The venue will close soon, but it needs to be played. Outside my colleagues are already waiting for the shuttle to the airport, but I just can't tear myself away. That goddamn level has to be doable. And it finally is. With one last nervous jump Mario leaps into the golden star that shines at the end of the Flip Swap Galaxy. Success after more than twenty tries. The nice Nintendo-Guy next to me cheers; "Brother, I told you, you need to mix it up. Fast, slow, fast." He was right. And together we unraveled this level. Only the right mix of speed and control leads to success in this particular galaxy.
Three minutes and four seconds. Not bad. Lap time hunting in a different way, 3D-Platformer Super Mario Galaxy 2 style.
In Flip Swap Galaxy 100 brown coins have to be collected in not more than four minutes. These coins are placed on red and blue platforms that are either there or not there. Shaking the Wiimote switches their physical state from existent to non-existent, so if you jump away from a platform you need to shake immediately, making the invisible platform appear before you. At the beginning, this is easy. But after a while, when floating electric barriers and bombs are getting in your way, it gets hectic. A simple principle, but integrated perfectly into the Super Mario universe.
Eight galaxies were playable at the event in London, in which some novelties were to be found. The most important one is a certain small white-greenish egg that contains a small, familiar green dragon on whose back Mario can conquer the galaxies. Yoshi has some impressing skills. Aiming with the Wiimote, one smash on the B-button makes Yoshi flic his tongue. In the Hightail Falls level he eats a chili pepper, which puts him in sprint mode that allows him to rush up hills which formerly seemed impossible and fly up quarter-pipes like a skateboarder without a board.
In the Tall Trunk Galaxy Yoshi swallows blue blimp fruits. They blow him up from the inside, so that he floats off like a helium-filled ballon. The amount of air leaking from Yoshi can be controled by forcing him to hold his breath. This way he floats from branch to branch and frequently snacks on new fruits. Later in the level enemies try to burst him open, complicating your progress even further.
With his tongue, Yoshi can also catch flying Bomb-Ombs rockets, swallow them and spit them back at their sender. Or he uses his tongue to hook onto something and swing his way forward. It doesn't take very long before I realize what a great thing Yoshi's retun is to Super Mario Galaxy 2.
Mario himself has got some new skills, too. On some planets there are drills tips, which Mario can board just like Yoshi. When Mario is riding the tool, he can drill through the planet or find his way to the planet's core. Marks show where digging can be useful, for example to catch formerly unreachable mushrooms. It's one of those simple ideas that fit perfectly into the existing gameplay, making you feel like it has always been there.
"Always been there" is not always a good thing. Despite all the impressive innovations in detail and the, as Nintendo promised, completely new levels, Super Mario Galaxy 2 remains a sequel. At its core, the game isn't new. It's still about planets and the liberation of stars, following the same pattern as in the original. The graphics appear to be a bit better and sharper, but it's not a giant leap from the game's predecessor; even though the first one did look great.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is going to be a great game, no doubt. What the game does best is to play with our perception of perspectives and dimensions. In the Upside Dizzy Galaxy for example, Mario alternates between running on the ground and upside-down, depending on where the arrows in the background are pointing. At first glance, that might seem easy, but the constant change of gravitation makes it quite an effort. The brain simply isn't used to play a platformer upside down. At the same time, Nintendo is smart enough not to make everything too complicated; without losing sight of the challenge.
That Super Mario Galaxy 2 is going to be a great game, isn't an isolated opinion, by the way. On the Media Summit, we had to queue up to play it. On the stage of the club where the event took place, Nintendo had set up four rows of TVs with snow white Barcelona-chairs in front of them to present their currently most important game. Each journalist had 20 minutes to play before being asked politely but firmly to stand up and make room for the next person and most of us went straight back to the end of the line, hoping to get some more time with our favorite plumber.