After the morning presentation at Nintendo's media summit in San Francisco, we were let loose to roam the floors and get some hands-on time with a variety of games, but most importantly, this was our first chance to play Super Mario Galaxy 2. Like in the previous game, Mario will roam the universe that defies the laws of physics, hopping from one planet to another as well as visiting plenty of exotic locales. But this time, he will be accompanied by the adorable green dinosaur that we've all come to know and love--Yoshi. Nintendo had 10 levels for us to choose from, so we did our best to drill, jump, and eat our way through each unique area.
We decided to check out the area that was presented earlier in the day, where we were able to use the drill and dig instantly from one side of the large planetary dirt mound to the next. The controls are the same as in the original Super Mario Galaxy, and they're tight, responsive, and easy to master once you get back into the swing of things. Using the remote, you can point and collect star bits as you bounce over goombas to make your way to the star at the end of the stage. The drill can be found on the ground. By shaking the remote, you'll pick it up over your head, and you simply shake again to plow through anything that doesn't have a metallic surface. We eventually made our way to the boss fight, which wasn't as hard as it looked, given that this particular planet could be navigated only on a 2D plane--so it was like walking on the outside of an onion ring. The robotic creature with two metallic legs stomped around a bit and sent a few power drills our way but then left its underbelly exposed just long enough for us to come up (or down?) from the other side to give it a good kick in its sensitive areas.
In the trailer we saw earlier, there was an image of a giant snakelike space dragon, which we got a chance to face during our hands-on session. This creature, known as Gobblegut, was sent after us by Bowser Jr., and it looped around the planet with its large maw aimed at Mario. It eventually burrowed into the ground and out the other end, weaving and twisting to conveniently block our line of sight. But by staying out of this monster's mouth and hovering around the area where it had dug itself in, we were able to hit the vulnerable areas along its body until it finally backed off.
Before taking charge of Yoshi, we played through a 2D platforming level where the traditional laws of gravity did not apply. By keeping an eye on the blue and red arrows, we could determine which way gravity was working in that particular area and time, but there were portions of the level where it would switch on us, so we had to anticipate the change to avoid landing on some hazardous terrain. Another world we explored was composed of floating platforms made up of traditional Super Mario Bros. bricks, pipes, coin blocks, and jumbo-sized enemies. Just because a flying goomba is 10 times your size doesn't mean that you can't do a spin attack to knock the beast on its head. If you loved Giant Land in Super Mario Bros. 3, you're going to love this level.
Since we saw what Yoshi could do with the blimp earlier in the day (basically balloon up and float), we decided to see what would happen to him if he ate a dash pepper. If you point at an object onscreen and press the B button, Yoshi's unnaturally long tongue will wrap around almost anything and swallow it. We're assuming that the dash pepper was extra spicy, because Yoshi immediately turned red and began to run at full speed. Controlling him is tricky while he's in this state, because he's ultrasensitive to your motions. Running into a wall will knock him back and slow him down, and the way the levels are designed, you need to get to the top of a ramp or the end of a long stretch of platforms before the effects of the pepper wear off. It took us multiple tries to get through some of the trickier areas, because he can easily run up the side of a wall, but if you brush against any wall or take a turn too early, you're going to take a tumble. It's incredibly fun to guide Yoshi as he darts up a long ramp, but it'll take a few mistakes before you know what to expect and can breeze by without any mishaps.
Even though it seems like our green friend can inhale everything, bullet bills don't seem to be a part of Yoshi's diet. What he can do, though, is keep a bullet in his mouth temporarily and then spit it out to help you wipe out enemies or break things--like glass--that may be blocking your path. If Yoshi gets separated from you at any time and goes off a ledge, he'll reappear in a nearby nest so you don't have to risk falling off a platform to get him back. Another one of Yoshi's talents is the ability to use his tongue to latch on to daisies, which can then propel you to higher ground like a swinging monkey.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 is what you would expect from a sequel, with more of the same mechanics but new content as well to encourage you to explore this unique universe full of familiar faces and new bizarre creatures. The varied environments are a blast to go through, and the animations look really good at this point, so we can't wait to play more of the game as soon as we can get our own build. What's also exciting is that Nintendo has announced that Super Mario Galaxy 2 will be coming May 23. Be sure to keep checking back for more updates as soon as they become available.