Friday, November 23, 2007

Column for Nov. 24

‘Galaxy’ a great game, not perfect

The early reviews for “Super Mario Galaxy” are beyond good. They’re off the charts. has it listed as its highest-rated game, besting the classic “The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.” Nintendo has spent a good amount of press saying “Super Mario Gal-axy” is the spiritual successor to “Super Mario 64.”

They aren’t far off.

The biggest strength of “Galaxy,” just as it was in “Mario 64,” is the innovation. “Galaxy” really makes you think and adjust for the gravity of each of the planets you visit. Taking the adventure into space with a whole new set of physics to get used to was a masterstroke for Nintendo.

The story sounds familiar. Bowser, an evil fire-breathing lizard, captures Princess Peach. Mario must traverse the cosmos, collecting power stars and finding a path to Bowser’s doorstep.

The plot for “Mario 64” was truly non-linear. The worlds were easy to explore and there were multiple missions. The linear storyline of “Galaxy” makes the game all too easy at times. One of the best things about “Mario 64” was trying to decipher what you needed to do to get the star from the often-cryptic descriptor. Here, a quick cut scene at the beginning of each mission often shows the path or final destination.

The camera angles are not as functional as we’d like from a game with such an immersive 3D world. It doesn’t offer any decent two-player options that we can see, but we’re still playing.

“Galaxy” offers up an experience for the Wii not available until this point. It’s an immersive experience, where it’s easy to save your progress and pick things up where you left off.

Like any good game, playing for a few hours provides a sense of satisfaction and accomplish-ment. Some levels are genuinely fun to explore while others drive us insane. In other words, it’s a “Mario” game, one that will have to keep on giving for awhile. “Super Smash Brothers Brawl” isn’t due out for another few months.

But cheer up, button pushers. After all, there’s always an extra life waiting for you in the box by the space ship when you start up “Galaxy.”

“Galaxy” gets four and one half buttons. It’s not perfect but it’s a great game to have if you own a Wii.

Co-written by John Dietrich.

‘John Woo Presents Stranglehold’

You know what makes a great game? When your character can slow down time. Bullets, while normally pretty cool by themselves, look even sweeter when they’re whizzing by you in slow motion.

“John Woo Presents Stranglehold” for the PlayStation 3 is pretty uninspired stuff, like a Grade C action flick. The main character’s name is Inspector Tequila, a rogue cop who plays by his own rules. The game goes downhill from there.

There’s a lot of broken glass and things blowing up. Oh, and he slides over table surfaces with his butt when he bumps up against them. Because, you know, sliding over things is cool.

And did I mention he could slow down time?

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