Yeah, I just gave Bowser another thrashing!
Earlier this summer I blogged about my experiences playing Wii's Super Mario Galaxy, my first time playing a Mario game since the days of the NES. (Check out the Mario label for those posts.) It was a fun enough experience to make me buy the sequel.
It's the night of the Star Festival, an event that takes place once every 100 years. Princess Peach has invited Mario to the castle, but suddenly Bowser attacks and kidnaps the princess, planning to use stolen Power Stars to create a new empire in the centre of the universe. Mario has to search for Power Stars on various planets so he can follow Bowser, and... and... hang on, isn't this the story of the first Super Mario Galaxy? I mean, almost word to word... Honestly, they could have put at least a little effort into creating something even slightly original. If anything, the story elements in the game are even lighter than in the predecessor.
But, as I wrote back when I was playing the original Galaxy, Mario games aren't really about the story. They're about beating the levels. So, when it comes to gameplay, anyone who's played the original should be right at home. The controls are exactly the same. The appearance of both games is pretty much the same. A lot of elements have been imported more or less directly from the original. But as you proceed, you'll notice that they have, indeed, added a whole bunch of new gimmicks to the levels. There are several new power-ups, perhaps most notably the addition of Yoshi, and all manner of weird stuff, like switches that slow down time.
I've currently got 89 out of 120 stars. Except of course when you get those 120 stars, you unlock another 120 stars, hidden in the levels, and one final level after you get all those... So I'm really nowhere close to actually completing the game. And, as with the first Galaxy, I'm not sure I ever will be. A lot of these additional challenges are pretty tough. And there's a very fine line between challenge and frustration...
They've made level progression a little more linear this time, akin to many earlier Mario games. You have to beat a level before progressing to the next one—although there are some forks in the paths, giving you a little choice. (You can freely return to any unlocked level, of course, to get additional stars.) This didn't bother me until now, once I 'beat' the game, as this unlocks an additional 'Special' world to play. The levels in this world are getting to be pretty hard, so it would have been nice to try out different ones, but I can only access one to begin with (and my first crack at it was... not exactly successful).
But even if you only play the regular levels, working your way up to the final boss fight with Bowser, there's still plenty of fun to be had, and a lot of variety. The level design is still highly original, unique and often downright crazy.
So, in summation, even though there was a slight feel of being 'more of the same', Super Mario Galaxy 2 was a pretty entertaining, fun, and challenging experience, just like its predecessor. In their genre (which, admittedly, is not one I've played very extensively) I think they're among the very best. I doubt I'll be getting other Mario games in the near future, though. Next up will be something completely different...