Super Mario Galaxy: absolutely brilliant

November 08, 2008

I finished playing Super Mario Galaxy. It has been named 2007 “game of the year” by many publications. And with a good reason. It is a truly brilliant game and one of the best games so far I have played in my 20-year gaming career. I still think the Civilization is the best, but I’ll give Super Mario Galaxy the second place.

OK, I did not really finish it in the sense of “I did everything possible and visited all the levels”. I finished it in terms of “I beat the final boss and the credits rolled”. You can keep playing it for a long time after this and unlock many new characters and locations. But after the final boss, it just feels “done” to me.

Game design

The game design (in terms of general playability, not just graphics) is really superb. I have not played other Mario series games recently, so I can’t say how it ranks against the rest of the series. Everything just feels right. And none of the boss battles are too hard. I only peeked at walkthrough a few times to understand how to solve some puzzles more efficiently, but it is perfectly possible to figure it all out on your own (unlike some other games where the designers have not been able to give you enough hints and instead just drive you nuts with nonsense solutions).

I don’t like games with difficulty levels where you have to pick your expertise level. I like self-adjusting games. And SMG is great – it starts out as easy, but the puzzles get more complicated as you go forward, and there is a natural development.

The whole game (well, up to the final boss, anyway) took me about 2 months, with about 3 hours per week.

I was trying to think of what are the downsides to the game, but I simply can’t think of any. It really is super well done. Just this game alone should be a good enough reason for anyone to get a Wii.

Music and sound design

I especially want to praise the music and sound design in this game. I have not composed anything myself in a long time, but I still think of myself as a fairly “musical” person. I pay great attention to sound ambiences and film and game soundtracks. I get annoyed when I have to speak to bad-quality woman robots.

Super Mario Galaxy soundtrack is simply brilliant. First, the music stands out on its own. And secondly, it is used in great ways to amplify the game experience, such as when you go underwater, the music becomes muted. And in boss battles, there are important sound cues to help you.

Here are my two favorite tracks – Wind Garden and Egg Galaxy. Wind Garden shows how it was recorded. Pure orchestral music and simply beautiful.

I have nothing more to say. It really is a great game. Just get the game and play it yourself. :)