First Shot: Super Mario Galaxy 2
Mario games know how to get right into the action. Within the first 20 minutes I have gone through an introductory stage highlighting the basics of Mario's movements and I see that Bowser has captured the Princess again. Ho hum.
Really though, I couldn't be happier with this game. Mario moves just like he did in the previous game and the inclusion of Yoshi brings back the excitement I felt when I first discovered him in Super Mario World. The galaxies vary from grassy lands to icy terrain to abstract puzzle levels and each area feels unique.
One noticeable difference is the “World Map” layout. In the first Super Mario Galaxy, there were different hubs that contained sets of levels. In the second game, your Mario spaceship (which is a gigantic Mario head by the way) moves across a map similar to ones in New Super Mario Bros. It seems as though Galaxy is borrowing ideas from the New Super Mario Bros. series, especially since there seems to be a bunch more 2D sequences than there was in the first Galaxy game.
I'm moving through the game pretty quickly and while the difficulty seems slightly raised, it hasn't stopped be from accumulating 40 lives a session. Hopefully I will be challenged in later worlds. Check back for a full review next week.