Super Mario Galaxy

As someone who has taken an interest in game design, there were a few things I found interesting in Super Mario Galaxy. Mind, the last game I played was 64, so some of these may not be novel to this release.

The Constrained Path – A Return to Form

Many levels, especially the early ones have a very linear layout. Very often you are getting launched from tiny-planet to tiny-planet. There is often freedom of movement on each planet, but movement between them is limited by launch stars. This retreats a bit from the freedom of 3d and harkens back to the linear scrolling levels of the first games.

Levels of Scale

Flying between planets has an effect almost like levels-within-levels. The level structure has a quality of Levels of Scale – one of Christopher Alexander’s 15 properties of life. There is the largest structure of six worlds, each with 2 or 3 major worlds and a few extras. Each of the major worlds has about 6 stars available, which may (or may not) reuse the same basic level geometry. Within each level, there are very often multiple sub-challenges, if not physically separate planetoids.

Variation of Challenge

There are several different types of levels. Major classes include timed, freeform exploration, boss fights, auto-scrolling, ball-rolling, ray-surfing. One of the great wonders of the game is how many games are contained within it – whole mechanics that would have been sufficient for a single game in ages past now supply 3, 2, even just 1 level (red star comes to mind)

Goomba Management.

One intriguing feature is the players ability to get two different types of resources from goobmas, and probably other kinds of enemies. Spin/kick them an they turn into star bits, which serve several purposes, including adding to extra lives. Stomp them and get a coin, which replenishes your health (they can also add up to lives, but are lost every time you die, making it much harder to collect enough.)

(Ideas 2008-02-22, mostly written 2008-07-06)

Comments are closed.