System: Nintendo Wii
Age rating: Everyone
Super Mario Galaxy didn't fall short in any aspect when it was released a couple of years ago. But danged if Nintendo didn't find a few things its sequel could use.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 doesn't reinvent the Mario wheel - the original game took care of that. Instead, it expands on some elements, streamlines others, offers a new set of incredible levels to explore, and introduces several new items and features.
The basic setup is the same as the first Galaxy: Princess Peach has been kidnapped by Bowser, and Mario must chase his nemesis across space to rescue her.
He gains the use of a spaceship crewed by friendly star people called Lumas, who remake their craft in Mario's image. Using Starship Mario, the hero must make his way through many levels, called "galaxies," spread across several "worlds." The terminology seems backward here, but whatever.
Each level holds a Power Star, often more than one, and each star in a galaxy is found in a different way. One route may lead to a boss enemy holding a Power Star hostage, while another may have Mario collecting Power Star pieces to assemble a whole one, or simply reaching the end of the stage. And there are secret stars here and there for players to discover.
At the end of each world is a big boss battle and a Grand Star, which lets Starship Mario move to a new grouping of galaxies.
The galaxies themselves vary wildly. Some are groupings of tiny planetoids, each with their own gravitational field. Others are large islands in space surrounded by smaller ones. Still others are self-contained structures that Mario must navigate through, often from a 2-D perspective resembling his older adventures. No two galaxies are alike, and no separate route through one is the same.
Mario has all his standard moves, from jumping and spinning to swimming and climbing. He can skate on ice and grab and throw objects such as shells.
And no Mario game would be complete without power-ups. The classic Fire Flower, the Bee Mario suit, the Rainbow Star, and several other items return from the last game, and the new Cloud Flower and Rock Mushroom give Mario new powers to use.