Super Mario Galaxy 2
This game is essentially a level pack for the original Super Mario Galaxy, and it is all the better for it. The game dives right in with no apprehension; it has nothing to prove and nothing to lose.
But it isn’t more of the same – far from it in fact. While the original game was met to great acclaim and fanfare, this sequel could be defined as “more and better.” The countless galaxies in the game offer up a variety of gameplay styles and challenges. This time around though, almost every level has a throwaway aspect to it. An idea is fleshed out to perfection, used once, and tossed away to make way for something new. The well of ingenuity never comes close to running dry in this game, with new galaxies, baddies, and gimmicks being thrown at you with seemingly no end in sight.
It’s trimmer, meaner, and well polished. The game mechanics, levels, tasks, and challenges are oh so thoughtfully and carefully designed. The levels and puzzles that require use of the Cloud Flower or Bulb Yoshi are among my favourite. Galaxy 2 improves on the foundation laid by Galaxy in every way and is one of the most creative entries in the Mario series.
Super Mario 3D Land
Like Super Mario Galaxy 2, this is another gem of game from Nintendo’s critically acclaimed golden goose – Nintendo EAD Software Group.
The game expertly blends together what was once two competing gameplay styles for the major Mario releases: a sidescrolling platformer and a 3D platforming adventure. While the game is set in a 3D environment, you traverse it, for the most part, as if it were a 2D adventure.
I like the game because it boils the Mario formula down to its essentials, while giving it a new perspective (literally). If Nintendo kept making Mario sidescrollers over the years, Super Mario 3D Land is what you would expect from a current incarnation – as opposed to what we see in the New Super Mario Bros. subseries.
Another strength to the game is that it is perfectly bite-sized. In true old-school Mario fashion, the levels are basically obstacle courses. With the 3D viewing and new perspective, you can see your goal from a great distance. You know where you’re headed and what’s coming up. You’re making quick judgements in anticipation. It plays out with levels essentially progressing like a series of quick, rapid challenges. That plays to the strengths of the 3DS as a handheld. It isn’t grand, you’re not exploring; it is just athletic.
It feels wonderfully nostalgic (a tanooki tail will do that to you), but fresh. A cross between Super Mario Galaxy, Super Mario 64, and Super Mario Bros. 3. Overall, it is delightful, no matter what Geoff says.