So it's been about a month since Super Mario Galaxy was launched over here and how I highlighted its secret and warning messages. I've finished the story now but haven't quite managed to push on for that second ending. There's plenty of reviews out there by now but here's my version.
After their first half exciting outing on the Wii, the Mario gang is back to their old roles in SMG. Bowser is out to cause trouble again, Princess Peach is back to her weak damsel-in-distress self and it's up to Mario to save her again. Only this time, Bowser has bigger plans and is going to create his own galaxy, a world of his own.
Right from the intro, SMG shows what the Wii is capable of with its lively, colourful and cheery Star Festival taking place. Here is where you get to practice collecting the Star Bits just by pointing your Wiimote at them. After Bowser flies off with Peach, Mario finds himself on a strange little planet with bunnies and you're lightly introduced to the new way this 3D platformer works. You're going to be standing in all sorts of directions in the levels ahead.
Moving on, you meet Rosalina who explains she needs Power Stars and Grand Stars before her ship, the Comet Observatory, can be powered up again to go after Bowser. You're then free to go around selecting the "Galaxy" levels you wish to visit and the variety is astounding. The goal is basically to beat each of these Galaxies to collect as many of the stars as you can to power up new parts of the ship. Once you have enough, you're ready to save Peach from Bowser.
As you run through the weird and wonderful galaxies, you still collect the familiar coins that have been featured throughout the Mario series of games but, you also collect something known as "Star Bits" which I mentioned earlier.
Coins act as the score for a galaxy, hit recovery and are still collected the traditional way, i.e. guiding Mario into them. These new star bits on the other hand, can be collected by simply pointing at them and makes way for a loose two player co-op experience. They're what gives you extra lives mainly. You can also use star bits to knock-down enemies, hit switches and unlock new galaxies too by feeding hungry Luma star characters back on board the ship. It's great fun stuffing these cute little fellas even if all you do is hold the B button down!
Powerups are still around but they're not quite so familiar such as the ice skating one that allows you to freeze any liquid surfaces (including lava!) and the bee suit allowing you to fly. Fireball throwing is also back, allowing you to throw fireballs with a quick flick of the Wiimote. The problem is some of these powerups are timed so they're not quite as fun to have as before. You're more worried about getting things done before time runs out than having fun messing about with your new powers. The least exciting new power up would probably have to be the spring transformation, letting you literally bounce everywhere.
Besides pointing and flicking the Wiimote, you'll find the game has other uses for the Wii console's unique motion sensor controls which come in the form of mini games. While you can still jump onto enemies to defeat them, most of the time it will be easier just "wagging" the Wiimote to knock them down before running into them to give them finishing kick.
Outside of those basic actions, you'll also find yourself holding the Wiimote sideways in the same way you do in the Wii Play's "Charge!" game so that you can take part in a stingray race. There's also one that resembles Monkey Ball too where you have to tilt the Wiimote carefully to control where the ball rolls so that you reach the end goal. This one was probably my favourite and really shows off how sensitive the controller can be.
Bosses remain the popular three hit defeat affair and have mostly been fun to beat. Take the very first boss Dino Piranha for example. Kicking his own giant tail so that it smashes into his head was fun. Saying that, they haven't been very challenging to fight. The only times you'll find it really challenging is when a Prankster Comet is hovering over a galaxy which gives you additional restrictions while playing such as finishing the bosses without being hit at all.
Comets hover around galaxies at random or you can tell a certain Luma to randomise their positions again for the price of some star bits. Challenges include collecting all purple coins and finishing a level running at two times the speed. The hardest I found (besides the single hit limit) is probably racing a cosmic Mario because you really have to be familiar with the course or know about that secret boost.
Presentation wise, it's needless to say it's the best looking and sounding Wii title yet. There's so much variety to the galaxies from the down familiar molten lava and icy environments to toy and cake lands. The level that made the biggest impression on me would have to be the one full of apples and a giant worm because its visuals were so brightly rendered. The ship itself where the level selection takes place, is also a nice soothing area to run around with its calm orchestral track playing in the background, comfortable looking areas and cute little Lumas whizzing around.
However, what really stands out the most is the library that you gain access to, unlocking chapters of Rosalina's story as you collect stars. Its classic room full of books lit up by a quietly burning warm fire place sets the mood for a sweet little story which, is presented with still simple water colour paintings. I would probably go as far as saying it's better than the main storyline that loosely ties the game levels together.
SMG is certainly a very impressive title right from the start but for me, it was still barely enough to keep me playing for the 8 hours to finish the main storyline. Not enough to make me go the extra stretch for the double amount of stars needed to unlock Luigi and the "true" ending.
You see, what kept the game interesting for me (besides the excellent visuals and soundtrack) was Rosalina's story and the variety of galaxies that I could visit. As you start to reach the 60 stars needed to face Bowser for the "last" time, there's no more story besides the brief lines of dialogue explaining your progress. You start to repeat galaxies for stars and even though the objectives are different each time you're aiming for a new star on the same galaxy, they're not quite as exciting to explore than during the first expedition.
In the end, Super Mario Galaxy just misses my list of favourite games. A good story would have topped it off for me but to be fair, I guess it is a Mario game.