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Ugh, stop twitching
super mario galaxy
games Posted 2007-11-13 14:30:33 by Jim Crawford
I bought Super Mario Galaxy yesterday and played with Matt and Indy for about 6 hours, passing the controllers around periodically. We ended up with about 30 stars, out of the 120 total. There's an odd little co-op mode, in which the second player controls an onscreen cursor that can collect and shoot gems, and stun enemies. We all enjoyed both modes, but being player 2 is not so much playing as a more engaging way to watch somebody else play. I know people who can't stand to watch somebody else play a video game, and I suspect these people won't enjoy being player 2 either.

That's not really what I'm here to talk about, though. I'm here to talk about how Super Mario Galaxy is not the true followup to Super Mario 64.

Super Mario 64 was a very exploratory, non-linear experience. The star hints appeared in a certain order, but you could go all over each world and collect the stars themselves in almost any order. Super Mario Sunshine kept the world structure and still permitted exploration, but changed the level layout slightly each time through, so that you could only collect the shine being hinted.

Super Mario Galaxy actually becomes less frustrating in this respect by going even more linear. It's more evocative of the NES-era Mario games, similar to the “secret” levels that were arguably the best part of Super Mario Sunshine.

I love Mario Galaxy and am going to play it to death. But it's not providing the feeling I wanted, the sense of freedom and discovery that I can't get from Mario 64 anymore, because I have every level memorized.

I'm also very slightly disappointed by the continuing emphasis on collectible items. Platforming, at its core, is about the joy of motion. Putting collectibles everywhere serves several purposes: It's a way to encourage exploration. It's a way to measure game completion. It's a way to reward the player on a regular basis. But mostly, it's a shorthand for telling the player “okay, now see if you can get here.” And “going somewhere” is, itself, merely an excuse to experience the joy of motion.

There are other ways to do all these things -- Conker's Bad Fur Day made some baby steps in that direction. But nobody really tries, because it requires writing, and who wants to write a little subplot for each of the 120 stars? Who wants to read a little subplot for each of the 120 stars? Hell, I think I just talked myself out of my slight disappointment.
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