Mario. Mario of the Mario brothers. He's become one of the most iconic video game characters in history, instantly recognizable on site, and always a source of great platforming gameplay. Released in 2007, the first Super Mario Galaxy put our heroic plumber on the galactic stage, finding him at gravity's whim, rotating around planets, walking to the dark side of moons, and in general being a pretty enjoyable platformer.
Its sequel adds more to that cosmic formula, changing it but also keeping enough familiar elements in there to still be called Super Mario Galaxy. The result is a platformer that is a delight to play, with so much new content that one might not even realize that this just started out as an expansion pack of sorts in the first place.
So what's new in this iteration of Super Mario Galaxy? Well, in a couple words, almost everything. It's clear that Nintendo took a look at the previous game, saw what worked, saw what didn't, and fixed nearly everything wrong with it. It still plays like its predecessor, and anyone who played it will instantly become familiar with the controls, though small changes like having a small planetoid that travels to galaxies instead of a massive hub, or having to acquire stars to unlock a path to the next level, small changes such as these are present.
These galaxies you travel to are smaller this time around, but they're much more varied between each other, offering unique challenges in most of them, themed worlds and fantastic landscapes that can have you do anything from whirling around small planetoids to traditional two-dimensional side-scrolling action, to massive bosses, gravity-reversing switches and areas, and anything in between. Some levels may have combinations of all of these, switching seamlessly to provide an experience that never seems to grow old. Even when you do manage to collect all 120 stars in the game, you're treated to something else, a devious challenge that'll test even the most hardened of Mario fans.
This sequel comes ripe with brand new costumes for the mustachioed plumber, all of which offer new opportunities and fit seamlessly into the controls and the gameplay. But that's not all to make a new appearance, as everyone's favourite dinosaur Yoshi makes a comeback. He's a powerup in his own way, allowing you to tongue-lash enemies and switches with the Wii pointer, which feels natural since you're likely already trying to grab star bits with it. He also comes with his own powerups that allow him to fly through the air, run up vertical walls, and light up the darkness that would otherwise make the platforms you must jump on completely vanish.
There are a lot of small touches that make this game a lot of fun to play, and perfect for literally anyone of any age. For example, using a method that was seen in New Super Mario Bros Wii, if you die a few too many times, Rosalina (of Super Mario Galaxy fame) will show up to give you a hand, even to the point where the game will take over until you get the star of the level. While this may seem a little too easy, keep in mind that the star will be a tarnished bronze until you can do it yourself, reminding you to replay the level. Speaking of appearances, Luigi is fully playable on some levels, taking over for Mario if you feel like a little bit of a different playstyle.
Really though, of all this, what the game excels in is level design, and simply how fun it is. The levels are perfectly done, adding more and more challenge as the game progresses. They're more linear that previous games in the Mario series, and while that may be a detriment to some, it means some tight design and unique challenges that haven't been done before. The camera also works well here, despite its rocky beginning in this title's prequel. It's been redone and reworked, and its fluid movement, while possible to manipulate, is always on your side.
Co-op gameplay also makes a return, though in a new form: though the second player can still pick up star bits as in Mario Galaxy, they can now also hold enemies to make them easier for Mario to jump on, gather items, and collect coins. This kind of mode is great for those of differing ages, either as a way for a younger gamer to have a part in the gameplay, or for an older gamer to assist someone younger as they make their way through the various challenges of the game.
And of course, like its predecessor, Mario Galaxy 2 delivers excellently in both graphics and musical score. Boasting some of the best and sharpest graphics on the Wii, even while playing on an HD display I found myself constantly forgetting that the Wii was not technically an HD system. The music follows suit, with some amazing orchestral music, as well as some of my favourite pieces from the previous game. The quality of it all is just out of this world.
In closing, if you have a Wii, you should have Super Mario Galaxy 2. It's one of the best games on the system, and is likely the best game in the series. Sporting an improvement in every way from the previous game, with even more content, characters, and powerups, it is pretty much impossible not to recommend this to everyone. It's simply one of the best games of its kind to come out, and is a great reminder of how the red-and-blue plumber is so popular, even to this day.