In my experience, the greatest thing a game can do is magic. A game can transport you to a different place and time or make you consider a solution you never had before, it can also make time disappear. Civilization’s ability to make players say “Just one more turn” fifty turns later is a testament to the series’ ability to pull you in and not let go, Super Mario Odyssey for the Nintendo Switch does exactly that and does everything to keep your attention with surprises at every turn and pure charm throughout the diverse world’s players will visit.
Super Mario Odyssey‘s story doesn’t take too many chances on the tried-and-true formula. As Mario is trying to save Princess Peach from Bowser’s plans to marry her, Mario is beaten back and tossed aside. As he lands in the Cap Kingdom, Mario befriends a sentient hat named Cappy with several powers at his disposal. Together, they seek to save Princess Peach and Cappy’s friend Tiara.
Super Mario Odyssey: Nintendo Switch [Reviewed]
Developer: Nintendo EPD
Release Date: 27 October 2017
Price: £49.99 [Disclosure: Game Copy Purchased by Reviewer]
Despite the damsel-in-distress nature of the game, there is an abundance of joy and diversity in Odyssey‘s worlds. The much celebrated and urban New Donk City, the prehistoric Cascade Kingdom, and bubbly beaches of Seaside Kingdom are just a few of the diverse areas that the player will visit in Mario’s adventure. The presentation of these Kingdoms is handled intelligently as if Mario is visiting different nations.
Mario can call up a map of the area which is presented as a travel guide giving tips about where to visit in these Kingdoms. Each area feels distinct and has its own challenges that don’t get tiring, which is good, as in the course of Super Mario Odyssey there are well over 800 different Power Moons up for grabs. These Power Moons act in the same way as Power Stars in Super Mario 64 or Sunshine Sprites in Super Mario Sunshine.
Cappy’s abilities include “capturing” characters in the game and taking full control of them, which in-turn creates incredible gameplay possibilities. During the course of the game, players will take control of everything from Cheep Cheeps, to Bullet Bills, and manhole covers. Apart from that, Mario also has a new ability to return to his 8-bit roots, and complete 2D sequences in every area he visits. It simultaneously presents the future of Mario titles while honoring the designs of before, and it does so in a way that feels effortless. Along with these new gameplay elements, Mario still sports the finest acrobatic abilities of any moustached former plumber out there. Any player familiar with his earlier outings will feel right at home with his move set as it largely remains unchanged but for those that aren’t as familiar, all of Mario’s moves are available for reference from the pause menu.
The biggest deviation for Super Mario Odyssey is that the player will never see a traditional “Game Over” screen. Should Mario and Cap fall off the map or lose all health, they will respawn at the last checkpoint they passed or entered from. The only penalty is that the player loses ten coins. It’s a very light penalty since if the player died on solid ground, the coins can be picked right back up. Additionally, there are no lives to worry about or earn. It turns out that this makes Super Mario Odyssey a relaxed game where you can continually attempt a challenge and not worry about being kicked to the title screen.
Odyssey supports playing with both Joy-Cons as well as the Pro Controller, however, it is best played with separated Joy-Cons. Part of the gameplay design has players either throwing Cappy out with a button press or a flick of the wrist. It’s plenty easier to flick a single Joy-Con then it is the Pro Controller or gripped pair of Joy-Cons. Flicking also gives Cappy a homing function should the player’s aim be off. Additionally, shaking the Joy-Con in certain directions will throw Cappy in that direction (i.e. a flick up will throw Cappy directly above Mario.)
Like Super Mario Galaxy before it, there is a two-player mode available, but the second player is very limited in what they can do. The second player controls Cappy, primarily to assist with capturing, picking up items, and fighting back characters. The mode is neither here-nor-there, but those looking for a tag-team Mario & Luigi co-op mode will be disappointed. However, the mode can be turned on and off at any point without resetting the game.
Graphically, Super Mario Odyssey is beautiful to look at in every stage with textures looking clear and crisp. Most Kingdoms players visit will have an abundance of color that looks fantastic in docked and handheld forms. Nintendo is keenly aware of how good the game looks, as Odyssey comes with a built-in photo mode of which all these screenshots come either from that or the Switch’s built-in feature.
The music and sound design of Super Mario Odyssey are as strong as ever. The music of each environment is not only distinct but just as catchy as some of the most classic of Mario themes. Added emphasis should go towards the songs “Jump Up, Super Star” and “Honeylune Ridge: Escape” that show Mario titles can also have infectious pop-like songs that can’t get out of your head (or at least mine). The sound effects present in Super Mario Odyssey crackle with an energy that punctuates boss battles and platforming segments alike with gusto.
Speaking of boss battles, there are plenty here that take full advantage of Mario and Cappy’s capture ability, and for each boss battle, there is a different character that can be used to full effect against them. Half the fun is figuring out just what it is you can use and the challenges inherited with that character. The boss battles are an absolute joy to play and offer just enough challenge on the first go around that rematch opportunities feel pitch-perfect.
“Absolute joy” is a phrase that kept coming up throughout my playthrough of Odyssey. Beating bosses and platforming challenges were expected, but there are many callbacks to earlier games that feel downright inspired by fan’s love of those older titles. Then there are moments where scenarios would appear that would make my face light up. In these troubling times, it can be difficult to find a wondrous escape. Somehow in an entertainment medium filled with different experiences, Super Mario Odyssey manages to be a standout title for being pure fun.
Welcome to the year of Nintendo. In one year, the company has managed to bring forward two strong Game of the Year contenders in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Super Mario Odyssey. The mission structure and variety will bring any player back to Super Mario 64 and do so without fail. Like what Breath of the Wild has done for open-world design, Super Mario Odyssey will set a new benchmark for 3D platforms to strive for.