My first death terrified me. Surrounded by objects that were familiar, I walked, and then ran, across the theatre’s stage. My enemies, seemingly unaware of my presence, trotted below me, oblivious to my lethal moves. There was running, and there was jumping. The crowd of one grew to two, and began to cheer at my escapades. And I knew subconsciously this show would go on with or without my presence, which did not make my passing easier. It was routine, the jump.
I pressed the wrong button.
In retrospect, Super Mario Bros. 3 should not have scared me. But something about the backgrounds—spinning rotors, clouds hanging from the sky, exiting stage right—provided a surreal backdrop to the comfortable hoppin’ and boppin’ to which I was accustomed. So, was it real? Did everything that happened in the Mushroom Kingdom actually happen, or did Mario and Luigi not survive that fateful night down the pipe? What’s the deal with King Wart and Mouser and Birdo?
Metaphysical clarity certainly does not lend itself to the Mario franchise; we’re talking about a plumber who traveled to a magical land, bested a nefarious turtle, sucked his three best friends into a dream and escaped with an androgynous monster, put on a stage show of their exploits for god-knows-who, and then saved the world again. That’s not all! The Mario brothers traversed both the space-time continuum and terrible game design to find each other. They reverted to baby forms for some reason. They transcended two dimensional spaces. Mario had a talking Super Soaker and traveled to the Caribbean.
And then they went to space.
When I first played Super Mario Galaxy, I was back in the audience, watching performers act out something I vaguely remembered. Not to push a pun, but it felt alien. And after hours of collecting shines, or stars, or star bits, or coins of various colors, or all-important green mushrooms, I set down the controller, and shrugged. Death no longer terrified me. In space, no one can hear your indifference.
Enjoyable though it was, Super Mario Galaxy never hooked me. The sense of discovery—found in, say, Super Mario 64—was not to be found. Imagine hanging out with your best friend from high school, but she looks a lot better and is way more successful than you expected. The only feeling you get is one of missed opportunity. So, while Mario and eventually Luigi stayed in space, I floated back down to earth, feeling more like an adult than ever.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 has all the outward trappings of an expansion pack—similar setting, similar graphical engine, similar characters—but just like the transformative Super Mario Bros. 3, something felt different. The sense of wonder, of exploration, of discovery; the frustrations of missing that one jump and the delight of finally nailing it—it was all back. In a gaming landscape filled with realism and grit and violence and highly-detailed fields of brown, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a revelation.
It’s clear that this game was designed for fans. Jumps are harder, bosses are everywhere, brand new ideas and interesting twists on old ones are constantly thrown at you, and you have to adapt, or die. Once again, death is terrifying, and saying to yourself “I can nail this jump,” while gripping the Wiimote so hard your palms sweat is commonplace. Space can be a hazardous environment, but the stages are so colorful and whimsical and the music—dear god, the music—provide a safe (space) port. Every design choice was made with the express purpose of bringing you back to the living room floor, at three in the morning, surrounded by your grade school friends, and passing the controller back and forth in pursuit of beating one more stage.
Reviewing this game is unnecessary. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is simply genius—reverential to its predecessors and besting them in almost every regard, it ceases to be a video game and becomes an experience. Each minute spent in Mario’s new universe is well invested, and it is so important to make investments for your inner child’s future.
[!/mrface5.jpg "Mr. Face say this game AWESOME. Mr. Face never wrong!")
*Mr. Face say this game AWESOME.
Mr. Face never wrong!*