Everything just feels right. From the very moment we ran around delightedly in a whole new Mario world, we were fully convinced that this is the Wii at its barnstorming best. A combination of sublime playability along with gorgeous graphics, innovation and traditional conventions, they all come together to create a game that will just blow you away. The sheer variety of levels and puzzles is baffling and, we're delighted to say, the planet/space theme never gets boring, is never overdone nor over the top. For once, the greatest star of a Mario game isn't a plumber, it is (somewhat oddly) gravity. The mind bending twists and turns in all levels will have your head in a spin, and when Nintendo starts to give you control of gravity through flips and switches it all gets rather ridiculous.
As is always the case in Mario games, you have to save Peach. In fact, we'd even go so far as to say the storyline is irrelevant and somewhat pointless - shocking, we know. It is just an excuse for you to have some fun with physics and go crazy in a whole new world of fun and evil beasties. For the first time ever it seems as though Mario is going to get what he has always wanted; "Come to the castle," writes Peach, "I have something I want to give you". Kinky, but alas such plans (even if we do create the innuendo ourselves) never come to fruition. In swoops Bowser, takes Peach into space and before you've had time to rearrange your plumbing, you've been shoved up into the infinite yonder too. The cut-scenes might be corny and boring, but we can excuse that for the fun you inevitably get to have thereafter.
The levels are fantastic in variety and showcase both the graphical capabilities of the Wii and the imaginative scope of the developers. You get to fly, you get to swim, you get to run around upside down, right side up and side-to-side and you get to do it all in a world so bizarre and strange that it will have your head spinning around so you don't know if you're right side down or up side left. Where the hell is up and where the hell is down? Can I run around to the other side of the planet from here? What if I jump? All these simple initial questions will soon be answered. From your first tentative baby steps into space, you'll find yourself blossoming into this awesome new playground. Soon, you'll be pulling off all the Mario moves (old and new) with confidence and flying through the stratosphere like a pro. In Super Mario Galaxy you can almost do whatever the hell you like. Give it a few levels and the whole game will just go crazy.
Our favourite aspect of the game is that it mixes the jokey and the amusing with the downright epic. Some little planets just seem like an excuse for Nintendo to have a little joke or do something clever with a puzzle, whereas others are full-on missions that will require a full array of all the skills learned to fully complete Super Mario Galaxy. It is because of this that the game feels more like 120 little missions rather than one epic game. It doesn't knit together like Sunshine or even Mario 64, but then again it doesn't need to. The glory of this game is just how random it is, how irreverent it is and how clever it is, never seeming to give you the same puzzle to do twice.
The game is based around a central hub from which there are a number of different observatories. From each observatory you can see a certain number of galaxies. And what do galaxies contain? Stars! And what is Mario looking for? Stars! It all makes perfect sense. The more stars you collect, the more galaxies become visible to you. The more galaxies and areas you complete, the closer you'll come to rescuing Peach. The game is hugely non-linear and you always have a number of paths open for exploration. If you don't feel like playing the 'main game', you can always chuck some star bits at a bonus star to create a new bonus galaxy that will present you with a rather delightful little tangent to follow. If that doesn't take your fancy, then every so often you'll notice a special comet passes by a galaxy that creates a fresh challenge for you. It might be a speed-related one, or a race against a shadow of yourself or even a battle with a boss whilst having only one hit-point left. It all spices things up nicely.
As a minor downer, Super Mario Galaxy does have a tendency to flutter from the challenging to the understated and forgettable. Whilst some levels are magical and brilliant some are just as tedious as a Sunday trip to B&Q to pick up a new U-Bend. Likewise, the general difficulty of Galaxy is a bit questionable. If you collect fifty Star Bits you get a 1-Up and on most levels that are more difficult or tricky you'll find 1-Up mushrooms lying about around the place. All this, coupled with numerous 'gifts' of 1-Up mushrooms from Peach, lead to a game that is never quite as hard as we'd like. Still, if you want to get the best scores and complete the game with style, it is genuinely rock solid. It just doesn't force you to be brilliant all the time.
The Wii controls have certainly posed an interesting new problem to the Mario team, and it is one that they have handled with remarkable competence and flair. The main addition is the spin attack, which is accomplished by a nifty flick or twirl of the Wii-remote. The only downside of this is that you have to wait a tiny bit after each one finishes to start a new one, which takes a bit of getting used to. The second major introduction is the use of the Star Pointer (which is permanently on-screen) to pick up Star Bits. You can point it anywhere on the screen in order to pick them up, no matter how far away from them you are. Equally, you can hit B to fire Star Bits at enemies to stun them, which is rather clever. Whilst coins still represent your high score for each level and give you health, the little shards of stars are equally as important. If you really want to complete Super Mario Galaxy to the full extent, you'll have to pick up as many of them as you can find. You also have the chance to use the Wii-mote to propel yourself through space by pressing 'A' on little Pull-Stars to guide you through the sky, a bit like joining up a dot-to-dot puzzle.
All of the above work really well with the whole Wii control mechanic, but what we're far less impressed with is the game's use of what we're going to call 'Stupid Tacked on Wii Mini-Games'. Whilst they're not as bad as some examples we could give you from other games, they do border on being a tad pointless and never work as well as the conventional parts of the adventure. Whilst some of them are fun, others just feel awkward and poorly conceived. Still, they don't happen very often and you can complete them nice and quickly and get on with the gravity defying platform fare on offer throughout the rest of the game. One other quick moan, the 'two player mode' is a total waste of time unless player two is an idiot who likes waving their arms around for hours on end. Boring. Moving on.
In a game where nothing makes sense, Mario can become a bee, disappear into a bubble, become a spring and do all sorts of other things we won't spoil for you in this review. Rest assured, in Super Mario Galaxy nothing makes any sense and you'll love it from start to finish. A game of gravitational ups and downs, platforming perfection, graphical brilliance and sheer ridiculous fun. We love it.