Super Mario Galaxy is a portal into a universe where the most common call-out for plumbers is "there are turtles in my drains", but unfortunately the only competent plumber is stuck far away from home in a starship-cum-house wiling away his days collecting stars, coins, and Ricicles in a desperate effort to gain some respect from Princess Peach who always treats you like her personal slave and expects you to rescue her every time she gets kidnapped, which is a hobby of hers.

Its plot is about as interesting as Sunshine's was before it, except you're in space. Thankfully, due to laws of physics known only to Italian plumbers from Japan venturing out into space without a space suit does not kill Mario.

The game also succeeds in belaying any thoughts you may have had about galaxies being formed over millions of gajillions of years. They are actually formed in seconds by little star-like people when they TRANSFOOOOOORM. The game's title is actually a misnomer, as there are many galaxies in the game, not just one. This we can accept as a translation issue due to Japanese having no grammatical plural. Oddly, most galaxies reside in rooms of the house, such as the bedroom and the kitchen.

The main enemy in the game are small white rabbits, which you must collect enough of to make some kind of soup that gives you super-human powers (or maybe it's just to create more clones of yourself).

Thankfully collecting the usual power stars is interrupted by the odd interlude where you must defeat a boss about as terrifying as Barney (and possessing a similar IQ).

This may sound like a daunting game where death awaits at every corner (and it is), so you'll be happy to know that your brother Luigi helps you on your quest by travelling to galaxies, finding a star, and then getting stuck, having to send you a letter with a photograph showing you exactly where he is cowering. He apparently has not worked out how to use stars to escape galaxies and return to the starship at the centre of the universe unlike his overachieving older brother.

A new discovery in plumber-physics is the ability of Mario to change into anything ... as long as it ends with "Mario". Such as Bee Mario, Boo Mario, Spring Mario, Ice Mario, Fire Mario, and finally Flying Mario (which tries to be clever and use another lexical category for the X in X Mario). Note that Mario cannot transform into a marionette. This is because marionette only starts with Mario, it does not end with Mario.

Super Mario Galaxy is the first core Mario platformer to appear on the Nintendo Wii. Released on November 1st, 2007 in Japan, the 3D platformer has been subsequently released in North America, Europe and Australia to almost complete critical acclaim. The game's fluid physics, tight controls and imaginative game universe has seen Nintendo EAD Tokyo's project being hailed as the premier game on the Wii and the greatest platformer of all time. Being the video game icon that he is, a new Mario game equals an event.

Essentially a sequel-at-heart to 1996's Super Mario 64, Galaxy sees a return to form after Super Mario Sunshine's proven, but ultimately lesser, attempt. Here, Nintendo top designer, Shigeru Miyamoto, returns to the focuses that made the series great in the first place: innovation and playability. For these reasons Galaxy is reminiscent of the untouchable Super Mario 3 on the NES.

Building on the three-dimensional foundations of 64, Galaxy sees the player utilizing a planet's gravity in puzzles and giving Mario a range of never-before-seen suits (Bee Mario, Spring Mario,Boo Mario) in the way that map screens and the raccoon tail had refined the game previously.

In his newest adventure, Mario, once again, has to save Princess Peach — this time sending him into space where he meets a new race of characters called the Luma. They, and their mysterious leader Rosalina, help Mario by sending him to different galaxies to receive power stars. Plot has never been an important part of a Mario game and that doesn't change greatly here — however it is infinitely better than "Hey Mario, I baked you a cake. Come to the castle. -Princess"

In essence, the Luma's observatory is the map screen, the universes are the "worlds" of past games in the series, and the galaxies are the "levels", just to put the game into perspective. The galaxies are similar to the paintings in Mario 64 in that the layout of a level can be used to gain multiple stars. As more stars are collected, more galaxies are unlocked (a la 64) and as the universe's boss is beaten and the Grand Star is collected, the next universe is unlocked (a la classic Mario).

Thus, Super Mario Galaxy is a wonderful mix of new and old. The fresh and innovative combined with the proven and familiar. The graphics are incredible and the amount of planets in a galaxy always ensure the player is constantly surprised or intrigued, not to mention the part gravity plays in the game. Meanwhile there are constantly references to the past, such as music (the tune from 1-4 in Mario3 always gets my heart a-racing), enemies (seriously, when was the last time you saw Rocky Wrench?), and locations (the airships are back). Prankster comets help assure the replayability of a level by assigning a certain challenge (speed run, mirror Mario race, fast/slow enemies etc) which gives an extra kick to redoing a previous level.

