Even with his world turned upside down, Mario somehow seems to shine.
Gaming's most recognizable face heads for the final frontier in the mesmerizing Super Mario Galaxy, an innovative intergalactic quest.
The plot kicks off with – surprise – the abduction of Princess Peach by Mario nemesis Bowser. In order to catch Bowser, Mario must collect a series of stars in various galaxies to traverse the universe in search of the princess.
Each galaxy is represented by planets Mario must conquer before he can advance. Upon completing a specific task on each planet, a launch star appears to blast you toward your next destination.
Planets are not as much worlds as they are quirky masses Mario romps around every which gravity-defying way imaginable, even running upside down underneath planets. Levels boast unique, fun themes including one based on a golf course and another on a beehive, in which Mario dons a bee suit.
Galaxy is moderately difficult. Most players of any age can enjoy. Coins are scattered generously throughout galaxies so you can replenish life easily.
Visually, this is perhaps the most stunning Mario title to date. The first time watching Mario soar through space was breathtaking. Each planet sports vibrant, colorful landscapes.
Part of the Mario franchise's appeal is the simplicity of its controls, which continues on the Wii. The nunchuk moves Mario, while the A button executes his signature jump. Shaking the remote sends Mario into a dizzying spin toward enemies.
As you advance, you'll not only collect coins and power-ups, but Star Bits, chunks of stars Mario can use to fire at opponents or feed other stars for rewards. Pointing to nearby Star Bits immediately adds them to your collection.
After a long absence, Super Mario brings back a two-player mode in the form of Co-Star mode. While one player controls Mario, the other can grab a remote to snag Star Bits, freeze opponents or help Mario execute huge jumps. It's a good avenue for non-experienced gamers and parents to join in on the action, but I don't see many experienced gamers finding an interest.
Nintendo's star has always shone brightly through his 20-plus years in gaming, and Super Mario Galaxy is another reminder of its brilliant luster.