Super Mario Galaxy 2: Yoshi's Back...and He Brought a Drill!

Super Mario Galaxy 2 returns Mario to the Wii-defining universe of Super Mario Galaxy now armed with new power-ups, new friends and... a drill?

Just as Super Mario 64 redefined the classic platforming franchise for the Nintendo 64 generation, Super Mario Galaxy delivered the game-changing goods to Wii owners.

While what we'd seen so far of Super Mario Galaxy 2, due out May 23, looked very similar to Mario's physics-bending current-gen hit, we were more than happy to collect coins, stomp Koopas, and save Peach all over again in the sequel. It seems, however, Nintendo's well aware of the pleasant, but very apparent whiff of familiarity wafting off their upcoming sequel, as they recently went out of their way to demo the title's fresh-rather than familiar-features.

Clearly the most fan-pleasing reveal is the return of Yoshi; yes, Mario's long-tongued prehistoric pal makes his way to Nintendo's galaxy far, far away. The little green guy controls much like he did in past games, but with Galaxy's gravity-defying gameplay comes new tricks for the adorable dino.

My demo began at the base of a towering tree with no obvious paths for Mario to take up its trunk...until I spotted that little green-speckled egg. Still, with shell cracked, and Yoshi mounted, I was at a loss as how to get Mario to the tippity top of the level.

Thankfully, a kind Nintendo rep pointed out a new power-up-the blimp berry-which Yoshi could munch on to catch some air. Sure enough, with a point of the Wii-Mote at the magic fruit, Yoshi was able to slurp it up and lift off the ground like a slowly deflating balloon. But the real challenge came in collecting more berries while the pair ascended, as each fruit only contains a limited amount of helium.

I finally made it to the top of the tree, but not before landing on several low-hanging branches to refill Yoshi's belly with hot air. Later levels promise to make this mechanic even trickier by including patrolling enemies that can pop Yoshi like a balloon.

Keeping with the theme of showing off what new tricks Mario has tucked into his plumber's tool belt, I was next dropped into a level made of steep, roller coaster-like surfaces. Mario couldn't run up these almost vertical planes, and even Yoshi struggled to make much headway. Enter the dash pepper, a fiery looking veggie that Yoshi can gobble for temporary MACH speed. With fire and smoke amusingly shooting from his backside, Yoshi, save for some modest steering, becomes uncontrollable by the player, but succeeds in treading the previously unclimbable slopes. This jalapeño-like power-up is essentially a turbo boost for Yoshi. It only works in short bursts, but that's probably a good thing given its chaotic control over Yoshi.

Experimenting with Yoshi-and his new digestible powers-proved a fun time in the somewhat familiar Galaxy world. The potential for his use in clever puzzles, inventive platforming, and epic boss battles was readily apparent after just a few minutes mounted on his back. Additionally, the blimp berry and dash pepper further hint that Galaxy 2 will indeed significantly change up the gameplay of its predecessor.

While Yoshi's return will no doubt please longtime Mushroom Kingdom visitors, it was actually another new item that continually stretched a smile across my face during the demo.

A drill, that looks like a smaller, cuter version of Big Daddy's Splicer slicer, can be picked up by Mario, and used to burrow through the ground. Utilizing it in the title's many spherical stages means you can tunnel your way from one side of a planet to the other. Spinning the Wii-Remote, just as you would to leap from planet to planet, sends the drill-with Mario in tow-racing through the dirt. Aside from being a blast to use, the buzzing power-up is great for reaching otherwise inaccessible areas; a 1up mushroom seemingly blocked from Mario on all sides, for example, can now be attained by tunneling under it.

Messing with this new toy was great fun, but it really showed it's edge-quite literally-during a boss battle.

While traversing the outer edge of a planet shaped like a wheel of cheese, Mario was chased by a metallic menace with two enormous arms. In addition to avoiding his Italian plumber-squashing appendages, Mario must also beware his drill nose, which can burrow bombs through the ground to Mario's location. The bombs, which resemble yellow Bullet Bills with the ability to swim in the sand, will take out Mario unless he stomps them first. In addition to playing defense against the boss' arms and bombs, you need to find the right moment to send your own drill bit smack in the middle of its fragile face. You see, when it's not drilling Mario-seeking missiles through the planet's crust, it's exposing a glass exterior housing a level-conquering star. Three successful drill hits, and "yippee", the star is yours.

Playing with Yoshi was like joining an old friend who'd learned some new tricks, but it was this drill-based level I wanted to play again and again. The only thing missing from this neat new mechanic is a subtle "buzz" and vibration fed back through the Wii-Mote.

Super Mario Galaxy 2 is an obvious sequel to its popular predecessor, so those looking for a complete reboot won't find it here. However, plenty of new toys and tricks- including many yet to be revealed-keep this follow-up feeling as fresh as the first time we made Mario planet hop with a quick spin of the Wii-Mote.