy 2 throws something new at you nearly every single level -- and with over 240 stars to collect, that's no small feat."

Wired's Chris Kohler rates Super Mario Galaxy 2 at 9 out of 10. "Even if you've played every bit of Super Mario Galaxy," he writes, "you'll find its sequel packed full of surprises."

"Galaxy 2 is a veritable creativity bomb, a megaton explosion of new ideas," he continues. "With the original 2007 game, the Mario team had its hands full polishing the game's central play mechanics and coming up with levels that worked well with the radical design change."

"With the basic structure already in place," Kohler explains, "Super Mario Galaxy 2 gave this talented team a chance to let their imaginations run wild."

"There are level concepts here that are only used once that could be made into full games on their own," Kohler notes. "One minute you're eating glowing fruits that create an illuminated floor underneath you, and you've got to eat another one before it disappears. The next minute, you're jumping across platforms that appear and disappear " to the beat of the level's musical track. The second you finish one level, you're off to another one that feels completely different and asks you to master something new."

Kohler feels that some changes are for the worse, however. "The levels are linked together by a straightforward linear map, rather than a big, open, nonlinear hub," he says. "Although this will probably help casual gamers understand what they need to do to progress in the game, I don't like it as much; it feels cheaper, smaller."

"One bit of streamlining I don't think was necessary was removing nearly all the story elements," Kohler writes. "Galaxy showed that the Mario team has some genuinely solid storytelling ability, and they implemented it in a way that didn't distract from the gameplay. Even this was apparently too much for Miyamoto, who told the team to strip the narrative down to the absolute bare minimum for this installment. Again, this was done with the intent of keeping things laser-focused on the gameplay. But in this case it feels like a waste of talent."

"Super Mario Galaxy 2 is thus simultaneously more and less than its predecessor," Kohler concludes. "It expands and elaborates on the gameplay in unpredictable ways, but the last one felt like a bigger, more complete adventure. That said, better core gameplay with less window dressing is infinitely preferable to the reverse."

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