The premise of the game is that Mario’s tropical holiday is ruined when he’s stitched up by an evil look-alike for daubing graffiti all over the island. Rather conveniently, there’s a water pump waiting for him to use, which not only washes away the mess but also doubles as a handy jet pack. The jet pack aspect means that whenever you fall off something you have the chance to immediately recover. This built-in safety net means the game can afford to be far more ambitious in its level design than ever before, with massive levels filled with trampolines, tightropes, water-powered windmills, huge coral reefs, and mountains and mountains of platforms.
The whole thing looks amazing, too, with the most realistic water ever seen in a video game, and a near-infinite draw distance. On top of all this are rideable, fruit-juice-spewing Yoshis, extra water nozzles, super-hardcore platform levels where Shadow Mario nicks your jet pack, and goop-generating bosses who seem to live to make Princess Peach’s laundry a nightmare.
After the sweet but rather short pleasures of Luigi’s Mansion and Pikmin, you need have no fear that Mario Sunshine is of a similarly brief nature. There are a total of 120 shines to collect--the same number of stars as in Super Mario 64--and the game world is at least as large and far more interactive. This is without question the best game on the GameCube yet. That may be no more than you'd expect from a Mario game, but it's certainly more than most of us mere mortals deserve. --David Jenkins