It has been so long since a Mario game on a home console has gotten a real sequel that my first impressions of Super Mario Galaxy 2 were of overbearing familiarity. Like the game was a pound for pound replica of the first game - and that it was a terrible, terrible mistake.
Really though, sequels often do share many similarities with the titles they follow - itís when they donít, something has gone wrong. Especially in the case of sequels in the same hardware generation - nobody is surprised that Metal Gear Solid 1, 2 and 4 all look drastically different, but they appreciate the idea that each game follows the same core principles.
And like MGS 2 to 3, the Super Mario Galaxy series focuses on being the same, but different. This is the state of a sequel these days - in the case of Crackdown to Crackdown 2 the new game feels like a chaser, but from Super Mario Galaxy to Super Mario Galaxy 2 itís more like another drink from the same bottle - and thatís what gamers demand.
Itís different to the old sequel philosophy though - even in the Mario franchise. Super Mario Bros. to Super Mario Bros. 3 is like taking a conceptual journey through the minds of the developers - each game has dramatically different gameplay sequel to sequel, even if elements carried across from game to game.
Itís because of this philosophy change that the familiarity in SMG 2 is initially so abrasive - but it quickly becomes a merit as it better highlights the differences in the title. One of those differences is the difficulty of the game.
If I had a gripe it would be that the gameís difficulty level is in stark contrast with the way the title is portrayed. The game comes with an unbelievably patronising Ďinstructional dvdí - but worse are the hint videos littered throughout the game, demonstrating concepts which would be common sense to anyone bar the newest platform gamer.
These elements imply a level of ease which simply isnít present later in the game, when trial and error basically becomes the philosophy for progress in many cases.
Donít make the mistake of thinking Iím simply bad at the game either - granted, early on many deaths were attributable to user error while I struggled to reacquaint myself with the Wii controls. Later though, after Iíd gotten used to the combination of Wiimote and Nunchuk I found the game took on almost a horror game element as I tensely leapt from platform to platform, praying I wouldnít die before I reached a checkpoint.
Itís a peculiar feeling to have in a game which features a cloud suit. The new suits are cute additions to the series - an already overwhelmingly cute series. The cloud suit lets Mario materialise up to three cloud platforms to help him navigate areas void of platforms. The boulder suit lets him bowl over his enemies.
Marioís companion and animal life partner Yoshi returns to Super Mario Galaxy 2 as probably the biggest improvement in the game - at least, when heís being used. The little green companion has numerous utilities in the new Mario, mostly based on what he eats (like Mario, except Yoshi actually has an eating action).
He can eat hot foods to speed him up, eat enemies to disable them, attach himself to flowers to swing himself up and he all-around extends Marioís ability to move - as well as changing up the gameplay enough to keep things fresh.
At its core, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a platforming game - you play as Mario (mostly, though Luigi can sub in for you at times) and your goal is to get the gold stars. Platforming typically means jumping from platform to platform - SMG2 builds on this concept further thanks to the conceptually (and practically) cool combat and puzzle solving gameplay.
Thereís not a lot more to say about Super Mario Galaxy 2. The camera is still a tad annoying - but as SMG was to Super Mario Sunshine, SMG2 reduces its issues further to the point of it only really being an issue for less than a single percent of your entire playing time.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a fantastically refined title, a worthy sequel to its predecessor and a must own Wii game. Gripes about difficulty only exist in the context of the titleís own simplistic tutorial system - platformers should be challenging, and so SMG2 does right by gamers on this front.