| Finally, an answer to the plight of every video game player with a little brother: does every two-player experience with a little kid have to be terribly unfun? No, thankfully not. Using asymmetrical gameplay, Super Mario Galaxy has solved my problem in a way that even a family-friendly game like Wii Sports could not hope to aspire to. Normally, two player games are very dreary and not fun for heavily mismatched players. In a game where the 2 players are pitted against each other, a strong player always destroys the weaker one; in my case, a little brother who protests if I go easy and let him win. This quickly becomes frustrating for both of us. On the flipside, cooperative gameplay is a nigtmare. We'll scream at each other to "Jump you moron! No, go back! Stop dying!" a la New Super Mario Bros. for the Wii. (I don't know about you, but in my family, playing co-op mode in this game dissolves into the third world war within ten minutes as we holler at each other to pick up this item, dodge this guy, etcetera.) But in Super Mario Galaxy, co-op mode involves Mario (Player 1) being followed by an anthropomorphic star (Player 2), who assists Mario in collecting health, items, and can even stun and kill enemies. So, Player 2 is absolutely beneficial, perhaps even essential, in getting through the game and the secrets in the levels. It's like having an awesome cheat code that makes the game much easier, and more importantly, makes player 2 feel like they're really doing something useful to help, which is very important when your P2 is much younger than you are. Kids like to be involved. And the P1 doesn't have to slow down or coordinate with a weaker P2 to get anything done; its all very intuitive, and P2 can hardly do anything to mess up P1's gameplay experience. |
There is the small issue of miscommunication; if, for example, there's a fireball that cycles up and down once per 3 seconds, I time my jumps to avoid the fireball. But the if P2 is not aware of this, he will stun or freeze the fireball, and I jump smack into it because I did not count on it freezing at any position. But this kind of error is nothing compared to NSMB, where any move off by a milisecond ruins the flow of the level and leaves that one player who is young or uncoordinated like a giant sandbag in a sinking ship, and that isn't fun for little kids to be the weakest link that makes everyone lose. I think we're both happier when a game makes it okay if a kid isn't able to play as well as older peers. I haven't played many co-op games that struck such a good balance between giving P2 autonomy, but limiting his/her range to stuff that will not interfere with the stronger players' progress. It gives the P2 plenty to do, but doesn't make him or her pivotal in winning or losing, which is very important when a small child is at the helm and may not be able to help much if s/he is too young or lacks experience. I really love the way SMG's co-op mode allows two players of wildly varying ability to come together and save a princess. The little bro and I love this game as both a bonding experience and just a fun game. I'd highly recommend it to families with kids of very differing ages.
This entry has been edited 1 time. It was last edited on Sep 11th, 2012 at 00:51:11.
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