Story has never been the strong suit of any of the seven core “Super Mario” games, or their dozens of off shoots. The core of the game, as always, is that the evil dragon Bowser has kidnapped Princess Peach, taken her to the other side of the universe, and Mario has to stomp on a lot of enemies and collect a lot of stars in order to find and rescue her.
It’s silly stuff and all worth skipping, because the point is that Mario can now travel in space. But it’s not about spacesuits and barren landscapes. Instead, “Galaxy” has the little Italian stereotype running around and between small planetoids. The first time players see Mario running upside down on a planet, or jumping from the bottom of one to the top of the other, causing the camera to flip, they may feel motion sickness. But once they get used to it, they’ll find it enables some amazing tricks.
Some of the 50-plus levels in “Super Mario Galaxy” are similar to ones players have seen before: the little red guy rides a manta ray in a water race, for instance, or hunts for missing star pieces in a desert. But the best ones take full advantage of the game’s fantastic physics. Mario may be running around all sides of an intricately twisted planetoid, for instance, or pulling switches that shift gravitational fields in order to make it to his destination.
As good as the game is, though, it’s evidence of how bad the Wii is for third person action games, a problem first made clear in last year’s “Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess.” Holding the nunchuk, which moves Mario, and the Wii-mote, which makes him jump and spin, in separate hands, is an awkward arrangement. Since there’s only one thumbstick, players rarely have control of the camera and when they do, it’s not easy to manipulate. While the designers usually put the camera in the best position possible, it’s inevitable that gamers will sometimes wish they had a better view.
More importantly, “Galaxy” doesn’t make good use of the console’s motion sensing abilities. In a transparent add-on to do something with the Wii-mote, players can collect “star bits” by pointing at them. But they aren’t integral to the game and pointing at them is a chore.
A second player can join in by using his or her Wii-mote to collect and shoot star bits, but again, it’s completely gratuitious. As brilliant as “Super Mario Galaxy” is, in fact, it’s one of the worst two-player experiences ever seen in a videogame.
Fans may claim that the graphics are good “for the Wii,” but that argument quickly grows tired. There’s clever art design on many of the planets Mario visits, but given the vastly superior quality of the graphics in a game like “Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction,” currently available for the PS3, “Galaxy” looks old fashioned and lifeles
Wow, just wow.