Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a dismal failure.

I don’t mean the game itself, you understand. The game is fantastic. I suggest you run out and buy it right away. If you don’t have a Wii, you should buy one of those too so you have something to play Super Mario Galaxy 2 on. Also, pick up the original Super Mario Galaxy while you’re at it, because it too is incredible. That’s how freakin’ good these games are.

I only had one major complaint about the original Galaxy: it has wiimote gimmicks.

Now, the game does some interesting things with the wiimote. You can point at the screen to collect and fire colorful rock candies. It’s fun to shoot at bad guys, and it’s very satisfying to point off in the background and nab a whole cluster of gems. Neither of these features would really be possible without a device that points at the screen, and they would be far less fun if they were somehow mapped clumsily to a control stuck.

There are gimmick levels, where you use the motion of the wiimote to move some object or animal through the level. In some of these levels Mario is standing on top of a ball, and you hold the wiimote upright and use it like a joystick to steer him around. In others Mario is using a bird to glide through a jungle, and you hold the wiimote sideways then tilt it to bank and dive. I loved the ball levels and hated the bird levels, but I think the difference between them had more to do with feedback than interface. The ball is big and round, see, and the level music changes speed along with you, so there’s never any question as to how fast you’re going or in what direction. The bird, though, has a lot of motion even in a neutral state, and visually it’s tricky to know if you’re “banking a little” or “banking a lot”. In both cases though, I think the wimmote gimmickry is okay — you’re using the controller in a manner analogous to what’s happening on-screen.

No, the real complaint about the Galaxy games, and any other Wii game that does it, is “shake as button”. This is where the developers map some arbitrary action to the wiimote’s motion sensor, so you have to shake it. In the case of Super Mario Galaxy 2 this motion trigger’s Mario’s double-jump.

The double-jump was invented by cavemen in the 1800s on whatever system came before the Atari 0001. You press the jump button, then press the jump button again. This is your double-jump. Unless you’re Mario, that is — then you have to press the jump button, then flail your arm around like a maniac to get your spin to work.

A button press is precise. The game knows the exact moment you pressed a button with no more than a 1/60 second margin of error. Whatever gizmo or doodad lives inside the wiimote and figures whether it’s in motion is not that precise. Not by a long-shot. Sometimes you’ll shake too slowly and the spin won’t happen. Sometimes the controller registers a split-second too late and you get your spin when you’re underneath the platform you were jumping towards rather than beside it. You correct for that by trying to shake early next time, only for the game to read it instantaneously — you spin early and you take a hit from the goomba or octopod that wasn’t quite in range yet.

Spinning is not a gimmick. It is something you do a hundred times per level. Even saying “it works 95% of the time” is saying “it doesn’t work”. Spinning just doesn’t work.

There are a few other actions mapped to “shake the wiimote like a wiitard”, including shooting fireballs, making cloud platforms, speed-swimming, etc. None of those work either.

Look, I love my Wii. I have played some amazing games on it, and I can honestly say that my enjoyment of some of them would have been lessened if not for the wiimote. One of the biggest criticisms of the Wii is that nobody’s using the wiimote correctly, right? It’s all gimmickry. Nobody’s using it creatively And so on, and so on. Well, Nintendo’s not exactly setting a great example with its flagship series here. When “shake to ____” shows up in a Mario game, that sends a pretty strong signal to any other developers paying attention: it’s okay to have “shake to ____” in Wii games.

This was pretty much the only thing I didn’t like about the original Galaxy, and I hoped they would fix it someday. They didn’t, so I’m calling Galaxy 2 a failure.

Still a fantastic game though. I’m-a go play it some more.

Totally unrelated to Mario Galaxy:
We have like four bottles of soda in the fridge, all different flavors. I poured myself a glass of cream soda and set it on the desk while I did some stuff. A few minutes later I took a sip and it tasted terrible. Like, I wanted to spit it out. After a few moments though I realized I wasn’t drinking cream soda, but orange soda; I had apparently finished my first glass and poured a second with a different flavor, then forgot about it. Now, I like orange soda (that’s why I bought it!) but I was simply stunned by how unpleasant that disconnect was between the flavor I was expecting and the flavor I got.

8 comments to Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a dismal failure.

  • I agree waggling should NOT replace pressing a simple button.

    I am really glad however that Nintendo decided to do some really interesting stuff with the Wiimote though. How about that stage where the little speaker in the Wiimote gives you the rhythm in which the blocks change?

    Stuff like that easily makes me forget I look like a tard playing the game.

    • Brickroad

      I liked that stage, and it used the speaker in the wiimote to a distinct advantage… but I died on it six or seven times more than I would have if my spin jump were mapped to a button.

      • You know what really killed me? The second stage featuring that annoying bird. Not only am I getting shot at from all directions I also have to dodge like crazy, fly trough 5 gates and pray I touch the comet emblem. Seriously SCREW that bird.

        • Brickroad

          I actually didn’t spend nearly as much time on that stage as I was expecting… a couple tries each for the three different goals. I think the fix here is to control Fluzzard with a “joystick” wiimote, same as the rolly-ball levels. It feels like the game needs better visual feedback in these stages too. In the end they’re really no more annoying than the manta races in Galaxy 1, or the “fly through five rings” stars in Mario 64.

  • Eddie

    So you love the game except for one aspect (the motion controls). Why the provocative title and weird disconnect with lines like “I’m calling Galaxy 2 a failure. Still a fantastic game though”?

    I mean, it’s not that I don’t agree with you that bad motion gimmicks are bad, but I guess this post just feels like you’re trying to troll some Nintendo fanboys.

    – Eddie

    • Brickroad

      There’s no reason that griping about bad game design decisions and trolling Nintendo fanboys need be mutually exclusive activities!

  • ThricebornPhoenix

    Oh, good… it’s not just me. I haven’t played the Galaxy games yet, but I have played NSMB Wii, and in that one you have the shake the controller to jump off of Yoshi. It didn’t always work, and once apparently registered a shake that didn’t happen. At first I thought that maybe Yoshi was a last-minute addition and there were no buttons left to dedicate to dismounting him, but in light of what you say here, that’s probably not the case.

    Also, cream soda is the only good soda.

  • Anonymous

    bunda bunda pum pum

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