Super Mario Galaxy 2: A worthy Wii-peat

Super Mario Galaxy, the Wii's best-reviewed game, has sold 8.6 million copies to date since 2007. New Super Mario Bros. Wii, a modern riff on 2D Mario games of old that came out just six months ago, has sold more than 14 million. Super Mario Galaxy 2 represents the second 3D mind-bending platforming he's gotten himself into since Super Mario 64, a game that is already looking at its 15th birthday.

The Wii has been slow to release many games, but incredibly busy at churning out Mario titles. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is Nintendo's fourth on the system, not counting Karts, Parties, and other spin-offs (we count Super Paper Mario). Is it overkill? Well, not when the gameplay and platforming are this satisfying and addictive. In fact, it would be great if Nintendo turned around franchise sequels this quickly a little more often.

Jeff: No matter how few triple-A titles come to the Wii, its games like Super Mario Galaxy 2 that make those droughts of quality software tolerable. Not only is Super Mario Galaxy 2 an absolute must-have for Wii owners, it's quite possibly Mario's best adventure yet.

Though there's a lot of what we loved in the original here, the game improves upon its predecessor most notably by introducing brand-new galaxies to explore and ramping up the difficulty. This time Mario also has his dino-companion Yoshi at his disposal, and with that comes new moves and controls. Also new is the World Map navigation that past Mario games have popularized.

Level design has to be the title's most impressive trait; it's something aspiring gamemakers should be forced to play early on in their careers. Galaxy 2 provides subtle moments of brilliance and overwhelming environments and boss battles. The clever use of gravity-based antics shine right from the get-go and come into play more than ever before.

There have been more Mario games on the Wii than any other franchise, and though that might seem overkill for any other franchise on any other platform, we'd be happy to see Nintendo continue to pop them out this regularly. Not only are these games high on production value and sheer entertainment, they are timeless and completely accessible, appealing to gamers of any age.

Scott: What's different from the universe-spanning, gravity-bending 3D puzzle-gaming in the first Galaxy? Not a whole lot, just more great levels and clever ideas. There is a subtle but clear shift, however, toward ideas that seem more like Mario games of old: the world map now looks like the classic Mario overhead maps, complete with boss castles.… Read more

Chevy Volt app for Android gets Google Maps boost

Last week, rumors were swirling around a potential partnership between General Motors and Google to develop an Android-based telematics system. On the eve of Google's I/O conference, GM made an official announcement about its actual plans for the Android OS, a version 2.0 of the Android version of its OnStar Mobile app for Chevrolet Volt that will feature Google Maps integration.

Essentially, what GM will be doing is adding a "navigation" tab to the Android version of the OnStar app that allows users to see their current location and the location of a connected Chevrolet … Read more

Setting the mapping bar

As far as mobile mapping goes, Google Maps for Android offers one of the best experiences you can get. The feature-fest, which Google has been building on for years, doesn't just tell you where you are using nothing but GPS or cell tower triangulation. It also tells you how to get where you want to go by car, public transport, good old-fashioned shoe leather, and now, by bike. Voice-guided navigation takes you turn by turn, and voice search keeps your typing fingers fresh.

A variety of add-ons layers information on top of the base map, so you can view … Read more

Google adds biking directions to Android's Google Maps

Any urbanite knows that directions aren't created equally. Pedestrians can usually go wherever their feet can take them, but road traffic has to contend with hated one-way streets. Don't even get us started on cyclists. Luckily for bike riders toting Android phones in their messenger bags, a few days after Google added directions specifically for cyclists, the Maps team rolled biking guidance into the Android app.

Now cyclists who download the updated Google Maps 4.2 application from the Android Market can find optimal routes for their two-wheelers--both in the directions module and as a map layer that … Read more

Am I a GPS-enabled phone artist or a touch mad?

OLD WINDSOR, U.K.--I like computers. I like maps. I like drawing. And in one gestalt moment at 10:36 p.m. last Thursday, these affinities all came together.

As I entered a neighborhood park for a nighttime stroll after the kid was in bed, firing up a GPS application on my phone to keep track of my exercise, it occurred to me: Why not use the phone to create and record a path I could show as a design on a map?

So I did. I chose a basic pattern, spiraling in from the periphery to the center. … Read more

Reporters' Roundtable: Facebook and privacy (podcast)

Our topic this week: Facebook and privacy. At the F8 conference on April 21, Facebook rolled out privacy changes and new data sharing features. As usually happens when Facebook makes a privacy change, there was a swift and mighty backlash against them. But this time, even the federal government is getting involved--four senators sent a letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg asking the company to roll back some of the new features.

Do the words Facebook and privacy even belong together anymore? What is going on at the world's largest social network?

To discuss, our guests today are two people who have studied the company in depth. First, in the studio, Declan McCullagh, our politics and policies reporter. And joining us in from Washington DC, Kara Swisher from All Things Digital and co-producer of the D8 conference with WSJ's Walt Mossberg. Thanks for joining us!

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'Desktop' app turns iPad into split-screen toolbox

I've now been an iPad owner for exactly four hours. First impressions? It's heavier than I thought, and I'm furious with iTunes for hanging--repeatedly--during my initial sync attempts. (Weird workaround: After successfully syncing my iPhone, the iPad started syncing normally.)

Newspaper apps? Fantastic. JamPad? Dazzling. Netflix? I think a tear escaped my eye. But you know which app I'll probably end up using the most? The ingenious 99-cent Desktop, which divides the iPad screen in half so you can run two apps at once.

Well, OK, not apps, but any of the 10 "applets" built into Desktop. These include a Web browser (complete with thumbnail-enhanced bookmarks, a nice touch); an e-mail composer; Google Maps; unit and currency converters; a calculator; a dictionary; and a weather monitor.

So think of it: when your iPad is pulling desk duty (resting in one of these five cheap/DIY stands, no doubt), you can keep, say, a browser and calculator running all the time. Or a unit converter and iPad stat monitor. It's your choice, and Desktop gives you the option of dividing the screen side-by-side or top-to-bottom. (You can also run any tool full-screen if you prefer.)

Great idea, right? Just one problem: Desktop lacks a few tools it desperately needs, and a few of the tools it has aren't fully baked.… Read more

Google Maps gets 3D view of the world

Google on Monday augmented Google Maps with a feature called Earth view that brings the Google Earth software's 3D perspective to the Web browser.

Earth view is available through the installation of a browser plug-in Google originally issued in 2008. With it, people can see the contours of world--canyons and mountains, most dramatically--using the Google Earth fly-through interface.

Places with 3D building models look more interesting from ground level, but if your suburb hasn't received that treatment, the perspective mismatch can be a bit awkward when viewing the scene from an oblique angle farther from perpendicular.

You can … Read more

Reporters' Roundtable: Twitter's business model (podcast)

Today: Twitter's business model. Yes, there is one. Finally. To talk about what Twitter is going to do--and if they really need to do it--we have two great guests with us here in the studio. First, from CNET, author of our social-networking blog The Social, Caroline McCarthy (@caro on Twitter). And from The New York Times, that paper's Twitter expert, Claire Cain Miller (@clariecm).

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Google Maps adds local suggestions

Google Maps is trying to make it easier to find businesses right around the block.

On Thursday, Google spread local search suggestions for Google Maps to more parts of the world. When you type in a kind of business and a city name in the "Search Maps" box, Google will offer ideas for places based on the location.

If you type in sushi and Tokyo, for example, suggestions for restaurants in Japan's capital filter up. If you type in sushi and your city's name, names of sushi restaurants citywide show up. Or if Google's map … Read more