This review was originally posted on Nintendo Scene on 26th October 2017.
The Nintendo Switch launched in March this year, and it has had an incredible year so far, but it’s hard to deny that it did feel like something was missing. Obviously, when Nintendo has a new console, it isn’t long until a new Mario title comes to it, and the Switch was missing it’s outing with Nintendo’s premier ex-plumber. It’s pretty much undeniable that Super Mario Odyssey impressed from it’s first showing, but then again Mario has a formula that is very hard to get wrong, no matter the format or setting but hadn’t set the world alight in a few instalments. What is needed was a new set of features that truly excited the player base again, and it looked like the latest attempt was going to be a sentient hat. This all said, how is Super Mario Odyssey?
The story, as with most Mario titles, is quite simple and follows the normal “Bowser has done a thing” formula. On this occasion, he has abducted Peach one more, but on this occasion it is to marry her for which he has also kidnapped a sentient tiara called, well, Tiara. After a meeting with King Koopa (dressed in an incredibly dapper suit), Mario loses the battle and Bowser escapes, prompting Mario to chase him down with the help of Cappy, another sentient piece of headwear. It should be obvious that Odyssey isn’t doing anything incredibly revolutionary with it’s story overall, but one thing it has is that each world you visit has it’s own self-contained (and sometimes quite humorous or heartwarming) story to explore and be part of in a way we haven’t really seen in a Mario since Sunshine back on the Gamecube.
The gameplay in Odyssey is a testament to Nintendo’s seemingly never-draining pool of creativity. All of the normal running, jumping and stomping is present and accounted for, but the game feels so fluid, responsive and (most importantly) not slippery to play. The main advance in terms of the basic gameplay is the introduction of Cappy, that can primarily be thrown to “cap-ture” enemies and objects in the levels. Almost every enemy and anything in the levels with a ball-like growth on it can be captured and the effect is temporarily becoming that object or creature. So, the player can fly around as a Bullet Bill, jump high as a frog, or even transport themselves along power lines as electricity (complete with a moustache in every case). The sheer amount of creativity that this allows Nintendo in terms of level design is staggering, with every level having something new to see and do and a variety of different ways to get around it.
This leads neatly onto the other use for Cappy, and that is in supplementing Mario’s already extensive athletic repertoire. The player can throw out Cappy and hold him there, giving Mario an additional, temporary platform to use and allowing far greater distances to be jumped over. When this is added to other returning manoeuvres such as the triple jump, wall jump, dive or crouch jump, Mario’s flexibility in traversing the various levels grows massively. Want to triple jump, then throw Cappy and bounce off him? Try it, and everything else you can think of within the constrains of these mechanics and the chances are, you can do it. Also, as one last in-game mechanic, Odyssey has a screenshot mode that can be entered at any point during gameplay and has a large amount of filters and effects that can be applied to create some truly incredible pictures that are wonderfully unique to the player, a feature I could imagine children getting a lot out of.
The main collectible in Super Mario Odyssey is the Power Moon, used to power the Odyssey so it can reach new worlds, and my word there are a lot of these. Some are in plain sight and some require defeating a boss, much like the previous games versions of Moons. But, there are also a tremendous amount that a hidden in the levels in other ways, requiring a certain activity, action or other such things to find. Some of these Moons are absolutely ingeniously hidden and require a lot of thought or exploration from the player and, as such, these are incredibly gratifying to find when you do find them. There’s very little in gaming like finding something that rewards your curiosity or your finesse and Odyssey has this in metaphorical spades. The thing with this that makes the Power Moons so clever from a design standpoint is that you don’t have to find them all to progress, creating a game that almost anyone could quite easily reach the end of. If you want to just get the bare minimum Moons, that is completely fine, and your experience won’t suffer for it.
The other key collectibles in the game are the two different types of coins that are found in each level. The regular gold coins can be used in the Crazy Cap store to purchase certain things, or function as Mario’s lives in the game, with the player losing 10 coins for every death incurred. The purple coins are unique to each level that they are found in, and are often as well hidden as some of the Moons. These are used in the Crazy Cap store for purchase items for the Odyssey and new outfits for Mario to wear, of which are usually themed on the level they are found in and are often absolutely hilarious to see Mario dressed in. Couple all of this with the various hidden areas to find as well, every level is practically bursting with content to explore and find.
Aesthetically, Super Mari Odyssey could be one of the best looking games on the Switch. Every level is not only fantastically designed from a gameplay perspective, but looks visually fantastic. Every different location bursts with colour and character, and every character you meet in the game is charming and quintessentially Nintendo in the best way. From the squeaky little cap people, to the “Day of the Dead” sombrero-wearing skeletons, every NPC adds to the atmosphere and feel of the levels. The music in the game also heaps on top of this, further building each level as it’s own cohesive, memorable set-piece. Once again, Nintendo have created a soundtrack that is instantly recognisable as Mario, whilst feeling both fresh and thematically cohesive. For instance, the Cap Kingdom, a ghost-ridden, mostly monochrome, softly horror level contains an upbeat but sombre tune which is still so catchy I found myself humming it.
So, should you buy Super Mario Odyssey? On this occasion, it is a resounding yes. There is something in this game for absolutely everyone, and each of it’s new features are well-explained and delightfully intuitive. It is very rare that I can say this, but I simply cannot think of a single negative opinion to level at Odyssey, and that is truly a testament to how well-designed this game is. A new Mario game is always an event, and this is no exception. If you have a Switch, this is absolutely essential.
Thank you to Nintendo UK for kindly supplying this game for us to review.
Super Mario Odyssey releases today (27th October 2017).