Super Mario Galaxy 2 "Cloud Suit" Hands-On PreviewBy Andrew Pfister - Posted Apr 22, 2010
As of today, we are officially one month away from Super Mario Galaxy 2’s release. I’d like to think that my extremely limited hands-on time with the game this morning at Nintendo’s Los Angeles outpost was just their PR firm making sure I don’t spoil all the good parts. And I’m a nice guy, so I’ll just go with that.
This was the first time I’ve seen the game running in the wild, and it did not disappoint. The first part of my galactic funk tour began in World 1. It was meant to be a refresher on the basics, but even in the very first environment I saw -- Sky Station Galaxy -- the tone of the game was set. And when I say “tone,” I’m not talking about story (of which there is basically none), I’m talking about the creativity and the challenge level. Sky Station Galaxy was bustling with activity, and featured multiple groupings of disappearing/reappearing platforms…one of the more difficult elements for a 3D Mario player to get a handle on. Clearly, Galaxy 2 is starting where the first one left off for most people. But it’s not completely alienating, which I’ll explain a few paragraphs down.
Before that, it’s time to see Yoshi in action. The mean green machine functions just like he has in past Mario games: he hatches from an egg in the level, Mario saddles up and the bongo drum track activates in the background music, and you’re off and running. His traditional flutter jump works in 3D, and his all-important tongue is controlled using the Wii Remote pointer (the on-screen indicator turns from a star bit collector icon into a red targeting dot). If you run into an enemy, Mario gets knocked off and Yoshi scurries in a panic. If you can’t hop back on before he runs away, he can be found again at any egg point in the level.
Yoshi’s got a few power-ups of his own, and in this demo I saw the blimp berry in action. The Blimp Berry is essentially the replacement to Mario’s Bee Suit from the last game. Upon swallowing the accursed fruit, Yoshi will blow up and start to hover. An “Air” meter shows up (in place of the bee “Fly” meter), and you’ll have limited time to navigate. It’s actually more akin to the balloon item in Super Mario World…thankfully, no sign of Chargin’ Chucks just yet. If you come across another Blimp Berry, the meter will refill and you can float on without interruption. The only small difference I noticed was that the unlike the Bee Suit, where you could lay off the fly button, ration out your “Fly” meter and sort of maintain in a straight flight path, the “Air” meter is continuously running out. There seemed to be some semblance of control over the rate of air expulsion (it’s Mario Science time, kids!), but you’re constantly moving up.
The Yoshi mechanics were on display in Tall Trunk Galaxy, which was a nice demonstration of how Galaxy 2 is bringing traditional 2D Mario gameplay into the 3D world. This level was almost entirely cylindrical and is played from a 2D perspective…but it’s not just moving from left-to-right. The gravity effects are still very much in play, and the cylinder of the level will spin around you (or you around it) as you navigate to the power star.
After a quick demonstration of how the Drill item works (Mario picks it up and bores through soft terrain, or the glass underbelly of a mecha-spider boss, as the case may be), it was my turn to actually play the game…and it’s right to the newly-revealed Cloud Suit. Generated by Cloud Flowers, Mario turns puffy and has three small clouds floating around his noggin’. Using a spin move activates the power and places a cloud underneath Mario’s feet that will stay in place for about 7 or 8 seconds before dissipating (more Mario Science!). The cloud stays put wherever you activate the spin move, and you can only deploy 3 at a time, so dreams of building a cloud ladder express route to the end of the level will have to remain dreams. If you come across another Cloud Flower in the level, you’ll get a fresh set of clouds. I tested this out in the “Fluffy Bluff” galaxy, and like so many other aspects of Galaxy’s perspective-wacky design, it made me think horizontally and vertically at the same time. I had to get across a large chasm using the Cloud Suit, so I went as high as I could, emptied a coin block, recharged my cloud platforms, and used a series of long jumps off my clouds to make it across. And just like the Bee Suit, the suit disappears the moment you touch water, and you’re back to regular ol’ Super Mario.
The Yoshi, Drill, and Cloud mechanics are all introduced early in the game, and the galaxies I saw and played were already somewhat complex. I can only imagine the devious challenges and impossibly-placed power stars in the later levels. Which finally brings me to the two different help systems in Super Mario Galaxy 2. The first one was described to me as the “Tip Network.” At various parts of the game the designers have deemed challenging, you’ll come across a sign post that shows you a quick video hint of how to get through the hard part. It’s a lot like the videos you can purchase in New Super Mario Bros. Wii that shows you what you need to do.
If you need someone to actually do it for you, though, you’ll have to use the Cosmic Guide. At other challenging points in the game, a haunted purple and black vision of Rosalina appears to give you guidance…and, if you elect to use the Guide, she actually takes over and plays through the rough spot for you. Note that this is entirely optional, and you can resume control of Mario at any point by pressing the + button on the Wii Remote. Also note that if you use the Cosmic Guide to get the power star, you’ll be getting a bronze star instead of a gold one, denoting your shame and taunting you into completing the challenge yourself for “full” completion. Both help systems appear to be a good compromise between a boosted overall challenge level and not completely alienating anyone who isn’t already a platforming expert.
My first taste was free. There was no sign of purple coins, Mario’s taller sibling, the Rock Suit, or any of Yoshi’s other power fruits…I guess I’ll have to wait one more month. Thanks, Nintendo?