From the start, there’s something wonderful about this new willingness to change the Mario rulebook, but there’s also a fear that – as with Sunshine – messing with Mario’s dynamics could be the breaking of the game. Doubters won’t find comfort, either, in the use to which the Wii remote has been put. Sensibly, Nintendo has avoided making it part of the basic running and jumping stuff; you still move Mario with the analogue stick on the Nunchuk and jump with the big A button on the remote. The remote itself mostly operates an onscreen cursor that collects space debris – with coins one of two main resources in the game. However, the remote also turns out to be your main means of attack. By shaking it you cause Mario to spin, knocking enemies off their feet or making them dizzy so Mario can simply walk into them to mop them up. As with the sword attacks in Zelda, it feels a little tacked on and you can’t help wondering whether a simple button press might have been more reliable and effective.
Soon the game throws other remote-controlled mechanisms, like gravity points that you highlight with the pointer then press A to drag Mario through space towards them, or big stars that shoot you through the sky like a cannon at a shake of the controller. On the plus side the camera is now almost totally computer controlled, and the game is all the better for it. Your view is nearly always perfect for the task at hand, whether it’s hanging behind Mario or pulling back to offer him a fixed, old-school 2D view during particular spots of platform action. All the same, the way the game uses the remote does give you pause to ponder: is SMG still accessible? Is it too weird and too strange to work?
All I can say is that after you’ve collected your first few stars, it all clicks into place. New galaxies open, new tasks appear, and – once you’re hooked – SMG just keeps on getting better and better and better. As you learn the ropes and discover new ways to use the remote, Nintendo does its usual trick: it starts applying the new rules it’s teaching you to create weird and wonderful levels that – even when they embrace old themes like the ghost house or the ice world – feel a million miles away from the generic nonsense of the average 3D platformer.
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