The Wii-mote is also used to great effect, which is important. The pointer is used throughout the game to collect Star Bits which are scattered all over the galaxies, to feed said Star Bits to certain hungry Luma, or to select a Pull Star whose gravity Mario will attach to. A point-&-shoot element is present too, in that the player (or second player, which is where the multiplayer aspect takes place) can aim and shoot the collected Star Bits at certain enemies to stun them. As a side note, it is very satisfying to kick a stunned enemy off the planet.

What it comes down to most is that Super Mario Galaxy is simply a joy to play. Nostalgic, not direct like the old-school New Super Mario Bros on the DS so much, but more like an inside joke that you know you're in on, the feel of the game is instantly familiar to old gamers. Like the Game Over music that dates right back to Super Mario Bros and the completely black screen with "Mario x ??" lives screen that follows. But it also makes me think, I seriously hope that eight year olds still get into games like this like I used to when I was eight. When discovering new worlds and finding secrets felt exactly like discovering new worlds and finding secrets - not a "get a walkthrough; beat it quickly" experience replaced by Grand Theft Auto 3, or whatever trying-to-be-an-adult game kids talk about at lunch time these days. Maybe that's one of the things I like best about this game - that it makes me feel like a kid again.

Developer: Nintendo EAD
Publisher: Nintendo
Release Date: 2007
Platform: Wii
Genre: Platform
ESRB Rating: E for Everyone

The idea behind Nintendo's Wii console has always been to provide fresh, new, innovative gameplay. On that front, Super Mario Galaxy is a solid winner. The controls are familiar to anyone who's played Super Mario 64, but with a brand new twist: the various levels of the game play with gravity in amazingly fun and creative ways, bringing a whole new dimension to 3-D gaming (that dimension being, obviously, the third, which was sorely overlooked in most other 3-D games).

All the classic elements of the Super Mario franchise are here. Mario, Bowser, Princess Peach (kidnapped), a host of toads providing a supporting cast, goombas, turtles that provide their shells for weapons when stomped, coins, 1-UP mushrooms, and objects like fire flowers that give Mario new abilities. It draws heavily on its background from Super Mario 64, the controls are mostly the same, using the analog joystick to walk/run, and various methods of jumping and summersaulting, including the wall-jump. 64's punching has been replaced with a spin attack, however, that kills some enemies but just knocks over most of them, and also has a few additional effects like extending jumps a little and providing a speed boost when swimming underwater. 1-UPs are plentiful, and only the most careless of players will ever find himself out of lives.

The levels are very large, many with hidden or at least non-obvious areas, although they are not mazes because of the generally open architecture. This is definitely a game that encourages exploration. The replay value of each level is high, which is good, since you'll be returning to most levels 3–5 times to collect additional power stars.

The wiimote controller is used in several interesting ways as well. Throughout the game you are called on to collect "star bits" (small jewel-like rocks) as well as coins, and the wiimote can be used to shoot these star bits at enemies by aiming it at the screen. Some strong enemies are immune to them but they stun most of the rank-and-file baddies. Star bits are also used as a sort of currency, giving them to friendly characters in exchange for useful items or access to new map areas.

Additionally, there are several special levels that work as a sort of minigame, such as a surfing race and a level where you run over goombas while balancing on a giant ball, that use the wiimote's motion sensing features.

But the real killer feature of the game is the gravity. You can run completely around on small planetoids in any direction, get yanked from point to point by pull stars that draw you toward them, climb underneath certain platforms, and even jump from planetoid to planetoid in some places. Some of the enemy bosses actually require you to climb around on them, and once in a while you can find yourself inside of a hollow sphere, which is really trippy. Not all of the levels have funky gravity, there are a few more standard levels that are no less fun for having a normal playing surface.

The difficulty of the game ramps up slowly but steadily, allowing you to get the hang of one feature before introducing a new one to you. Bowser appears three times in the game, and his levels are fiendishly difficult without being frustrating, drawing on many of the game's features and introducing new ones each time. Bowser's levels also find new and clever uses for gravity, requiring you to walk up walls and crawl around in ways that will tempt you to turn your TV on its side just to make sense of it all.

The camera tends to be the Achilles heel of most 3-D games, but the implementation is pretty good in Super Mario Galaxy. Most areas will let you move the camera around, but it won't move through a solid object, and the levels are typically wide-open spaces or even outer space itself, so there are very few places in which the camera can get stuck or provide a bad view of what's happening. There were only a couple of places I found the camera to be frustrating, it's really very polished and useful, and of course there is a first person view so you can look through Mario's eyes to get the lay of the land if necessary.

Super Mario Galaxy only gets challenging near the end, but it's incredibly fun throughout. The graphics are cartoony and colorful, the levels quirky and interesting, and the puzzles aren't too frustrating to figure out. Overall I give Super Mario Galaxy 5/5, and highly recommend it to anyone who's enjoyed the Mario franchise so far.

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