Nintendo's Mario returns for another galactic adventure in Super Mario Galaxy 2 and delivers in a big way.
The 3-D gameplay that made the first game a success has been expanded to include sidekick Yoshi, more power-up items, and better cooperative play, all additions that will please fans of the first Galaxy.
Yoshi joins Mario's quest to save Princess Peach from the most persistent villain in video games, Bowser. Early on, Yoshi hatches from an egg eager to eat everything in sight. The controls for utilizing Yoshi's tongue can be tricky at first. But after a few mishaps, our favorite dinosaur becomes a valuable asset to the rescue of the princess, almost to the point that I wish he was available for every level.
Cooperative play is improved, so your co-star Luma can assist Mario better than before. When playing as the Luma, which is a star creature, you can collect items such as coins, extra lives and starbits, and attack enemies. In the original game, attacking was limited to stunning enemies. In the sequel, though, the extra Luma uses a spinning attack to actually defeat smaller enemies. The spin attack combined with the ability to retrieve extra lives makes playing with a buddy almost essential to defeating Bowser.
Galaxy 2 also includes many new power ups that improve the abilities of Mario and Yoshi. Cloud Mario enables our hero to reach new heights, and Rock Mario literally bowls over his enemies. Yoshi also acquires some powers that Mario would not be able to succeed without.
A better world map outlines the quest in a manner that will make more sense to Mario aficionados, too. However, Rosalina makes only a cameo in this adventure. She's replaced with a heavyset purple Luma that serves only to remind Mario when to take a break. Most gamers might not mind, but Rosalina fans might miss her.
The overall length of the game was a letdown. Why only six worlds, Nintendo? In the Mario games I'm familiar with, there are eight worlds in which to battle Bowser and his cohorts. The lack of real warp zones was also a disappointment. Sure, there are a few places within some worlds to jump around, but I want to see a warp in the first level of world four to world eight, or in this case, world six.
Its few shortcomings aside, Super Mario Galaxy 2 will satisfy your Mario cravings, which Nintendo has been filling with reinventions like Super Paper Mario and New Super Mario Wii.
I've been defeating Bowser for 24 years, and I'll continue to do so, at least until Mario, Luigi and Toad finally wise up and get Princess Peach a protection detail.