It’s hard to imagine any game featuring a gigantic bowl of water suspended in space as having “conservative” level design, but that’s exactly what Shigeru Miyamoto thought of the original Super Mario Galaxy. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, that its follow-up – lest we forget, the first 3D Mario game to appear on the same console as its predecessor – frequently enters the realms of the utterly impossible.
The handful of levels made available to journalists at Nintendo’s European media summit felt at once warmly familiar, yet thrillingly new. Mario Galaxy 2 might not be “more than just a sequel”, as Nintendo would have it, but it expands on ideas touched upon in the original in deliciously inventive new ways.
It’s also more difficult: Nintendo firmly signalling its intention to satisfy a fanbase that has felt increasingly betrayed by the company’s recent casual-focused output. If the generous handful of levels showcased here is any indication, some players are going to be screaming for New Super Mario Bros. Wii’s Super Guide feature. Gone are the invisible checkpoints of the original, replaced by flags Mario must touch if he wants to return there from a later failure. Enemies are quicker – Goombas aggressively waddling towards Mario like angry geese, and deadly flowers spiralling swiftly around a circular structure. Space is tighter, with hordes of marauding Wigglers patrolling the fast-moving platforms of one stage, yet levels are more expansive. Flip Swap Galaxy asks players to rewire their brains, with spin-jumps flipping the platforms underneath Mario’s feet. As if that wasn’t enough, players also have to contend with a tight time limit: four minutes to collect 100 coins. Harder, faster, stronger…
Better? It’s a little too early to tell, but Nintendo has certainly picked some good stuff to show off. Sky Station Galaxy revisits the piranha plant boss battle from the original, but PeeWee Piranha requires a bit more effort to beat than his predecessor. Instead of whacking his tail, Mario must first crack the shell on his posterior, before spin-attacking his exposed backside. It’s tougher than it sounds, with PeeWee moving and jumping around more quickly than expected. This time, three hits merely make him angrier, with a sixth whack eventually releasing the power star.