It's great to see that even after the massive success of New Super Mario Bros. Wii, Nintendo hasn't been tempted to "dumb down" Mario Galaxy 2. In fact, in the demo levels we played in London today, the second game feels even more challenging than the first - and we love it.
Galaxy 2 is the second part of a learning curve that began the moment you fired off your first starbit in the original game. In our first level - the 'Flip Swap' galaxy - we traverse a maze of red and blue platforms suspended over space. The moment Mario performs a spin jump however, the platforms flip, with one colour disappearing to expose a perilous jump.
This was an unexpectedly tricky course to clear - and our objective of racking up 100 purple coins only made it harder (though Nintendo has added classic checkpoint flags to accommodate the rookies among us).
Confusion quickly sets in as we attempt to spin jump across large gaps - causing our target platform to disappear - and later rolling chain chomps appear, forcing us to jump and spin to different colour platforms, dodging the big black baddies and dropping them into oblivion in the process.
A hallmark feature of the second adventure is the welcome return of Mario's dinosaur chum, Yoshi - and he's a joy to play. Unlike the dodgy implementation in GameCube entry 'Sunshine, Yoshi makes you feel empowered again, offering the ability to effortlessly gobble up baddies with the Wii Remote pointer.
Yoshi feels vulnerable like he did in the original Mario games; one hit from a Hammer Brother or Zelda-style electric blob will either send the dinosaur hibernating back into his egg or legging it away Mario World-style.
Bowser Jr.'s Fearsome Fleet - another challenging galaxy - showed off Yoshi's awesome skills brilliantly. The level opens with an inviting glass dome accompanied by a bullet bill turret. Quickly we realised our green mate can gobble up the missiles and then aim and spit them out as your own projectiles, smashing the glass and any baddies unfortunate enough to be in the way.
Quickly,this intuitive mechanic turns Galaxy into a swift-draw shooting game: Mario and Yoshi hop onto a moving platform and all of Bowser Jr's armies unload their bullets in our direction. A quick aim and a flick of your wrist is all it takes to gobble up and fire back the incoming bullet bills - it's effortless and great fun.
It's sections like this that make it clear that Nintendo has plenty of ideas left over from the first game. The five levels we got to play all felt unique and a genuine step forward from the excellent original.
The new drill ability is another example and adds a whole new dimension to Galaxy's planet-hopping gameplay. The demo level we played eased us into the idea with inviting craters scattered across a spherical moon. Drill through them and Mario will dig his way through the entire planet, inevitably emerging inside a 1UP cage on the other side.
Eventually we were using the drill to dig our way to the top of huge towers, attacking boss characters through the ground and even burrowing our way inside planets, running around their hollow innards collecting coins.
By far our favourite level in the demo though was the Tree Trunk galaxy, which expectedly takes place on top of a gigantic tree.
Here, Mario's rarely apart from Yoshi and he's also introduced to one of the dino's new abilities. By gobbling up blue Blimp Fruit Yoshi bloats up to a gigantic size, allowing him to blow out air from his mouth (which is done automatically) and send the pair of you soaring towards the sky.