Super Mario Galaxy Observations #1 Bite Sized Design

February 2nd, 2009


I’ve been playing Mario Galaxy on and off since it’s release over a year ago and have reached a total of roughly 70 stars. What I love about Mario Galaxy is the flexibility it offers the player. Starting any new game requires a certain amount of investment, such as time, energy and commitment to continue playing. Mario galaxy is great in that the demand/reward ratio is very lenient. You can load the game up, walk to an area and earn yourself a quick star in literally less time than 5 minutes. Of course, there are larger levels too which last closer to 15 minutes.

What I find most interesting about this is that such a technique (of breaking a larger game into bite sized chunks of play) is usually reserved for portable titles, where the hardware itself is suggestive of the play habits of the player. I mean, handheld consoles are portable, so it’s assumed you’ll obviously be playing it on the run (not that I ever do, I move my consoles around more than the portables) therefore games are designed with this intention in mind.

Mario Galaxy in this regard is quite forward thinking as I feel it’s scratching a very annoying itch for many players. The game has a no commitment, jump in/jump out vibe to it while not streamlining the qualities of a fully fledged game experience. This for a lot of players is a breath of fresh air; for people like me who need a quick burst of fun between, the high investment titles and other players who have little room in their life to play more than 30 minutes at a time.

The reason why I haven’t finished this game – even a year after release – is that it works so well a quick pick-me-up whenever I feel like a bit of fun. It’s like the bottle of wine or vintage cheese you only bring out on special occasions.