Last month Nintendo released Super Mario Galaxy 2, the highly anticipated sequel of Super Mario Galaxy. As I greatly enjoyed playing the first game I had high expectations.
So the pivotal question is whether Super Mario Galaxy 2 is as good or even better than the first part:
- If you have played Super Mario Galaxy in the past the intro and the first two levels will look very familiar.
- The space ship which serves as the base of operations is a bit dull compared to Rosalina‘s observatory in the first game. And the Luma in charge of this space ship is somewhat annoying.
- Fortunately things get better from here. In the second Galaxy your character Mario encounter’s Yoshi, a tame dinosaur, which he can ride on. Riding on Yoshi provides the player with a lot of new abilities. Yoshi can jump higher, eat enemies or swallow projectiles and fire them back at your opponents. By eating different kind of berries or hot chillies Yoshi gets even more astonishing powers like floating or super speed.
- Mario himself can also acquire new powers e.g. by eating magic mushrooms. Among Mario’s extra powers are creating and walking on clouds, drilling holes or squashing his enemies by transforming into a rolling rock.
- The design of the levels is as brilliant as in the first part. Checkpoints are now clearly marked by Bowser flags which Mario needs to touch. Some of the levels are however frustratingly difficult. You frequently wish for more checkpoints or more time.
All in all Super Mario Galaxy 2 is fun to play just like Super Mario Galaxy. But it somehow doesn’t have the special touch to it that made the first part a real masterpiece. It is nevertheless one of the best Wii games I have ever played.
At first glance BioShock 2 is just another first person shooter game. The player’s mission is to guide the main character through the remains of the underwater city Rapture, fight mutated humans and security robots and free the main character’s protégé.
What makes BioShock 2 a really good game is the excellent design and the elements of roll-playing and strategy games incorporated into the story:
- The underwater city Rapture is a fascinating scenario. Its inhabitants managed to build this monument of human ingeniousness but failed to establish an utopian society. As a result the would-be paradise turned into hell on earth. This is very well reflected in the grandeur of the architecture which is now mostly in ruins.
- At the beginning the main character’s abilities (and armament) are very limited. Over time he can however pick up two types of genetic enhancements, Plasmids and Tonics. Plasmids provide active powers like telekinesis or the ability to throw fireballs. Tonics provide passive abilities like camouflage or faster movements. These enhancements are however not easy to procure. A few of them can be found in secret locations but most of them need to be bought with a substance called ADAM. And collecting ADAM proves to be challenging as well. The player frequently needs to decide how to make best use of the limited supply of ADAM.
- Over the course of the game the player encounters a number of minor characters. Some of them are friendly, others are hostile and a few can even switch sides depending on your behaviour. All in all they are very well written and voiced which contributes to the atmosphere of the game.
- The player frequently has to defend a Little Sister against fiercely attacking Splicers. But thanks to an arsenal of special weapons like trap rivets, mini turrets and proximity mines it is possible to prepare for such a confrontation in advance to get the upper hand in the fight.
- The behaviour of the main character during the game decided the ending of the story.
BioShock 2 doesn’t feature an original game concept but it is really well made. Overall it is definitely worth playing and even tops the first game, BioShock.
As I already liked its prequel I was looking forward to the release of Assassin’s Creed II. It continues the story of Desmond Miles who got involved in a war between two secret organisations, the Assassins and the Templars. Once again Desmond uses a machine called the Animus to relive the memories of one of his ancestors.
The basic course of the game hasn’t changed since the first game. You control a character who moves in a three dimensional landscape resembling historic sites. This time the story line takes you to Italy in the late 15th century where you guide an assassin going by the name of Ezio Auditore during his search for the murderers of his father and brothers.
The game retained all the advantages of its prequel:
- Brilliant graphics, especially the virtual Venice is worth seeing.
- Cities full of people who socially interact with your character.
- A fighting system well-balanced between challenge and fairness.
- A fascinating storyline.
The designers also got rid of the annoying parts:
- No more investigation phases to unlock main missions.
- Collecting flags is (mostly) gone.
- No tedious horse riding through a landscape full of aggressive, respawning soldiers.
- The interruptions by the plot taking place in the present time are less frequent and less irritating.
New elements make the game even more interesting:
- The goal of the main missions vary to some degree. Dispatching an enemy is often not good enough. You e.g. need to follow him to a secret meeting without being discovered first.
- Treasure hunts in dungeons which require expert climbing and careful jumping pay homage to Tomb Raider.
- Running the Auditore family’s countryside villa introduces an admittedly very simple economic simulation into the game.
- The ability to buy weapons, armour and other equipment or get extra training for money adds elements of a role-playing game.
All in all Assassin’s Creed II provides hours of fun with just the right level of difficulty accompanied by an entertaining story. I’m already looking forward to the third part of the series.