Thursday, February 14, 2008

Talkin' 'bout Super Mario Galaxy

I have a pretty big assignment due in my magazine writing class today, so I figured I'd just sum up some of my thoughts about Super Mario Galaxy, which I borrowed from a friend of mine about 2 months ago and just recently finished. Did it live up to all of those brain-burstingly high metacritic scores?

Well, yeah. Mostly.

The biggest issue I had with the game's design is its thoughtless adherence to "lives." That is to say, every time you accidentally send Mario into a black hole or wall of spikes or some other Bad Thing, Charles Martinet screams in his faux-italian accent and "TOO BAD!" hops apologetically onscreen. This is enough, right?

The issue is that following every one of Mario's untimely demises, you get docked a "life" before getting sent back to a recent section of whatever stage you were on. This makes sense for plenty of games - the original Super Mario Bros. and its many sequels (of which Galaxy is a proud member, to some degree) all had the same concept.

Thing is, those early games were all designed around it - the original Super Mario Bros. had a scoring system, and if you ran out of lives your score was reset in addition to sending you back to the beginning of the current world.

In Super Mario Galaxy, though, there's no point - if you die, you're just going to try again, and the game gives you no reason to fear running out of lives outside of the minor inconvenience of having to see a slightly different screen after Mario bites it for the last time. The existence of lives feels so thoughtlessly implemented that I wonder if the developers even seriously considered what they were doing when they put 'em in.

It's made even worse by how generous the game is with 'em. Nearly every time you resume your game, there's a letter waiting for Mario from Princess Peach ("Dear Mario: I'm far away, but it's cool because I know you're coming to rescue me something something") with 5 extra lives inside. Every time you collect 50 star bits, you get an extra life, and I frequently found myself finishing stages with over 150 of the doodads.

Yes, that was the worst thing I could find to say about the game, which was pretty ding-dang magical for nearly its entire duration. When I realized that the other worst thing I could think of saying about the game is that it makes you press the A button too much when exiting from a stage, well.

I'm going to come back and really fix this blog entry up in a few hours, I think. After I take a nap. Yes.


Matt Brown said...

You know, I really like where game design is heading. I'm personally a big fan of the "no-life" system, where the game isn't based around dying and resetting and more focused on keeping you in the action for the duration of the game - i.e. Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, and to some degree Bioshock.

nabbercow said...

Yeah, that's a pretty minor gripe about the lives. You're right of course, but really it's been that way since mario 64. I guess it's just traditional maybe. Like his red pants.