Short bio: Computer Scientist, FOSS supporter (read more)
Tux Machines (TM)-specific
A review of GNOME 2 seems redundant at this point. After all, the first release was almost a decade ago, and it's been a year since GNOME 3.0 was announced. However, a review of Mate 1.2 is not quite the same thing. Mate is Linux Mint's fork of GNOME 2, designed to fill the ongoing demand for this GUI that simply refuses to die.
Announced as "the traditional desktop environment," the point of Mate is not so much what new features it introduces as how well it preserves GNOME 2 while remaining compatible with GNOME 3 -- and how these efforts compare to similar efforts, like GNOME's current fallback mode (aka "Classic GNOME") or Linux Mint's Cinnamon.
Mate is not a separate distribution. Rather, it is a collection of packages that you can add to your current distribution. Packages are now installed by default in the main Linux Mint DVD, and are also available for Arch Linux, Linux Mint, Debian, and Ubuntu in a separate repository. As I write, the packages are not available in any of these distribution's standard repositories, so you will need to add the repository to your system.