An interesting combination of old and new.
At first glance, Super Mario Galaxy 2, the latest Mario game, seems to resemble the original Galaxy a lot. In fact, not much has changed between the two games; you will still jump from planet to planet, collecting stars to rescue a princess from Bowser. In fact, the game starts off in almost the same way, recycling the introduction nearly verbatim. However, while Super Mario Galaxy 2 borrows a lot from its predecessor, it still manages to add enough to the formula to be considered a worthy follow-up and a great game in general.
This mixture of new and old makes itself apparent as soon as you start the game. You still navigate the cosmos by spaceship (now shaped like Mario’s face), jumping from level to level to collect a variety of stars, but the navigation aspect seems to have been taken more literally; rather than choose levels through the central hub, you navigate a world map a la older Mario games, like Super Mario Bros. 3 and World. Worlds are unlocked either by gaining a star in another world, or by gaining a set number of stars to pass through a star block on the map. Although a nice way of organizing progression, the fact that new paths unlock after one star seems to make it meaningless, especially when later world maps become somewhat lazy in design. After all, this new system does not introduce any new gameplay functions on its own (although it does contain more levels in general), only managing to maintain features introduced in Galaxy, like hungry Lumas, which unlock more levels when fed enough star bits.
Obviously the biggest addition to the game (he’s on the cover, after all), Yoshi feels like a fully realized adaptation of the Super Mario World Yoshi in 3D, used to his full potential: he can swallow/spit enemies, drag certain items, flutter in the air, and even use his own power ups. Like Mario’s power ups, Yoshi’s are put to steadily good use throughout the game, but feature somewhat unsatisfying control quirks. The pepper, for example, allows Yoshi to run at fast speeds, which, in turn, allows him to run up walls. However, many of these walls contain obstacles that demand tight, instant turns, something the pepper will not allow. Yet even with these flaws, Yoshi is still satisfying to use, and much of the game could not be done without him, even if some of his powers are simply recycled from Mario á la the first Galaxy. After all, a lot of the stars revolve around smart/creative use of both Mario’s and Yoshi’s abilities.
In addition to providing a myriad of ways to collect stars, Galaxy 2 also contains a large amount of stars in general. With over 200 stars, many of which are unlocked after collecting specific other stars, the game certainly has much replay value. Yet not all of the stars are fun or enjoyable ones to collect, the comet stars in particular. Even getting the chance to earn them requires certain criteria and luck: first, you must collect the given comet medal in a level (usually exclusive to one star). Once the medal is collected, this will allow a prankster comet to pass by the level, allowing that star to be gained. Because comets just do not arrive until a certain moment in the game, many of them will start quickly arriving in succession, severely interrupting the flow of the game. The worst part about them is the challenges themselves: although just as creative as the regular stars, they are also significantly harder, demanding the player to complete a level without being hit, or kill a large amount of enemies in a small amount of time. Although these challenges do not sound hard in text, they are frustratingly so in practice, and although never necessary, they will aggravate devoted fans and completionists.
The confusing part about comet stars is their difficulty, in that it is inconsistent with how easy the game generally is. Perhaps to be friendlier to new players, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is much more generous with its extra lives, giving out five at the start of each play session (it does not save the number of lives you have before you turn it off, oddly enough) and more in the levels themselves, even going so far as to have them regenerate after death. Should a certain part of the game prove too frustrating to complete, however, Rosalina will appear next to you and ask if you would like her to show you how to complete the level for you. Although insulting in theory, the reality is that she does not play the game for you, but simply shows you how to play it, allowing newcomers to enjoy the game more easily while failing to anger more skilled players. However, losing all your lives is bound to anger said skilled players, not because it results in a Game Over, but because of what that means: you are simply sent back to the static central hub world, ready to tackle the same level with little consequence for dying.
However, the game still manages to strike a number of important balances: it finds a decent compromise between the needs of both casual and hardcore players without dissatisfying both, and use enough of the first game’s mechanics while still introducing enough new ideas to be considered its own game. Overall, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is a highly enjoyable game and worthy follow up to Mario’s first major outing on the Wii.