January 29th, 2008

Warning: this train of thought involves lots of “insides” and “outsides,” and runs the risk of devolving into some sort of meta, Mario-based M.C. Escher drawing. Heroine Sheik is not responsible for any brain explosions.

Regular readers know I’m obsessed with Super Mario 64. It was one of the first real games I played from beginning to end–back when I was the ripe old age of twelve. What readers may not know though is the reason I’m obsessed with Super Mario 64: it’s interiority.

What the heck does that mean, Bonnie? Valid question, reader. It means Mario 64 had a very distinct feeling of interior space, of enclosure. Not only did the player enter inside the game, but the entire game world existed inside a house, and each level inside individual rooms. We’ve talked before about games as a series of caves; in my mind, that’s how I envision Mario 64. You’ve got a sphere, or maybe a series of spheres, and the gameplay exists inside.

So imagine my mixed feelings when I first saw screenshots from Super Mario Galaxy. What happened to the “inside-ness” I loved on the N64? Unlike in Sunshine, it hadn’t just disappeared. In fact, it had been inverted!

In direct contrast to interiority of Mario 64, Galaxy is a purely exterior game. It lacks that cave-like sense of “going inside” to discover new worlds. In fact, discovering requires going further and further out, being shot literally into outer space. And those spheres I was playing inside? Those have been inverted, too: now players explore their outsides when they run around the surfaces of small planets.

It’s as if space in Mario has literally exploded–flying up and out. The result is some darn interesting gameplay. Still, for this gamer, the magic got left behind underground.

Tags: Blog

2 Responses to “Kaboom! Mario in Inner and Outer “Space””

  1. Tina Anderson Says:

    I totally agree. It is the opposite of everything that made Mario 64 so great. Not that Mario Galaxy is a terrible game or anything, but we should be progressing, not going backwards. I did notice that exterior feel the game has to it but I couldn’t really express my thoughts on that until I read your post. I hope they change things up again for the next game in the series.

  2. Bonnie Ruberg Says:

    Glad somebody understands! I’m not sure where the series will go from here–re: space or otherwise. I just know I felt more comfortable in those interior spaces. On the outside of planets, things feel strangely exposed :).

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