Super Mario Galaxy 2 - first-look

Can you think of a giddier prospect than Mario Galaxy 2? It’s a joy just watching the trailer: an upbeat confection overflowing with ideas. As galaxy after galaxy barges onto the screen it’s like watching EAD Tokyo’s thought processes made physical, ideas popping into existence before your very eyes. The giddy magic flows through (perhaps stems from) Miyamoto. As he talked about the ratio of new to old at E3 he found himself repeatedly correcting himself, just as his team find themselves writing every new idea into the game. Ninety per cent is all-new. No, wait, 95%. Maybe even 99%. We’re talking minor fractions of old to major dollops of new.

Reggie has a spin of his own. Miyamoto talks ideas, Reggie talks difficulty and challenge. Cynical buzzwords of the next-gen hardcore, sure, but here they represent a return to the harder-edged platforming we grew up on. Aiming for the lifelong fans, Reggie suggests the difficulty is closer to Super Mario World – does this mean tasks to rival the dreaded Star Road?

Part of the challenge stems from the arrival of Yoshi. The green/blue/orange lizard used to put nasty new twists on well-trodden ground (we saw him in Galaxy’s Good Egg Galaxy). Imagine having to perform the rolling ball challenges with Mario on a Yoshi on a ball…

There has been a lot of healthy (and unhealthy) debates about whether SMG2 is a grand announcement and the top title for the Wii in 2010 or a sad day for Nintendo – evidence of a company without an all-new Mario game in them.A friendly disagreementon theprosandconswas featured on this very site. To help you decide, here's just some of the new features: snowballs, dinosaurs, ice skating, drums, bees, drills, waterfalls, ghosts, moles and the loveliest grass on Wii. Could this be the title to define Wii in 2010?

He appeared in the original Galaxy as a strange wooden effigy floating in the depths of space, but now Mario’s dino chum (or should that be race of dino chums?) gets a key role...

Yoshi is a lot like Mario’s costumes, turning up for certain challenges. Hop onto the Yoshi egg and out the fella pops. Nests presumably mark Yoshi spawning points, suggesting that if he takes a hit he’s zapped out of play (like Mario’s bee and ghost costumes) and you’ll have to crack another one out. For a beloved Nintendo mascot he isn’t half expendable.

Severely at odds with Nintendo’s ‘watch what you eat’ Wii Fit mantras, Yoshi will gobble items dangerous to Mario’s touch, such as the returning spiny plants. He doesn’t, however, turn them into eggs, suggesting he’s the weaker stomached Yoshi of Super Mario World. Eating is as easy as aiming at munchables with the pointer (the star cursor becomes a red blob) and firing that tongue off.

Quizzed about Yoshi’s absence in the original, director Yoshiaki Koizumi said the bee suit’s hover ability left Yoshi’s flutter jump unneeded. No surprises, then, to find Galaxy 2’s Yoshi unable to run on air. Instead he uses his strawberry bootlace tongue (we’ve never seen his tongue stretch this far before) to latch onto and swing from flowery hooks, turning jumps into a nippy bit of target practice.

Yoshi’s back to his Mario Sunshine fruit-gulping tricks, although thankfully he’s given up on the whole rainbow-vomiting routine. Yoshi’s hue and abilities change with each fruit gobbled. The orangey pear zaps Mario’s steed the colour of Gatorade and doubles his speed – pupils dilated, he can power up surfaces he’d usually slip down. Try feeding a squirrel Red Bull for an early demo of this effect.

Chow down ona bluefruit and Yoshi debuts a new skill: his guts swell to airship proportions and Mario pilots him higher as the gas is expelled. The technique is very like the bee hover, but it’s funny, so it’s fine.