July 23, 2007 - By the gods, it's good. I could wrap up my whole hands-on experience right there and deny you the pleasure of reading this gameplay diatribe, but why use five words when a thousand would do? And surely Galaxy deserves all the attention and praise it can garner.
Go on - just try and convince us that you're not excited.
This is the closest the Mario franchise has come to attaining the soaring heights of the original Super Mario 64 back in 1996, and the more we see, the more we love. What is more, it sounds like the game is going to be huge, too, with 6 different themed areas totalling 40 galaxies and 120 grand stars to unlock. Sweet.
We played on the 'Star Dust Galaxy' trail in the E3 demo - exploring this very early portion of the game thoroughly. The IGN US team delved into other areas - that you can read all about here. At once, all fears that the Wii remote wouldn't provide the accuracy are dispelled, and the controls exude old school familiarity.
The nunchuk's control stick still sends the portly plumber on his merry way, with the same accuracy that we've enjoyed since the 64 version. The A button makes Mario jump, Z button makes him duck, crawl and back flip and the camera can be adjusted with the C button and D-pad. However, the remote's context-sensitive on-screen pointer (either a star or a hand) mixes things up a bit. No longer are you simply controlling Mario by himself; instead, you have to factor in a cursor that can manipulate objects in the world and collect star shards and other itemsobjects.
The B-trigger shoots these accumulated star fragments at enemies - which becomes second nature alongside the shake-to-spin-attack. What all this means is, you're often multitasking and manipulating two objects on-screen at once, which makes for some pretty cool scenarios. While we didn't get to play it ourselves, the co-operative mode lets a second player jump into the action with their remote to help hold back boulders and collect star-chunks too. Sure, it's no substitute for a bit of Mario and Luigi tag-team action, but if your little brother is pestering for 'his turn', it might just spare you a nasty spat.
Levels are spherical in Super Mario Galaxy. You can wander from one side of a planetary body to the other, and the camera will automatically rotate and reorient itself to give you the best possible view. Any time that Mario is obscured, he becomes silhouetted through any object between himself and the camera, ala Super Mario Sunshine.
Gorgeous, isn't it? Just wait until you play it.
The point-of-view is set a little farther back than we're used to - and this makes Mario seem a little sluggish, which was also noted by our US colleagues. To counteract this, you can still long-jump by holding down Z and A while running forward. If it's a small enough planetoid, it will actually send you spinning around the planet, a few feet off the ground, which is pretty funny.
You see, gravity plays a big part in the puzzles this time around. You're able to leap from one planet to another, to run around the inside of a circular room and take advantage of the geography more than in previous games. This truly is a galaxy of playable micro-planets, linked together with chains of warp stars.
In the opening area, we're introduced to these concepts bit by bit. First, the basics of movement are set up. Then, by way of a little rabbit-catching micro-game, we're shown how to unlock pathways and eventually assemble star pieces together to create new star launch points. But that's just the tip of the gameplay iceberg, from what we can gather.